New York City Guide
Belvedere Castle was built in 1869 as part of Central Park. This Victorian folly was designed in by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, and constructed on a natural elevation known as Vista Rock. Belvedere Castle was originally built as a shell with open doorways and window frames. Previously on the site was a fire tower which had to be demolished to make way for the new building. Today the castle boasts some wonderful panoramic views over the surrounding area.
Looking straight ahead, where there was once one of the original reservoirs, is Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn, a very popular recreation area. Turtle Pond underwent a complete renovation in 1997 when Turtle Island was added. The area now provides a natural habitat for a variety of wildlife in addition to, as its name would suggest, several species of turtles.
Belvedere Castle was built from stone excavated from within the park and dressed with gray granite. Balancing the mass of the main castle structure, Vaux's original design had called for a more substantial granite structure with a corner tower with a conical cap looking out over parapet walls. Later after Olmsted and Vaux had been dismissed, modifications were made to the design in an effort to reduce costs, and an open wooden pavilion was added.
Once the home of the New York Meteorological Observatory,
in the 1960’s, they moved out and Belvedere Castle was closed to the public. The building fell into decline and was badly vandalized, but the Central Park Conservancy had the building restored, the original turret was replaced and the pavilions rebuilt. The castle was converted into a visitor’s centre and was reopened in 1983.
Today Belvedere Castle has windows and doors installed and is home to the Henry Luce Nature Observatory which contains a display which demonstrates how naturalists observe the world about them.