Restoration of the Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop

Our restoration of the Dairy included restoring its historic open-air porch; repairing, cleaning, and repointing the exterior masonry; replacing windows and doors, including an accessible entrance door; a new climate control system; and more.

The Children’s District, home to the Dairy, was originally conceived as an area to meet the needs of children visiting Central Park. Playgrounds as we know them today did not exist until the early 20th century, so the Children’s District, completed in 1872, was the only spot in the Park that was specifically dedicated to its youngest visitors.

Today, this area, in the southeast area of Central Park, is home to the Dairy, Heckscher Playground and Ballfields, Chess & Checkers House, the Carousel, and Playmates Arch.

A sepia-toned photo of the Dairy in the 1880s

The Dairy in the 1880s

The Dairy, a Victorian cottage designed by Calvert Vaux and built between 1869 and 1871, is at the heart of the Children’s District. As its name suggests, this charming structure was originally home to fresh milk and snacks for children and their caregivers. Families enjoyed refreshments under the Dairy’s loggia (open-air porch) and cool breezes from the nearby pond. The large rolling lawn in front of the Dairy provided a place for children to play.

The Dairy became Central Park's first visitor center in 1979 and was one of the first Conservancy restoration projects in the early 1980s. At that time, we restored the building’s historic and colorful loggia, which had been removed in the mid-20th century.

The Dairy in 1980 on a gray winter day, surrounded by bare trees and a paved road.

The Dairy in 1980

Our latest restoration of the Dairy included:

  • Repairing, cleaning, and repointing the exterior masonry
  • Replacing and waterproofing the roof
  • Repairing and restoring the loggia
  • Adding new windows and doors, including an accessible entrance door
  • Adding and upgrading mechanical systems, which will provide for climate-control of the renovated interior
  • Reconfiguring staff and support space to provide an accessible staff restroom

The Conservancy completed this restoration in fall 2021.

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