While not as rustic as Huddlestone Arch at the other end of the Ravine, Glen Span Arch’s construction—with large rough-hewn stones taken from the surrounding rocky landscape—was intended to blend in with the surrounding woodland landscape (like the Ramble Stone Arch).
The upper portion of the bridge was originally constructed in wood, making it the only wood bridge to carry the weight of the carriage drive. It soon deteriorated and was replaced with stone in 1885.
Central Park’s arches and bridges are an integral part of its circulation system. The Park’s designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, created an intricate system of pedestrian paths, a bridle path, and carriage drives to allow visitors to experience the Park’s landscapes in a variety of ways. However, for this system to work safely and in a relatively small space, it had to limit interactions between potentially conflicting forms of traffic. The Park’s arches and bridges separate this traffic by carrying one form of transportation over another.
Between 1859 and 1866, 27 arches and bridges were built in Central Park. All were designed by Vaux—in some cases with the assistance of fellow architect Jacob Wrey Mould. Each one is unique, designed with various materials and decorative motifs and with careful consideration of its placement in the landscape. Over time, six arches and bridges were added and three were removed, bringing the total to 30 ornamental bridges and arches in the Park today. There are also additional bridges in the Park’s woodlands that are smaller, constructed with wood, and typically cross over streams.
Another key part of this circulation system are the transverse roads that allow City traffic to cross the Park. The transverse roads are sunken below the grade of the Park with bridges crossing over them. These bridges were designed as more utilitarian structures and weren’t intended to be seen—but they allow pedestrians and other traffic to seamlessly move through the Park. There are 13 transverse road bridges (one of which, Denesmouth, is also considered an ornamental bridge).
Things you can do here
Discover the peaceful, wild woodland that’s little-known to most visitors.
Stroll through an idyllic landscape designed to bring a taste of the Adirondacks to Central Park.
Escape the chaos of New York City in Central Park’s North Woods, an idyllic woodland oasis showcasing cascades, streams, and thriving greenery.
Join Central Park Conservatory guides on a virtual tour as we explore the tumbling waterfalls, rustic bridges, and picturesque pools of the North Woods.
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