A Grand Reservoir ~ A Legacy Lives On

Whoever invented the reservoir must have done it with him alone in mind. It was without flaw, a perfect lake set in the most unexpected of locations.*

There is only one place in New York where you can take in beautiful skyline views at ground level, and that’s in Central Park, at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

At the Reservoir on its West side, looking at Manhattan’s Midtown

You can access the Reservoir from the park’s entrances at 86th or 96th streets, from either the Central Park West or Fifth Avenue sides, all within easy reach of the subway. Strolling along the park’s meandering walkways, it doesn’t take long to reach the expansive body of water, circled by a running track and a black, four-foot-high, steel fence. This is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

A West Side entrance

Bridge close by Central Park West’s 96th Street Entrance

Looking towards the southern point of midtown, and the Chrysler is there… somewhere…

From the South, looking West at The Eldorado Apartments

You can see midtown and upper Manhattan from the western, southern and eastern edges of the reservoir. Prominent buildings look miniature from across the lake (the Guggenheim – so tiny!) and on a good day, you can see the sun sets behind a silhouetted skyline. I don’t venture to Central Park often enough, but when I do, seeing these New York City views makes it really worthwhile.

Gorgeous (model of a) Guggenheim on the East side

Silhouetted Skyline

Twilight, ducks and The Guggenheim (far right)

Grasses and sunset

I’ve been living in New York, on and off, for about six years and only recently learned that in 1994, the reservoir was dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; it was “renamed for the beloved first lady who lived nearby and often enjoyed a run along the 1 1/2-mile jogging track that circles the water.”[2] Initially, this massive pool of water was named the Central Park Reservoir, built in 1862.

Spanning 106 acres and covering approximately an eighth of the Park, the Reservoir was built to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct and distribute it around Manhattan.

The reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. At the time, it was unthinkable that a billion gallons of water would last less than two weeks. Today, some speculate that the City would go through that supply in just four hours. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete because of the Third Water Tunnel.[3]

The Reservoir still distributes water to other Central Park locations, such as the Pool, the Loch, and the Harlem Meer, and also serves as a meditative spot.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today cut the ribbon to open the renovated 1.58-mile running track around Central Park‘s Reservoir. The renovations, made possible by a $500,000 gift from the Goldie-Anna Charitable Trust, replaced the track’s gravel and timber lining, and completely overhauled its drainage system. The renovations, the first since the Track initially opened in 1982, will be maintained with a $2 million grant from the Uris Brothers Foundation.[4]

In April 2010, the jogging track was dedicated to a man named Alberto Arroyo. Name Mayor of Central Park by the path’s regular patrons, Arroyo claimed to be the first person to jog around the reservoir, in 1937.

Alberto Arroyo was there every day, and when he retired he was often there the entire day, waving and saying hello to everyone. When he couldn’t run, he walked. Then he used a cane, then a walker, and finally, after a stroke, a wheelchair. Arroyo died last month <March 2010> at 94.[5]

This pathway is also extremely popular with walkers, tourists, photographers, and the neighbourhood’s residents, where the lake makes up a large part of their glorious backyard. Signage requests that no strollers, bikes or dogs be taken on the track. Rightly so as the pathway is way to narrow to cater to everyone (and their messes)!

Photographers and walkers

There is also the track’s protocol of going with the flow; if going against traffic (i.e., clockwise) you may be faced with dozens of shocked faces and disgruntled looks. This park etiquette however, seems to work well. One just needs to be street smart if constantly stopping and starting as the path attracts some pretty swift runners. Apparently, in spring, cherry blossoms bloom along the pathway too. Can you imagine how beautiful that would look?

An eastern perspective, and ducks

The Reservoir is also a lovely pit-stop during a weekend of museum hopping, after visits to The Met and/or The Guggenheim on the East Side, or the American Museum of Natural History, located at 81st Street and Central Park West .

In any kind of weather, the Reservoir’s space seduces. It’s such a calm place for the contemplative soul; an oasis for the stressed-out New Yorker; a perfect viewing spot for the traveler; and, a romantic setting for a date. By day, Manhattan is characterised by its skyscraper skyline; by night, the beautiful lampposts light up the area and transport you to Paris.

It’s another reason that gives New York its edge and character.

Good night…

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Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Five (Sundays)

It’s Sunday and it feels as if last Sunday was yesterday.
Before I know it, Christmas will be here, then New Year’s Day (both of which fall on a Sunday)…. 2012 will begin and 2011s Sundays will be yesteryear’s!

Instead of stressing over it, here’s to stepping back and enjoying every moment.

“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

Owl, Netherlands ~ Photograph by Robin Utrecht

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao ~ Photograph by Albert Perpinya

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“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville

Trees, Lithuania ~ Photograph by Matas Juras

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“Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars. ”  Jack Kerouac

Eiffel Tower, Paris ~ Photograph by Rick Wianecki

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“Imagine.” John Lennon

Baobab Trees, Madagascar ~ Photograph by Pascal Maitre

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“Be present – it is the only moment that matters.” Peaceful Warrior

The Astor Court, The Met, NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Flower, Spain ~Photograph by Brendan Comey

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“He who would travel happily must travel light.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Prayer Wheels, Tibet ~ Photograph by Ray Chong

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“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” Rosalia de Castro

Steps from Wagner Cove, Central Park NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
Paul Theroux

Door, Seville ~ Photograph by Wenjie Zhang

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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

Polar Bear Vs. Ship, Norway ~ Photograph by Michael Nolan

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The Met’s Secret Garden

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to New York (The Met) what the Musee d’Orsay is to Paris, and the Hermitage is to St Petersburg. That is, an outstanding big-city museum that’s too large to explore in one day, filled with fascinating exhibits, awe-inspiring artifacts and archaeological collections.

Bustling Grand Hall

Abutting Central Park by Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, the Met is located in my extended backyard. After a visit, I’m always inspired, whether by the Impressionist works of Monet, the Egyptian artifacts, or the pre-Columbian gold. The get that giddy feeling that makes me want to travel.

Monet’s “The Four Trees”

Part of a Tiffany glasswork

On the flipside, I find too much inspiration overwhelming. When this happens, I take pause in Ming Scholar’s Retreat, or what I call — the secret garden.

Well hidden between the Asian Galleries on the second floor, the garden is accessed through an moon gate crowned by a plaque — tanyou — that translates to In Search of Quietude. Only a handful of people are here at any one time, which makes you feel as if you’re the recipient of a golden ticket.

Moon Gate

Formally called Astor Court (after its visionary and founding supporter Brooke Russell Astor), the garden is modeled “on a small courtyard within a scholar’s garden in the city of Suzhou, China, called Wang Shi Yuan, the Garden of the Master of the Fishing Nets.”[1] I don’t know if anyone comes here to study or write, but the space allows for quiet contemplation, and functions as a place to sit down and rest the weary feet.

The ‘thinking’ visitor

Influenced by the Ming Dynasty style and Yin-Yang principle, the garden courtyard was completed in 1980 and “assembled by expert craftsmen from China using traditional methods, materials and hand tools”.[2]

Moon-Viewing Terrace

Having a skylight for a roof means you could see the moon if you were here late enough. Which wouldn’t have been such a crazy idea, especially given this evening’s lunar eclipse.

Walkway

In the middle of to the terrace stands a doorway with a plaque — yashi — that translates to Elegant Respose. The surrounding windows are covered with wooden latticeworks through which one can see bamboo and grasses, as if to show what the landscape would have looked like. A sheltered walkway along the perimeter of the the garden functions as a place to sit.

Terrace doorway

Latticed patterns

The hushed surroundings soak up the rushhhh of the Koi pond’s waterfall, surrounded by dark grey Ying limestone and eroded rocks sourced from the bottom of Lake Tai (China).

Koi pond and waterfall

In the Ming Dynasty, such a terrace would be used for poetry readings and tea ceremonies. (Side note: If only they’d serve tea here, as they serve wine on the museum’s Great Hall balcony!)

Ming Room

Located directly off the terrace is the Ming Room, also known as the Scholar’s Retreat, whose structure is made from imported Chinese wood: ginko and camphor were used for the latticed doors; fir for the ceiling beams; nan wood – an evergreen prized for its durability and soothing honey colour for the pillars. Decorative ornaments include a blue Meiping vase, pewter candlesticks, and a turquoise and aubergine glazed porcelain God.

Wooden ceiling beams

God of the North, Zhenwu

Ornate decorations of the Ming Room

Astor Court is as much a gallery as the other parts of the museum. And yet, it is not a crowded. Although I have written about it here, I hope this spot stays a secret.

A quiet corner


[1] Murck, Alfreda; Fong, Wen, A Chinese Garden Court: The Astor Court at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Reprinted from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 1980/81. p. 10 [2] nyt.com