Swedish Cottage (Marionette Theatre)

The Swedish Cottage is a historic building that currently houses a marionette theater operated by the City Parks Foundation.

The Swedish Cottage is the only building in Central Park that was not originally created for the Park. It was built in Sweden and came to the United States in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, the first World’s Fair in the U.S. It was displayed as an example of traditional Swedish architecture, specifically wood craftsmanship. Although it’s known as a cottage, it was built as an example of a schoolhouse. It’s unclear exactly how it found its way into the Park. Some sources suggest that during the Exhibition it caught the eye of Park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted, who organized for it to be purchased and installed in the Park.

The building served many purposes before becoming a theater. Originally it was a tool house. It was also used as a restroom, an entomological laboratory, and during World War II, as a headquarters for the Civil Defense. In 1947 it became the workshop for NYC Parks’ traveling marionette theater and in the 1970s became the theater for its productions. The building is also part of the Historic House Trust.

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