Originally an uninspiring bit of rock and swampland, Sheep Meadow is now a vision of green expanse, an oasis of peace in the middle of New York City. The design was meant to inspire calm, refreshing thoughts in anyone who looked across its 15 acres.
Transforming the rocky swampland into a lush lawn was not easy; in fact, Sheep Meadow was by far the most expensive part of Central Park’s original construction. To build it, designers blasted out rock and put in several feet of soil in its place. From 1864 to 1934, the meadow had a dedicated team of somewhat unusual caretakers: a flock of grazing pedigree sheep. The sheep tended the meadow during the day and spent their evenings in the Sheepfold, in what is now Tavern on the Green.
In the 1960s, Sheep Meadow became an iconic hotspot of countercultural activity including anti-war protests, peace rallies, love-ins, be-ins, draft card burnings, Earth Day celebrations, and popular concerts. Due to the bustling activity and lack of maintenance, the beloved lawns turned into a virtual dust bowl.
In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy took on the restoration of Sheep Meadow as its first project. Seeing the iconic meadow restored to lustrous beauty and health thrilled New Yorkers, who had grown used to a damaged, unkempt lawn, a success that spurred on decades of restoration projects completed by the Conservancy throughout the Park.