Charles B. Stover Bench

Within Shakespeare Garden is a bench dedicated to the social reformer and Parks Commissioner Charles B. Stover (1861–1929). The semi-circular granite seating area is also known as the “Whisper Bench” because a whisper spoken into one end of the bench can be heard on the other side.

Charles B. Stover is well known for his advocacy for parks and playgrounds. He co-founded the Outdoor Recreation League with Lillian Wald in 1898 and worked to create spaces for children’s play and recreation in dense urban neighborhoods. When Stover was appointed New York’s Commissioner of Parks in 1910, he applied his interest in playgrounds to the management of all parks. He advocated for the addition of playgrounds to Central Park, including a large recreation area at the North Meadow, which stirred debate over the purpose of the Park and how best to accommodate facilities like playgrounds. While no playgrounds were created in Central Park during his tenure as commissioner, Heckscher Playground and the series of perimeter playgrounds created in the 1930s during the administration of Robert Moses are nonetheless indebted to his lifelong advocacy.

Funds for the bench were raised by the Charles B. Stover Memorial Association. The location of the memorial in the Park was selected because Shakespeare Garden was one of Stover’s favorite landscapes. The bench was dedicated in 1936.

Benches for contemplating the landscape were a popular form of memorial for Park commissioners. There are two others in the Park, the Andrew Haswell Green Bench at Fort Fish and the Waldo Hutchins Bench at Conservatory Water.

A pair of cellists performing on the Bench. under sun-dappled trees.

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