Central Park's Belvedere Castle has reopened to the public

Central Park’s story is one of investment, deterioration, and rejuvenation, and thanks to recent restoration efforts, today Belvedere Castle lands squarely in the latter phase of the cycle. 

The castle reopened June 28 after a 15-month renovation. Image by Central Park Conservancy

Located at 79th Street, the Belvedere is one of the park’s iconic landmarks, conceived in 1858 by designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and completed 14 years later, opening to the public in 1872. Its name means “beautiful view” in Italian, and given that it’s set on the second-highest point in the park, the vantage point more than lives up to the hype. 

For the first time since March 2018, visitors can take in the views from the castle. Image by Central Park Conservancy

“The Belvedere has a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers and visitors alike, who tell us they feel like royalty taking in the incredible views,” president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, Elizabeth W. Smith, said when she announced the castle’s reopening. “We at the Central Park Conservancy are proud of our work at the Belvedere, which, like the rest of the Park, was designed to provide an oasis from the stress of the city.”

The renovation emphasizes the view of the castle from across Turtle Pond and adds new lighting to illuminate the structure at night. Image by Central Park Conservancy

A 15-month undertaking spearheaded by the conservancy and funded by the Thompson Family Foundation, the project rehabilitated the castle’s earliest details and recreated aspects of its historic design. A decorative wood tower from the 150-year-old original has been rebuilt from scratch, while historically-accurate bluestone pavers have replaced the terrace pavement. The metal grille work around the windows, the result of a 1995 renovation, has been swapped for insulated, clear pane glass, a callback to the original design—it didn’t feature glass at all, but did offer unimpeded views—that also helps regulate temperate and moisture levels inside the castle. 

The Belvedere was abandoned in the '70s, and by 1980, it had been seriously vandalized. Image by Central Park Conservancy

Design improvements aside, there have been structural upgrades as well, with antiquated mechanics receiving a modern-day update for sustainability and green design. A zero-emission, energy-efficient geothermal system now cools and heats the interior; new waterproofing and drainage systems have been installed, and the walls around the terraces have been completely dismantled and rebuilt. An accessible route to the castle is next on the list.

Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux produced the original rendering of the Belvedere in 1858. Image by Central Park Conservancy

The general population enjoyed the Belvedere until 1919, when the U.S. Weather Bureau moved in, adding windows and doors, removing the conical roof, and closing the tower to outside visitors. By the 1960s, people had started referring to it as a castle, but its glory years would be short-lived. From 1967 until 1980, the park entered an era of steep decline, and the Belvedere was abandoned and vandalized. Renovated in 1983 and again in 1995, it's since enjoyed a second heyday both with tourists and locals. 

For more on the most recent restoration, including before-and-after photos, visit centralparknyc.org.