As part of the original plan for Central Park, designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed traffic circles for both southern corners of the Park, which were major entrances. In 1892, the Columbus monument was installed in the center of the western circle, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America.
In the early 20th century, the area around the monument was a popular gathering space for proselytizers and orators of all types, but the convergence of various types and directions of traffic, including trollies and automobiles, made it dangerous for pedestrians.
In 1987, the City initiated a redesign of the Circle. It was a complicated project involving several City departments, private design firms, and the Central Park Conservancy. Completed in 2005, it resulted in new traffic patterns as well as an expanded plaza around the fountain designed by Olin Partnership with fountains, trees, and benches.