From the hub of Olmsted’s & Vaux’s Central Park – Bethesda Terrace – spoke the elm tree lined Mall and the 72nd Street transverse roadway, now closed to traffic.
To its north lies The Ramble (on the other side of The Lake). To its west lies the main body of The Lake and Strawberry Fields. To its east are row boat rentals, the Boathouse Restaurant, and The Boat Pond (officially, Conservatory Water) – the little boat pond – as in E B White’s children’s novel, “Stuart Little“. And, around it, the spectacular Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson bronze sculptures. All can be experienced in one fell walking swoop.
At The Terrace itself, breathtaking sculptural balustrades frame magical depictions of wild animals, while framing the staircase (pictured) that leads you from The Mall above to the Bethesda Fountain below, and whose name is “Angel of the Waters”. She is atop the fountain featured in the 2003 film Angels in America, as the finale of the camera’s swooping ‘one shot’ opening credit roll that begins in San Francisco. The sculptor was informed by the Gospel of John, which describes an angel instilling healing powers to the waters of the Pool of Bethesda.
Its maker, Emma Stebbins was, in 1863, the first woman (and first openly gay) ever to receive a public art commission in the City of New York. Its earthly raison d’être is its commemoration of the Croton Reservoir water system which led to the end of a cholera outbreak in the city in the 1840s.