Belvedere Castle

In 1867, Central Park designer and architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) created an observation tower atop Vista Rock to overlook the old reservoir that is now the Great Lawn. The original plans included another elaborate two-story structure on the site of today’s pavilion, but due to financial concerns, construction was halted and the castle was left as it appears today. The Castle was created as a landmark for pedestrians as they strolled through the park. The flag at the top of the castle was to be used as a guide as one strolled from the Mall, to the Bethesda Fountain, over to the Bow Bridge and through the Ramble to the Castle.

Belvedere Castle was once an open-air structure, with no doors or windows. This changed in 1919 when the United States Weather Bureau moved the Central Park Observatory to the castle. The Weather Bureau took over the operation in 1911, and moved it here eight years later, enclosing the castle and altering the turret’s shape to accommodate their scientific instruments. In the early 1960s, the Weather Bureau replaced the lab with automated instruments and closed the castle offices. The Castle fell into disrepair due to neglect.


In 1983, the Central Park Conservancy started a restoration and renovation project. They replaced the original turret, rebuilt the pavilions, and converted the castle into a visitor’s center. The Henry Luce Nature Observatory in the castle, created in 1996, provides interactive nature exhibits inside the castle as well as bird-watching kits, which can be used throughout the park.

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