on our last day in NYC, bev and i spent a good amount of time at the met, then we walked through central park.  we walked by the central park zoo, which i’d never seen before for some reason.  i thought it was funny that it had a llama and a sheep…

…and a goat!  kids in the city don’t get to see any farm animals.

and then i spotted this great door there in the park.  it’s called the Arsenal, and this is the interesting stuff that wikipedia has to say about it:

Built between 1847 and 1851 as a storehouse for arms and ammunition for the New York State Militia, the building predates the design and construction of Central Park, where only the Blockhouse (1814) is older.

The Arsenal was designed by Martin E. Thompson (1786–1877),[1] originally trained as a carpenter, who had been a partner of Ithiel Town and went on to become one of the founders of the National Academy of Design. Thompson’s symmetrical structure of brick in English bond, with headers every fifth course, presents a central block in the manner of a fortified gatehouse flanked by half-octagonal towers. The carpentry doorframe speaks of its purpose with an American eagle displayed between stacks of cannonballs over the door, and crossed sabers and stacked pikes represented in flanking panels.

The building currently houses the offices of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Central Park Wildlife Conservation Center, but it has also served as a zoo and housed a portion of the American Museum of Natural History‘s collections while its permanent structure was being erected. During the course of its lifetime it has also housed a police precinct, a weather bureau, and an art gallery.


here’s a cool old picture of the arsenal from 1911, although the label on the picture claims it’s from both 1911 and 1914.

i decided to look up the older building the Blockhouse, and here’s what it looks like.  i’ve never laid eyes on it. the funny thing is, that entry about the Arsenal says it’s the second-oldest building in the park, but the description of the Blockhouse is the 2nd oldest.

yet more interesting info from wikipedia:

Blockhouse No. 1, colloquially known as The Blockhouse, is a small fort in the northern part of Central Park, in Manhattan, New York City, and is the second oldest structure in the park, aside from Cleopatra’s Needle. It is located on an overlook of Manhattan schist, with a clear view of the flat surrounding areas north of Central Park. Finished in 1814, the fort was part of a series of fortifications in northern Manhattan, which originally also included three fortifications in what was then called Harlem Heights, now known as Morningside Heights. The fort is the last remaining fortification from these defenses. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park, treated Blockhouse No. 1 as a picturesque ruin, romantically overrun with vines and Alpine shrubbery.[1]

The Blockhouse was likely built on a foundation of a structure dating back to a much earlier date. In 1776 during the Revolutionary War, British and Hessian troops sealed off lower Manhattan from colonial armies by controlling the pass and defending it through a series of fortifications. From trial excavations performed in 1995, it has been determined that the foundations of Blockhouse No. 1 date back to this time of British occupation of Manhattan.[2]

The current fort was constructed in three phases:

In the first phase, under the direction of General Joseph Gardner Swift,[3] the fort was hastily constructed by New Yorkers during the War of 1812 in anticipation of a British invasion. The building was assembled by volunteers who brought the building materials with them, hence the red sandstone blocks included with the Manhattan schist.[4] The fort consists of a two-story bunker surrounding a small area, inside which a wooden platform would originally have stood. The wooded platform was sunken with a revolving turret for a cannon. The sides hold small gunports. This structure was likely connected to the ground by a small staircase. Construction on the tower was completed in 1814, two days before the Treaty of Ghent was signed to end the war.

The second phase was during its use as an ammunition and storage building. During this time the top two feet of stone work were added. They are noticeably different in color, composition and stonework.

Later at the turn of the 20th century, the current entrance and staircase were added, as was the tall flagpole in the center of the fort.

This structure was initially built as a defensive fort for New York City and soldiers were stationed at the Blockhouse. At its height, nearly 2000 New York state militiamen garrisoned the fortifications.[1] However, the British did not attack New York City, and as such the Blockhouse never saw combat. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve 1814, and the fort was abandoned almost overnight.[6] It was subsequently used for ammunition storage. In the early 1900s it was used as a place to celebrate patriotic holidays.[7]

it’s so fascinating to think of central park, this place where so many people go to hang out and enjoy nature, being occupied by the british. the place is crawling with history, and now i feel that i’m going to have to explore more of it the next time i’m in NYC.  the blockhouse is at the very top edge of the park, where i’ve never gone.

so then i had to look up the really really oldest structure in the park, and i don’t know why i’ve never noticed this one, Cleopatra’s Needle.  It’s very close to the met, so why have i never seen it???

Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City is one of three similar named Egyptian obelisks and was erected in Central Park , just west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) on 22 February 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government.

Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 21 metres (69 ft) high, weighs about 200 tons[1] and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, on 1475 B.C BC.[1] The material of which it was cut is granite, brought from the quarries of Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesareum – a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony or Julius Caesar – by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.

so there’s my history lesson about central park.  who knew it had so many interesting things in it?  like i said, next time i’m going to seek out other things that i’ve never noticed.

ok then,

mrs. thursday afternoon hughes.

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