Of the four corners of Central Park, Grand Army Plaza is the only one that is officially part of the Park's 843-acre landscape. Originally, Park designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted preferred a modest tree-lined design. But in 1899, Karl Bitter, an Austrian-born architectural sculptor, proposed a new plaza and fountain in the Beaux-Arts style of sweeping Parisian avenues, gold, and splendor. Twelve years later, his vision was funded by journalist and publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who left $50,000 in his will for the express purpose of building Bitter’s majestic design.
The plaza was finished in 1916. The style may be inspired by Paris, but the name and spirit are distinctly American. The name comes from the Grand Army of the Potomac, a fraternal organization comprised of Union Army veterans. After the Civil War, General Sherman moved to New York City and could be spotted taking his daily horse and carriage ride through Central Park.
The area offers visitors plenty of benches and stunning tulip displays each spring, which are tended by Conservancy staff.