Sheep Meadow

One of Central Park’s most well-known and important landscapes, Sheep Meadow is the upmost expression of the Park’s essential purpose as a retreat from urban life.

This 15-acre lawn is one of the most popular destinations in the south end of the Park and ideal for relaxing, sunbathing, reading, and picnicking, as well as marveling at the contrast between the verdant Park and the towering skyline of Manhattan.

Sheep Meadow and other Park meadows were designed to give visitors a taste of a pastoral landscape, an idealized country landscape that was open and expansive. A flock of sheep grazed there, hence the name Sheep Meadow, and kept the grass manicured. The sheep lived in a building known as the Sheep Fold, now home to the restaurant Tavern on the Green.

While the lawn may look natural, like the rest of Central Park it was completely constructed. The feat involved blasting large rock outcrops, leveling the land, adding several feet of soil, and planting trees and grass. The construction of Sheep Meadow ended up being one of the most expensive Park construction projects.

Originally the meadow was a landscape to look at, not a place to walk or play, as designers believed that gazing at scenery would have beneficial effects on physical and mental well-being. By the 20th century, the rise in popularity of organized sports and changing ideas about recreation led to new uses of the meadow, including for athletic events and school programs. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Sheep Meadow became well-known as a venue for large and prominent events, including concerts and political demonstrations. Decades of overuse coupled with lack of management took its toll, and by the 1970s the grass was completely eroded. One of the Central Park Conservancy’s first projects in the 1980s was the restoration of the meadow, which returned the lush expanse of lawn for the first time in decades.