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Bethesda Terrace and Angel of the Waters Fountain

Bethesda Terrace is an architectural marvel that is located at 72nd street Cross Drive. It offers good views since it overlooks the Central Park Lake and the adjacent woods.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux proposed an open space or reception for this area of the park in their 1858 Greensward Plan for Central Park. The two wanted the terrace to be subordinate to the surrounding, they therefore ensured that the Bethesda Terrace seamlessly engraves its architecture into the surrounding landscape. This was the conceptual design of the terrace. Construction of the space begun in 1859 immediately after the space for the Central Park Lake was excavated and filled in 1958. The space was seen by Frederick and Calvert as a place where people could experience nature while at the same time holding social gatherings. In their plan, the space was to be called The Water Terrace, but after the incorporation of the fountain, its name changed to Bethesda Terrace.

Bethesda Terrace Fountain Angel of the Waters

The structure of the terrace consists of two levels that are connected to each other by two grand staircases and another smaller staircase. The upper terrace provides scenic views since visitors who stand on it have a view of the lake and Central Park's major woodland. The terrace has benches built into its walls whereby visitor can cool their heels and relax; it is also the site of the 'Angel of the waters' better known as Bethesda Fountain. Jacob Wrey Mould is credited for being the designer of the fountain and he also incorporated the concept of nature in his design of the decorative elements of the terrace. The creation of the sculpture itself was however done by sculptor Emma Stebbins. The bronze statue depicts a female angel touching down on the fountain with her wings spread. This statue was in reference to the Gospel of John in its chapter 5 whereby there is a description of an angel blessing the pool of Bethesda that gave it healing powers. The Bethesda Fountain was in celebration of the Croton Aqueduct, which was opened in 1842; it brought fresh water from Westchester County to New York City.

Several restorations have been done on this part of the park. The Central Park Conservancy, for example, in the mid-1980s funded the complete reconstruction of the Bethesda Terrace. During this time, sculptors were commissioned and tasked with restoring the splendor to the terrace. The fountain was, therefore, cleaned, repainted and resealed with a protective coating in 1988.The terrace is now one of the most elegant and grandiose places in the whole Central Park. Though not anticipated by Frederick and Calvert the Terrace has played host to several artists and among them is renowned street performer, Thoth.

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