Ten Must-See Sculptures in Central Park
Central Park is more than just natural works of art. It’s also filled with man-made works of art, including statues representing some of history’s most famous icons: Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus. But locating these sculptures is another work of patience since the statues are scattered across the 843 acres of city-owned land. Here’s a guide to locating some of those most famous statues, along with a 212Access map to help you find them.
Alice in Wonderland– Most children know the Lewis Carroll story of the girl who fell down the rabbit hole and wound up in wonderland. Since 1959, kids of all ages, and even adults, have been able to relive that whimsical story by climbing on a real-life sculpture of Alice and her friends from Wonderland. The characters in the statue are settled around a group of mushrooms near the east side of Central Park. Words from the poem, “The Jabberwocky,” are engraved in large tiles around the statue. The sculpture is located at the East Side at 75thStreet, and it is a must-see from sculptor, José de Creeft.
Obelisk (A.K.A. “Cleopatra’s Needle) – This sculpture is a must-see simply because of its history. The Obelisk, also known as “Cleopatra’s Needle,” is the oldest man-made object in Central Park. It’s also one of two obelisks that were commissioned on the banks of the Nile in 1500 BC by an Egyptian pharaoh. After being moved to Alexandria in 18 AD, the two obelisks were separated. One was moved to London in 1879, and the other was transported to Central Park in 1881. Take a walk to its location at the East Side at 81st Street and spend a few minutes looking at all the hieroglyphics on the four sides. Another interesting fact about the Obelisk is the time capsule buried underneath it. The capsule includes an 1870 U.S. census, the Bible, Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt, a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence and a small box that was placed in the capsule by the man who coordinated the purchase and transportation of the Obelisk.
Romeo and Juliet – The Romeo and Juliet sculpture in Central Park, by sculptor Milton Hebald, is one of two situated at the entrance to the Delacorte Theatre where The Public Theater hosts Shakespeare in the Park. The sculpture depicts Romeo and Juliet in an embrace as they are about to share a fated kiss. The statue is very simplistic, and that, as the Official Central Park website points out, “lends additional innocence to the moment.” The sculpture is located Mid-park at 80th Street near the Delacorte Theater.
Ludwig van Beethoven – Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most well-known composers. His compositions, like “Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”),” have stood the test of time, and so has he as a musical genius. There is a sculpture of him, by sculptor Henry Bearer, at the Westside of the Concert Ground/The Mall, mid-Park at 70th Street. According to the Central Park website, “The sculpture of the composer, which also includes the personification of the Genius of Music, stands now on the site of the original bandstand.” It only makes sense that his likeness would be placed around the concert ground. There is also a nearly identical bust of him in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Balto – Balto was a husky sleigh dog that is credited with saving children from a deadly diphterhia outbreak. In January 1925, Balto and more than 20 sled teams helped transport medicine almost 1,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome in hopes of saving children from the quickly spreading epidemic. Balto lead the final team to Nome in snow and sub-zero temperatures. This sculpture was dedicated in his honor 10-months after that humanitarian mission. The sculptor who created it was Frederick G. R. Roth. The inscription in front of the sculpture reads: “Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925.Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence.” The sculpture is located at the East Drive at 67th Street
Hans Christian Andersen – Hans Christian Andersen was an author, best known for his children’s stories such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” The sculpture of him, by sculptor Georg John Lober, is located at74th Street near Fifth Avenue, west of Conservatory Water. In the sculpture, Mr. Andersen is sitting, reading “The Ugly Duckling” to a duck who is paying quite a bit of attention. Look closely at the book—the title “Andersen’s Fairy Tales” is engraved on the cover of the book and lines from “The Ugly Duckling” are engraved in the opened pages. In the summer, children’s stories are read at this sculpture.
Empire in the Doris C. Freedman Plaza – The Doris C. Freeman Plaza is one of many rotating sculptures in the Doris C. Freedman Plaza. The sculpture, “Empire,” by Eva Rothschild is on display until August 2011. According to the Central Park website, “The sculpture is meant to reference the role of the Plaza as one of the most heavily used entrances of the Park. Rising nearly 20 feet over the Plaza, the sculpture takes the form of a multi-directional arched gateway.” The Plaza is located at the East Side Perimeter Wall at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street.
William Shakespeare – The William Shakespeare sculpture was the first sculpture of a writer placed on the Mall, or Literary Walk, in Central Park. The sculpture was donated to honor the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The sculptor was John Quincy Adams Ward, but he had help with the sculpture. Actors James Morrison Steele MacKay and Edwin Booth were involved with the creation. Booth advised Ward on the costume for Shakespeare and MacKay was the model for it. The sculpture is located at the South end of the Mall/Literary Walk, at East 66th Street.
Dancing Goat – The Dancing Goat is another sculpture from the animal sculptor, Frederick George Richard Roth. It is one of two sculptures on the sides of Central Park Zoo’s Dancing Crane Café. The other is the “Honey Bear” on the north side. The Dancing Goat is a bronze sculpture that serves as a fountain. The goat is delightful for everyone, and the five little ducks at his feet that spray water are just as adorable. The sculpture is located inside the Central Park Wildlife Conservation Center at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Christopher Columbus – This Christopher Columbus sculpture was dedicated in Central Park in 1892- the 400thanniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Russo’s monument shows Columbus with his hand on his ship, while Jeronimo Sunol’s sculpture shows him with an outstretched arm and a thankful expression for his successful voyage. The sculpture is located Mid-Park at the southern end of the Mall, East Drive at 66th Street.
Here is a 212Access map that outlines the sculpture locations in Central Park.