A couple days ago I finally got to visit Central Park, which I had seen while visiting both the Museum of Natural History and the Met, but only from its edges. Entering from the middle of its south border, I was presented first with its bulging exposed bedrock that surrounded the winding sidewalks scattered with people enjoying their Saturday evening. The landscape and life there was pleasant enough, but I had been wanting to venture to the center of the park, mainly to see Belvedere castle. I didn’t know much about it, but the fact that it was a castle was enough to motivate me to walk the mile or so north through the park to see what it was all about. Along the way I began to hear the distant but familiar low-end of live amplified music. It turned out the park had more to offer than I initially thought. Off to my right I could hear the echo of an overplayed pop song coming through the trees which I’m sure include some kind of festivities, but I followed my ears to the experimental-sounding music of what had to be some kind of concert. Upon arriving to the back of the blocked-off venue, through the stands I could make out the words “Summerstage” along the top of the stage. Upon further investigation I found that Summerstage, part of the City Parks Foundation, dates back to the 80’s, includes over a hundred performances throughout New York, and is in fact free (though included was an obligatory wait in line). It made me happy to see that the music scene was an important part of New York and that they can use their resources to provide music to the city without any monetary cost for admission. However, after I was satisfied with the knowledge of this event, I moved on toward the mysterious castle.
The trees got substantially thicker and for a few minutes, it was as if I wasn’t in a city at all. I figure that’s what makes the park, or maybe most parks, so special. It offers quite a nice escape from the often hostile smells, sounds, and sights of the streets. After a good climb up a hill, I arrived at my destination. The castle, though smaller than most houses, was quite an impressive structure, situated on top of a steep hill of bedrock. I doubt that any other location in the city would fit a castle better than this. The still waters of Turtle Pond, which extend from around the base of the rock face below the castle, further accentuated the victorian atmosphere of the area. Without much knowledge as to why there was a castle in Central Park in the first place, I luckily found the plaque that summarized the history of the castle. First built for decoration and later taken over by the United States Weather Bureau, it still serves to show how, even with many aspects of New York created for function and art basically neglected, Central Park can provide just the opposite. It serves its purpose well as a serene venue not only for conservation but also to support the flourishing arts of New York.