September 15, 2003
Still Pretty at One-Hundred-and-Fifty
Q: What has 9,000 benches, 26,000 trees, is larger than the principality of Monaco and was once grazed by sheep?
A: New York City?s Central Park, of course.
The 843-acre urban oasis turned 150 this summer, and the milestone birthday has renewed interest in the park?s rich history, which just happens to include sheep.
Between 1864 and 1934, about 200 sheep grazed a 15-acre portion of the park appropriately dubbed ?Sheep Meadow.? The wooly grazers were added at the request of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, the park?s architects, who envisioned people walking its paths and contemplating sheep in the distant meadows.
The 70-year presence of the sheep came to an end when the former Sheepfold was converted into a restaurant, the widely known Tavern on the Green. The splendor of the Sheep Meadow itself was in danger of being lost due to overuse by protestors in the 1960s and 1970s. However, the lush, green grass was eventually restored and is now enjoyed by an estimated 30,000 people daily between mid April and mid October.