Next time you walk past the Naumburg Bandshell on the concert ground, you might hear a musician playing today’s hits. But in 1862 when a cast-iron bandstand was erected on the spot on which the Beethoven statue stands today, the very straight-laced commissioners would not have approved of popular music. They wanted the public to hear only refined, classical music like that of Beethoven himself.
At the Naumburg Bandshell on the concert ground at the northern end of the Mall, you might enjoy a variety of organized, unamplified musical events. In 1862 a cast-iron bandstand was erected on the spot on which the Beethoven statue stands today, across from the Bandshell, playing mainly light classical music. By the 1890s, marches by John Philip Sousa, choral music and folk music were added to the repertoire. By 1923 the current Bandshell was erected and parkgoers enjoyed more popular music. Such greats as Irving Berlin, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington entertained at the Bandshell, as well as Victor Herbert, whose statue is just a few steps away from Beethoven.
Those two statues, as well as the other 49 statues in the Park, are given a cleaning every summer by Central Park Conservancy. The Conservancy is also responsible for recreating the beautiful and unique wooden benches surrounding the trees. When the Park was first opened in the 1860s, the elms were newly planted and their roots were still quite shallow. On sunny concert days, thousands of park-goers would jam into the small area and huddle under the fragile trees for shade. Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were concerned about the survival of the young trees, so they designed these benches to also act as fences, protecting both the elms as well as the Sunday-best clothes that people always wore to come to Central Park.
Mid-Park from 66th to 72nd Streets.