The Conservancy’s restoration of the Kinderberg and Chess & Checkers House is complete, and the site is now open to the public.
Our restoration of this historic site focused on renovating the building and its surrounding landscape to ensure accessibility for modern Park users while maintaining the spirit of the area’s original purpose and design.
The Children's District is the historic name of an area near the southeast corner of Central Park, north of the Pond at 59th Street and south of the 65th Street Transverse, between the Center Drive and the East Drive. Conveniently sited to welcome visitors immediately upon their arrival to the Park, it offered facilities catering to the needs of small children and their caregivers, including the Dairy refreshment house and the Children’s Cottage (a changing and restroom facility). Most significant of these was the Kinderberg, also referred to as the Children’s Shelter or the Nursery. Completed in 1868, it was a character-defining feature of the Children’s District and the largest, most elaborate of several rustic shelters located at high points in the Park landscape. Sited on a large outcropping of rock overlooking the Pond, the Kinderberg offered shade, seating, and tables for caregivers and children to rest, picnic, and play games.
The Kinderberg was razed in the 1940s, and in 1952, the original Chess & Checkers House was constructed on the site. The octagonal brick structure was originally open on four sides and functioned as an open-air pavilion. By the 1980s, doors and windows were added to fully enclose the structure. A dimensional lumber trellis on the plaza surrounding the building was added in 1985.
Conditions Prior to Restoration
The last significant project at this site was a restoration of the building exterior and addition of the existing trellis in 1985. Prior to the Conservancy’s recent restoration, the trellis reached the end of its useful life, and the pavement beneath showed signs of significant settling and deterioration. The building roof had not been replaced since the original construction in 1952. The stairs and steeply sloped path leading up to the facility were not accessible. Finally, there were no longer public restrooms in the Children’s District to support the public programs run out of Chess & Checkers House or the Dairy, the Conservancy’s main visitor center and gift shop.
Our restoration of the Kinderberg and Chess & Checkers House included:
- Recreating a rustic shelter, based on the original Kinderberg structure, encompassing the existing Chess & Checkers House
- Replacing existing asphalt hexagonal pavers in-kind
- Constructing an accessible ramp to the facility on the slope on the east side of the Kinderberg, adjacent to the existing stairs
- Restoring the existing stairs and adding handrails
- Restoring the exterior of Chess & Checkers House
- Replacing the roof, cupola, windows, and doors in-kind
- Renovating the interior of Chess & Checkers House to include public restrooms as well as space to support public programs
- Upgrading existing mechanical and utility systems
The Conservancy completed this restoration in June 2023. The project was a continuation of the restoration of the Children’s District that began with the Conservancy’s restoration of the Dairy.
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.
ProjectOur renovation of Billy Johnson Playground preserved and reinforced the rustic character of the playground while increasing the play value and improving accessibility.
Our reconstruction of the Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground incorporated new toddler-friendly play experiences that feature climbing, swinging, and sand play; introduced a new water feature; and created an ADA-accessible path to the playground.
ProjectOur work in the northern end of Grand Army Plaza improved the condition of one of the City’s most prominent public spaces. We upgraded infrastructure, increased accessibility, planted new trees, and performed conservation work on the plaza’s iconic General William Tecumseh Sherman monument.