Restoration

Restoration of the Conservatory Garden

Our restoration of the Conservatory Garden will focus on its hardscapes, architectural features, and utilities—almost all original to the Garden’s 1937 construction.

Originally conceived by Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as an arboretum, the site of the Conservatory Garden was initially a nursery for growing plants for the Park. By the late 1880s, greenhouses were built on site, followed shortly by an ornate glass conservatory (the origin of the Conservatory Garden’s name). After falling into disrepair, the conservatory was demolished in the early 1930s and the six-acre formal outdoor garden that we now know was conceived and built in 1937.

Located off Fifth Avenue between East 104th and 106th Streets, the Garden is made up of three spaces: the French Garden, the Italian Garden, and the English Garden. Known for its horticultural excellence, the Garden’s ornamental plantings are expertly maintained year-round. Conservancy staff curates annual displays throughout the Garden, which opens and closes daily to the public.

The last significant restoration of the Conservatory Garden was in 1983, which focused primarily on restoring its horticultural elements. The Central Park Conservancy’s current restoration project, proceeding in several phases, includes a comprehensive reconstruction of all Garden pavements, site furnishings, fountains, and infrastructure systems, as well as the pergola and the crabapple allées, to improve accessibility and ensure the long-term preservation of the Garden and provide the best quality experience for visitors.

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The Garden in 1937

The Conservatory Garden restoration project began in January 2022. To date, we've completed work at the English and French Gardens, the pergola, and crabapple allées. We've also installed significant critical infrastructure to address larger stormwater drainage issues.

Beginning on May 13th, construction will start in the Italian Garden. The restrooms, Vanderbilt Gate and steps, pergola and north allée will not be accessible for the duration of this phase of construction. Entrance points to the English and French Gardens are noted in the diagram below.

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English Garden

Construction on the English Garden began in winter 2022 and was completed in winter 2023. Scope of work for this phase included:

  • Restoring the distinctive bluestone pavers
  • Replacing the utility infrastructure systems and improving drainage
  • Modernizing the fountain system
  • Restoring benches, replacing and realigning retaining walls and stairs, and refurbishing unique architectural and decorative features
  • Ensuring all aspects of the Garden meet current code requirements
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Completed work at the English Garden

Conservatory Garden Infrastructure

In order to address larger stormwater drainage issues, the Conservancy completed a critical infrastructure project in spring 2023. Key components of this phase included:

  • Installing a new enlarged storm drainage line under the pavement
  • Modifying grading to improve water runoff
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Drainage line installation

French Garden

The French Garden phase started in spring 2023 and was completed in spring 2024. With the addition of accessibility improvements, the scope of work was similar to work completed at the English Garden and included:

  • Increasing accessibility by eliminating stairs and installing ramps
  • Restoring the distinctive bluestone pavers
  • Replacing the utility infrastructure systems and improving drainage
  • Modernizing the fountain system
  • Restoring benches, replacing and realigning retaining walls, and refurbishing unique architectural and decorative features
  • Ensuring all aspects of the Garden meet current code requirements
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Completed work at French Garden

Italian Garden

The last phase of construction is in the Italian Garden, which includes several elements:

Crabapple Allées
In the fall of 2023, the Conservancy replaced the rows of crabapple trees along the paths in the Italian Garden. Flowering crabapples have a much shorter lifespan than most of the large canopy trees found throughout the Park. The trees were planted in the mid-1950s to replace the original trees from 1937. They were over 70 years old at the time of their removal in October 2023 and showed significant signs of decay and decline.

Recognizing the onset of the crabapples’ decline the Central Park Conservancy’s team of landscape architects, horticulturalists, arborists, and other experts planned for their replacement. We identified a crabapple cultivar that fit all the aesthetic qualities of the historic allées and is more disease resistant. In addition to the tree replacement at the allées, the Conservancy is also replacing the bluestone pavers, benches, post and chain fencing, and upgrading the electrical system.

To learn more about the history of the Garden’s crabapples and the Conservancy’s extensive efforts to research, select, and grow the replacement trees, visit our magazine.

Pergola
Also under construction is the steel pergola at the west side of the Italian Garden, which has severely deteriorated. Scope of work for the pergola includes:

  • Pruning of the wisteria and removing vines intertwined in the pergola structure; healthy plants will remain after the pruning
  • Cleaning and repairing the pergola column bases
  • Replacing the cast stone coping at the retaining walls
  • Repointing the brick and stone veneer walls
  • Cleaning, removing rust, refinishing, and repainting the entire steel pergola structure
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Repaired and repainted pergola

General Site Work
The remaining work in the Italian Garden will replace pavements, upgrade the central fountain’s infrastructure systems, and reconstruct the Vanderbilt steps. Work is expected to start in spring 2024 and be completed in spring 2025. Additional scope elements include:

  • Reconstructing hardscape elements, including replacement of bluestone pavements in their historic pattern; in-kind replacement of concrete pavement; reconstructing existing concrete curbs; repairing and restoring existing walls, stairs, and copings
  • Replacing, refurbishing, and restoring site furnishings, including benches, sections of fencing, and handrails
  • Replacing fountain infrastructure, waterproofing fountain basin, and replacing fountain controls
  • Upgrading drainage infrastructure to capture water runoff from adjacent landscapes


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