This quarter-mile promenade is flanked by towering American elm trees. At the Mall’s northern end stands Bethesda Terrace, overlooking the Lake. The southern end features statues of famous writers, earning the promenade its nickname, “Literary Walk.”
A stroll along the Mall can be a transcendent experience, precisely what Olmsted and Vaux envisioned for the Park’s only formal promenade. The elegant path is surrounded by North America’s largest remaining stand of American elms, whose interlocking branches create a stained-glass effect as sunlight trickles to the ground. The Conservancy works to protect these living treasures by monitoring the trees throughout the year for Dutch elm disease, a devastating fungus spread by elm bark beetles that has wiped out large numbers of elms worldwide.
The promenade was also a focal point of Central Park’s democratic experiment. Many doubted whether people of different races, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic groups would commingle in a public space; magnetic gathering spots like the Mall proved them wrong.
Literary-minded visitors will delight in the Mall as much as the horticultural lovers. Literary Walk’s statues immortalize four prominent writers: English playwright William Shakespeare, Scottish poet Robert Burns, his compatriot, Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, and Fitz-Greene Halleck (the Park’s first statue of an American). A fifth statue honoring Christopher Columbus stands nearby.