The Staircase Animals of Bethesda Terrace

For those that have never been, Bethesda Terrace in the middle of Central Park is one of the most beautiful spots in New York. A two-tiered plaza leads to an incredible fountain and a lake beyond, in which people row boats around. The area is lush with foliage, and on a warm, blue-sky summer day like yesterday, nothing compares to it.

Fountain 01

When you walk into the plaza, your eye is immediately drawn to the fountain, which might cause you to miss the incredible design work on the sides of the staircase (something I only noticed for the first time today):

Fountain 02

It’s really amazing: a three-dimensional stone rendering of animals and plantlife, all of which I imagine can be found in the park.

Fountain 03

If you get close, you’ll see that the craftsmanship is incredible – every animal looks perfectly frozen in time.

Fountain 04

There is a variation on the other side, which feels a bit more static

Fountain 05

Definitely worth a look if, like me, you’ve been to the Bethesda Fountain a million times and never noticed.


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  1. If you look closer, ALL of the sculptures on the staircases are unique, and not one of them is repeated. Pretty remarkable.

  2. David Ciminello

    Thanks for your wonderful site. My partner and I were at that exact location on the afternoon of the 19th (the same time you were!?!) and I noticed those sculptures for the first time as well. Did you notice the witch and the owl? Do you know the origin of the sculptures? Thanks again!

  3. I remember the first time, around 20 years ago, that I was walking through Central Park and came upon Bethesda Terrace for the first time. It took my breath away.

    It also featured beautifully in the miniseries of “Angels in America” (and, less beautifully but still strikingly, in “The Spanish Prisoner,” as well as a host of other films).

  4. The sculptures were designed by Olmsteads partner and the angel on top of the Bethesda fountain was the first public sculpture designed by a woman,

  5. Many of these figures were in horrible shape due to the neglect of the park in the 70s – many of the figures were broken and unrecognizable. The Central Park Conservancy had a big task in restoring them and the results are excellent. I tried finding a link with a “before” view but couldn’t find one. A scene from Milos Forman’s Hair was shot on the steps. If you freeze the DVD, you might get a good idea of how the steps looked in 1979.