From the Archives: Celebrating 40 Years of Conservancy and Community


The Central Park Conservancy is commemorating its 40th anniversary this September. A lot has changed since our founding in 1980, but as we take this opportunity to reflect on our past, we’re also celebrating an important constant throughout our history. From day one, our community has worked hand-in-hand with us in the care of Central Park.

At the time of the Conservancy’s creation, Central Park was in dire condition. Due to economic decline, neglect, and overuse, the great public park envisioned by Olmsted and Vaux was a ruin of graffiti, litter, eroded landscapes, broken benches, and shattered lamps. Seeing a need, concerned New Yorkers organized and took action, leading to the formation of the Central Park Conservancy and the Park’s current beautiful state. Today our staff works alongside volunteers, donors, members, neighbors, and visitors who all lend a hand in furthering our collective mission. Then, as today, the Park needs us and will continue to need this vibrant community effort into the future.

Anniversaries are a natural moment for reflection, and nothing brings back the memories quite like old photographs. Here are several scanned images from our archive, capturing the early work of the Conservancy, restoring the Park’s iconic landscapes and offering programs to the public, as well as visitors from near and far sharing beautiful moments in the Park.

CPCBW Neg 1983 1 010 36 A

Conservancy staff and volunteers taking a break during a volunteer bulb planting project in 1983.

CPCBW Neg 1981 82 007 13

Concert in the Dairy in 1981. A series of Sunday concerts and lectures was one of the Conservancy's early visitor programs.


Volunteer-led tour in the 1990s.

CPCBW Neg 1981 82 008 34

Staff members measuring a tree, possibly during the 1982 tree survey, which identified 24,600 trees in the Park with a diameter at breast height of six inches or more.

CPCBW Neg 1983 2 017 33

Student volunteers holding a Conservancy flag with our early logo, 1983.

CPC Slide US PS 198208 Rose

Family photo in front of the Lake, 1982, prior to the restoration (and graffiti removal) of Bethesda Terrace.

CPCBW Neg 1983 1 029 04

Staff during the restoration of East Green, 1983.

CPC Slide WR 1987

Sculptor Vallessa Monk testing a model of the owl carving at Bethesda Terrace, 1987.

CPC Slide LA RE 198705

Runners along the Reservoir, 1987. The chain-link fence behind them had been installed in 1926 and was replaced in 2003 when the Conservancy reconstructed the original fence.

CPC Slide US PS 198710 01

Two couples on benches, 1987, a favorite photo of Historian Emerita Sara Cedar Miller, the Conservancy’s photographer at the time, who recalls that the couple on the left were New Yorkers and the two on the right were visiting from France.

CPC Slide US PS 198805

Tourists resting on a rock outcropping, 1988.

CPC Slide US PS 198809

A woman enjoys a quiet moment on a Park bench with her dog, 1988.