Bethesda Terrace

Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park and is, by design, its singular formal feature. Overlooking the Lake, it stands at the end of the Park’s long, tree-lined promenade known as the Mall. A grand staircase descends into the subterranean Arcade, which offers a welcome respite from rain and heat.

In addition to the landmark Bethesda Fountain at its center, Bethesda Terrace offers a stunning vista across the Lake to the edge of the Ramble. The view has barely strayed from Olmsted and Vaux’s original plan for the Park. They described Bethesda Terrace as an “open air hall of reception,” where the structure was second to the landscape. "Nature first, second, and third—architecture after a while."

Intricate carvings on the Terrace’s ramps, balustrades, and piers center on themes of nature, art, science, and love. But, some of the Terrace’s most stunning craftsmanship is relatively hidden; follow the steps leading underneath the Terrace into the Arcade, where you'll find the intricate Minton tile ceiling. Created in the 1860s, it features 49 panels and nearly 16,000 elaborately patterned encaustic tiles, handmade by England’s renowned Minton and Company.

The Arcade is the only ceiling in the world featuring Minton tiles. Its extraordinary 50-ton weight led to deterioration over the decades. The Conservancy removed the tiles in 1983, storing them until it secured the $7 million required to restore this architectural treasure. The challenging restoration—cleaning and repairing some 14,000 tiles by hand—was completed in 2007. (The remaining tiles were beyond repair and were replaced by Maw and Company, Minton's successor.)

The Conservancy's most complex architectural restoration project to date may be its most visibly rewarding—particularly when the tiles catch the daylight trickling down from Bethesda Terrace, transforming the Arcade into a luminous box of color and pattern.

Location

Mid-Park at 72nd Street

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Restrooms

Yes

Open late March through early November, 7:00 AM to dusk. Restroom is not wheelchair accessible.