A Few Secrets of Central Park, New York’s Epicenter for Shameless Avoidance of Social Distancing
You know how sometimes you’ll just be scrolling through instagram then blink and somehow you’re on the page of the soul cycle instructor of the best friend of the serious ex-girlfriend of the guy you went on a handful of dates with back in 2015.
Just me? Cool.
So recently I ended up on an article that was about the efforts of 300 volunteers to hand count the number of squirrels in Central Park, which (I know you’re invested now) is 2,373 Eastern gray squirrels. Staying topical but avoiding a deep dive into rodents, I ended up trying to find other oddities about Central Park. So if your only point of reference for the Park is Sheep’s Meadow, buying handmade margaritas from a sketchy man with a cooler-on-a-wagon, let’s work to improve that.
1. The Secret Behind the Plaques on Central Parks Lampposts
Unless you’re obsessed with lamp posts, you probably haven’t noticed the embossed numbers that are on a metal plaque bolted on each of Central Park’s cast iron lampposts. The plaques can be either on the base or on the post itself. The first two or three digits denote the nearest cross street and the last digit tells you if you’re closer to the east or west side of the park. An even number means east, an odd number means west.
2. How Sheep’s Meadow Actually Got Its Name
The area that is now Sheep’s Meadow, the most popular picnicking area of the park, was originally intended to be a parade ground for military drills. However, by 1864, the designers transitioned it into a beautiful meadow and grazing area for over 200 sheep. The designers thought the sheep enhanced the Romantic English quality of the park, as well as maintained the lawn. In 1934, the sheep were moved to Prospect Park in Brooklyn because people were starting to use the sheep as food during the Great Depression. If you don’t believe me, here are a handful of pictures of sheep hanging out all over New York parks in the 1800s.
3. Please Go Chasing Waterfalls
Am I the only person who thought that TLC song was about a man named Jason Waterfalls? Any who, there are at least five waterfalls in Central Park, all completely man-made, most of which are located in the Ravine, the stream valley section of the North Woods. The water that flows here is actually NYC drinking water that comes from a hidden 48-inch pipe. The most dramatic waterfall is the 14-ft cascade in the area of the North Woods known as the Loch. To find it, enter the Park on the West side through Glen Span Arch at 102nd Street and follow the water.
4. Central Park’s Prehistoric Past, Very Visible to the Naked Eye
The bedrock of Central Park is made of up hard Manhattan Schist, which was formed from sedimentary shale by intense subterranean heat and pressure some 450 million years ago in the Paleozoic Era, the period in which the supercontinent Pangaea formed. You can see outcroppings of the park’s bedrock throughout the park, especially near Belvedere Castle and Umpire Rock near 63rd Street and Central Park West. The biggest issue posed by the bedrock is how hard it is: in order to remove it to create the park, workers had to physically blast it. At the completion of the park, workers relied on 166 tons of gunpowder, more gunpowder than would later be used at the battle of Gettysburg, to carve out the Schist.
5. There’s a Dorky but Fun Scavenger Hunt Secretly Going on in New York
Last newsletter we talked extensively about the New York Grid System. It ended up being a total pain in the ass to create, but mainly for John Randel Jr, who was tasked with placing 1,000 metal bolts at all proposed intersections. Central Park wasn’t included in Randel’s original plan so history adventurers have made a game of finding some of the original bolts inside the park. While no article will say exactly where this one is, it should mark 6th Avenue and 65th Street…