I followed the eccentric Mr. Mould down a rabbit hole last week.
While tapping out my last post I discovered that Belvedere Castle, one of Jacob Wrey Mould’s projects in Central Park, was closing last weekend for a year of restoration.
My first thought upon learning this news was to imagine how lovely it would be if somehow I could spend a year being restored to mint condition. My second, and more realistic, thought was that we had exactly twenty-four hours to visit the castle before it turned into a pumpkin. So off we went.
Belvedere Castle is located due east of the American Museum of Natural History. We entered the Park at 80th Street and soon encountered the charming Swedish Cottage, brought to Central Park by (my hero) Frederick Law Olmsted in 1877. It happened to be shuttered last Saturday, but since 1947 has served full time as a puppet theatre.
Past the cottage lies Shakespeare’s Garden, fallow in February except for the occasional hopeful patch of snowdrops, ever so serenely echoing the master’s quote from Much Ado About Nothing:
“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
We wound along the garden path to the left and going steadily up, up, up. One of the reasons I hadn’t visited the castle before is that certain people who have a constellation of back problems, have no business climbing inclined paths and rough-hewn steps to castles. But this was the last chance for an entire year! So onward I forged, hopeful of a fairy-tale ending, although, in truth, I just ended up being a damsel in distress with an urgent visit to the physical therapist. The good news: one of the aims of the castle restoration is to make it ADA-accessible.
Finally, the castle, which is the highest point in Central Park, came into view:
Credit for the castle’s design is collectively shared by Olmsted, Vaux and Mould, although the wooden loggia, restored in 1995, was done in strict accordance to the designs of Calvert Vaux:
The castle is built largely out of schist excavated from the Park.
Alas, I could not climb the steep stairs to the turrets, but even from where I stood there is a lovely view of the Turtle Pond below:
And finally, I was rewarded with proof of Mr. Mould at work. Described as being “bold as a lion” in his use of color, a signature piece of his work for Belvedere Castle is this cockatrice – not a dragon but “a legendary creature resembling an oversized rooster with a reptilian tail” above the entry door:
The misery of back problems aside, it was a most satisfying visit to the castle, which is slated to awaken from its restorative slumber March 1, 2019. Oh, and I did get my fairy-tale ending after all, because right there at Belvedere Castle I found my Prince Charming: