Outdoor tennis in Central Park officially closed today, Sunday, December 2. By now, all of my tennis buddies have gone to indoor courts. My last match was to have been on Thursday, but the combination of freezing temperatures and the clay courts (actually a surface called Har-Tru), which can retain quite a bit of moisture, meant that the water froze on the surface and wasn’t absorbed.
My tennis season over, I grabbed my empty, old tournament bag, took a subway, walked west on 96th Street into Central Park to the Tennis House to empty my locker until next April.
Rather than heading straight home, however, I slung my bag over my shoulder and walked around the Central Park Reservoir, recording whatever caught my interest with a small, pocket camera. This blog post is a record of that walk on the morning of Thursday, November 29.
|New York City, Central Park, Tennis Courts|
The tennis courts are located on a center axis of the park, just north of the Reservoir and south of the 96th Street transverse. Tennis was first permitted in 1884 in Central Park, on a meadow at this same location. As an outdoor sport, it was only invented in 1873 by a British army officer and introduced, in the same year, into America by Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island.
Because of tennis’ growing popularity, hundreds of temporary courts had sprung up on flat lawn areas all over the park. Thus, in 1911, that same meadow above the reservoir was paved and became the official location for tennis.
|New York City, Central Park, Tennis House, 1930, Gustavo Steinacher|
The tennis house was built in 1930 in response to a growing call for lockers and showers to complement the now thirty courts and over 5,000 permit holders. The building, with its simplified central pediment and two vestigial Doric pilasters, was designed by the Park’s chief engineer, Gustavo Steinacher. Its formal, classical style has met with some disfavor (particularly in the 1980s) among park “purists” who preferred something more picturesque and Victorian to blend in with the other park structures. Still, it survives, which is more than can be said for another classical structure from the hand of Steinacher–a Doric peristyle folly of 1925 overlooking the Hudson at 190th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway: the Inspiration Point Shelter.
|New York City, Central Park, Gothic Bridge, 1864, Calvert Vaux|
|New York City, Central Park, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, 1858-1862|
The Reservoir was renamed in 1994 after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose Fifth Avenue apartment overlooked it and who used the 1.58-mile track that circumscribes it. It was built between 1858-1862 to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct and then service the city water supply each year when the Croton water system was shut down for repairs. It no longer serves this purpose, but it remains an important ecological sanctuary for over twenty species of waterfowl.
|New York City, Central Park, view west to The El Dorado, 1929-31, Emery Roth|
|New York City, Central Park West Reservoir Bridge, 1864, Calvert Vaux|
|New York City, Southeast Reservoir bridge, 1864, Calvert Vaux|
The bottom photograph shows a spandrel of the Southeast Reservoir Bridge, which is located near the 85th Street entrance to the park. Its span is 33 feet. These several cast iron bridges of Central Park are among the “best surviving collection of cast iron bridges in America,” in the words of historian Henry Hope Reed, and their concurrent use of structural steel girders makes them important examples in the transition from cast iron to steel in the history of bridge design.
|New York City, Central Park, Central Park Police Precinct, 1869-71, Jacob Wrey Mould|
|New York City, Central Park, Yoshino Cherry Trees, near East 90th Street|
Having worked my way to the east, I turned north on the bridle path below the Reservoir track to see these marvellous burled tree trunks. My cross street location is approximately East 90th Street, and I’ll be sure to visit this spot again in the early spring to enjoy the flowering of these Yoshino Cherry trees. Originally, the ancestors of these cherry trees were a gift from Japan at the beginning of the last century, and it is estimated that some 500 cherry trees are planted in various parts of Central Park.
|New York City, Central Park, Fred Lebow Statue, ca. 2000, Jesus Ygnacio Dominguez|
|New York City, Upper East Side, Heavenly Rest Episcopal Church, Baptistery Chapel, 1929, Mayers, Murray & Philip|
Across Fifth Avenue and serving as a backdrop for Lebow is the Heavenly Rest Episcopal Church. The church was founded in 1865 by Civil War veterans as a memorial to the soldiers who died in the war. This plot of land was sold to the church in 1926 by the widow of Andrew Carnegie, and the neo-Gothic structure we now see was consecrated in 1929. Although the design is attributed to Bertram Goodhue, he died before construction began, and his successor firm of Mayers, Murray & Philip assumed work on it. Its façade has some interesting modernist relief sculptures and its interior has an intimate baptistery chapel.
|New York City, Central Park, John Purroy Mitchel Monument, 1928, Adolph Alexander Weinman|
|New York City, Central Park (5th Avenue), William Thomas Stead Monument, 1920, George James Frampton|
Axially centered on the 90th Street entrance to the park [top photograph] is this pedimental temple frame in stone containing a gilded bust of John Purroy Mitchell. Mitchell was known as “The Boy Mayor of New York,” and, as mayor from 1914-1917, had a short but notable career as a leader of reform politics. He died in an accident in the waning months of World War I while serving in the Army Air Corps. The Mitchell Memorial was dedicated in 1928, and the bust was sculpted by Adolph Alexander Weinman. For those of us who might be coin collectors, Weinman was the designer of the Mercury Dime, minted in 1916.
Although these monuments may well be close to each other purely by accident, they also deserve their proximity. Both celebrate men whose efforts challenged to political status quo; both men died through unfortunate accidents; and the stone background of both sculptures was designed by the same architectural firm–Carrère and Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library.
|U.S.A Currency, Mercury Dime, 1916 ff, Adolph Alexander Weinman|
Finally, besides blooming cherry trees, another reason to visit this location–the east side of Central Park around 90th Street–in the early spring is that those three volunteers you see sitting in front of the Mitchel Monument are planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs. I’m sure those daffodils will provide a color explosion to match Mitchel’s gilded portrait and the nearby Yoshino Cherry Trees.
|New York City, Central Park (5th Avenue), Boundary Wall, Frederick Law Olmsted|
|New York City, Upper East Side, 5th Avenue, Japanese Maple|
The Japanese Maple is self-evident: a fiery shaft, a gesture that caught my eye and lured me across Fifth Avenue for a closer look.
|New York City, Upper East Side, Madison Avenue Armory, 1893-1895, John R. Thomas|
|New York City, Upper East Side, Madison Avenue Armory, Motto of Squadron A|
The Armory was built between 1893-95. Its architect was John R. Thomas, who designed over 100 churches, state prisons, public and college buildings. The Surrogate’s Courthouse near City Hall is also his design.
|New York City, Upper East Side, K & D Wines and Spirits, 1366 Madison Avenue|
So, that’s it: a little tour of a section of Central Park and the Upper East Side.