Rumsey Playfield is a hot spot for music, dance, spoken word and film as the home of the popular SummerStage cultural series. Curtis Mayfield, Toni Morrison, the Beastie Boys, and Vampire Weekend are a few of the world-renowned and emerging artists who have performed here.
Much of the playfield's history has been all about entertainment. In the late 19th century, there was the Ladies Refreshment Saloon, a respectable establishment where proper Victorian women could dine in public without a male escort.
Soon after the building became known as the "Casino" (which means "Little House" in Italian) — not a place for roulette tables or slot machines — but actually the Park's first formal restaurant for coed dining.
In the 1920s, the staid restaurant became an elegant Art Deco night club where "Gentleman" Jimmy Walker, the Mayor of New York City, his mistress, and the beau monde of New York wined and dined here. The Casino featured not one, but two orchestras, bolstering the career of then unknown orchestra leader, Eddie Duchin, who enticed such Hollywood stars as Ethel Mermen to perform with him.
The Casino was torn down during 1930s and the Mary Harriman Rumsey Playground was built in its place. Like the rest of the Park, the playground was in bad shape by the 1970s. Central Park Conservancy stepped in to restore the space so gym classes could play on a safe, enclosed area away from the Park's other visitors. Summerstage started in 1990, and the musical tradition carries on.
East Side at 71st Street