After a 15-month comprehensive restoration project of one of the most beloved destinations in Central Park, the historic Belvedere Castle site will reopen on June 28, announced Elizabeth W. Smith, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy.
Located mid-Park at 79th Street atop Vista Rock, the Park’s second highest point, the Belvedere has offered visitors some of the most sweeping views of Central Park from its terraces and castle for more than a century. (Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian.)
“The Belvedere has a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers and visitors alike, who tell us they feel like royalty taking in the incredible views,” Smith said. “We at the Central Park Conservancy are proud of our work at the Belvedere, which, like the rest of the Park was designed to provide an oasis from the stress of the city and is free to the public.”
The Conservancy created a comprehensive restoration plan to make sure the Belvedere would provide the stunning views for generations to come. The work restored original elements and recreated lost aspects of the Belvedere’s historic design, while modernizing systems for long-term sustainability.
As part of its mission to implement green design, the Conservancy installed a geothermal system for cooling and heating the Castle’s interior. The team dug 400 feet into Vista Rock to construct this sustainable and environmentally beneficial system, which has zero emissions and is energy efficient.
The Conservancy’s work to restore the Belvedere’s structures included:
- Disassembling and rebuilding the walls enclosing the terraces
- Installing new waterproofing and drainage systems
- Cleaning and repairing both the exterior and interior stonework
- Restoring the three wood pavilions on the terraces
- Modernizing the Castle’s mechanics and utilities
To restore lost aspects of the Belvedere’s historic design, construction crews recreated a decorative wood tower that was originally part of the large pavilion at the northwest corner nearly 150 years ago. Crews also replaced the terrace pavement with bluestone pavers, laid out according to the historic checkered design. The Castle was originally conceived as an open-air lookout tower. To recapture this open-air view, crews replaced the existing windows and doors with clear pane glass.
The Conservancy also enhanced one of the most iconic views of the Belvedere: its image from across Turtle Pond. New lighting will illuminate the Belvedere, making it even more beautiful at night.
This comprehensive restoration cost $12 million and was funded by The Thompson Family Foundation.
The Conservancy is actively planning the next phase of this project: the creation of an accessible route to the Belvedere so that even more visitors can enjoy its views. Preliminary design is underway for the reconstruction of the pathway between the Belvedere and the East Drive.
Central Park co-designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux conceived of the Belvedere in 1858 as a large terrace with pavilions and a miniature castle atop Vista Rock. Constructed from the same Manhattan schist as its natural perch, the Belvedere offered views of the old Croton Reservoir (now the Great Lawn) to the north and the Ramble to the south. In 1919, the U.S. Weather Bureau added windows and doors so Belvedere Castle could serve as a weather station. They moved out of the facility in the early 1960s, and two decades of deterioration and vandalism followed.
The Conservancy completed a groundbreaking restoration of the Belvedere in 1983, giving it new life after it had been neglected for nearly two decades. This and other early restoration successes spurred investment in the Conservancy’s work, paving the way for the restoration of Central Park.
To learn more about the Conservancy’s restoration of the Belvedere and view a timeline, video, and before-and-after photos, visit our restoration page.
View more photos here.
View a video about the project here.
DownloadPhoto credit: Central Park Conservancy