Sheep Meadow today is a 15-acre, lush, green meadow for relaxing and admiring one of New York City's greatest skyline views. But it began less placidly - at least in concept. One of the conditions for entries in the 1858 Central Park design competition was the inclusion of a parade ground for military drills. Olmsted and Vaux included the parade ground in their design only reluctantly. The Park Commissioners were soon won over to their point of view, however, agreeing that military use conflicted with the vision of a quiet and serene atmosphere.
The sheep and a shepherd were housed in a fanciful Victorian building - part of what is now the Tavern on the Green restaurant - on the western perimeter of the Park. Twice a day the shepherd stopped traffic on the west drive so that the flock could travel to and from their meadow. The rural idyll continued until 1934, when the flock was transferred to Prospect Park in Brooklyn and the sheepfold became a restaurant.
In the 1960s and the 1970s thousands of people were attracted to Sheep Meadow for large-scale concerts. The first landing on the moon was televised to a large crowd in the meadow on July 20, 1969. These events, and the lack of maintenance, severely eroded the lawn. Sheep Meadow was the first area in Central Park to be restored. Events moved to nearby, more suitable or resilient locations. Sheep Meadow reopened in 1981 as a swath of green dedicated to sunbathers, picnickers, and kite flyers. In November 2000, the Conservancy began the installation of a new irrigation system whose design incorporated the latest technology. Quick-coupler valves for hand watering are located at strategic points; 3,000 feet of irrigation main and 15,000 feet of lateral pipe were also put in to support 300 sprinkler heads. The project was completed in 5 months, and Sheep Meadow reopened in April 2001.
On the northern edge of Sheep Meadow, just outside its fence, is Lilac Walk. Along the walk are 23 varieties of lilacs from around the world. The Center Drive, slightly further on, offers volleyball and the "skate circle" - the setting for serious roller-skating and disco skating.
See pictures of Central Park at Wired New York Forum
Pictures of Sheep Meadow
New Yorkers sunbathing in Sheep Meadow. 4 July 2005.
Snow in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. 23 January 2005.
New Yorkers enjoying sun in Central Park's Sheep Meadow,
as construction continues on Bloomberg
Tower. July 2003.
New Yorkers enjoying sun in Central Park's Sheep Meadow.