This green 55-acre area is the geographical center of Central Park, and one of the most famous lawns in the world.
The Great Lawn was originally the site of the rectangular Croton Reservoir. When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were designing Central Park, they disliked the reservoir's rectangular shape, a contrast to their vision for a curvilinear, naturalistic landscape. The designers compensated by using dense plantings to camouflage the site from park visitors. The reservoir was drained in 1931 and filled with excavation material from Rockefeller Center and the Eighth Avenue subway.
A flurry of site proposals followed. Suggestions included a World War I soldiers memorial, airport landing pads, a sports arena, an opera house, underground parking garages, and even a vault to store motion pictures. Olmsted and Vaux's vision of a rural retreat ultimately prevailed. The oval lawn opened in 1937, with baseball diamonds added in the 1950s.
Through the years, the Great Lawn played host to memorable performances by Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Philharmonic. Unfortunately, such large gatherings and unregulated use through the 1960s and 70s left the oval a "Great Dust Bowl." In 1997, Central Park Conservancy completed a major two-year restoration of the Great Lawn to its original splendor.