The Gates were named for William Church Osborn (1862–1951) who was the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1940s and actively involved in several children’s aid societies throughout his lifetime. After his death, a group that was formed to advocate for a memorial to honor his legacy raised funds for the construction of a playground just north of the museum and commissioned the gates to mark the entrance. The playground and gates were dedicated in 1953.
When the Metropolitan Museum of Art built the Temple of Dendur Wing in the 1970s, the playground was demolished and the Osborn Gates were relocated to Ancient Playground, which was built in 1973 just to the north. Soon after, the gates were vandalized and put in storage. As part of the reconstruction of Ancient Playground in 2009, the Central Park Conservancy restored the gates and placed them at the entrance.
Paul Manship created many works of public art in the early 20th century, including Prometheus at Rockefeller Center. He has three other artworks in the Park: Group of Bears, a sculpture at the entrance to the Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck-Heckscher East Playground; the sundial on the Waldo Hutchins Bench; and the Lehman Gates at the Tisch Children’s Zoo. A smaller-scaled version of Manship’s Group of Bears stands on one of the piers of the Osborn Gates.