Central Park is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York, if not the world. The 800+ acre park welcomes nearly forty million visitors a year and is renowned as a must see location on any New York City visit. The vastness of the park makes it a huge attraction to explore, and take it from us a single visit is never enough time. The park itself is home to a Zoo, Pond, Skating Rink, Theatre, Reservoir and some of the most incredible views of the cityscape.
However along with a lot of Manhattan, Central Park houses a number of secrets. One such secret, long forgotten is that of the Ramble Cave – a semi natural cave discovered during the park’s original excavation.
The Ramble is one of our favourite locations in Central Park (if not all of New York), it’s a beautiful secluded woodland hideaway running parallel to the beautiful mid park lake. Designed especially to be rustic and remote, exploring the Ramble has a way of making you forget you’re in one of the busiest cities in the world. However sitting on the lake shores looking out t the city skyline is one of our favourite New York postcard pictures. It’s a real inspiring place.
During its planned construction aside to the lake shore, the excavation team located a surprise find, a small cavity filled overgrown by the wilderness & soil from the lake. This cavity stretched from the lake uphill but never met one of the planned pathways. Although not in the original plans, the cave was kept and in order to allow accessibility a hidden narrow staircase was built.
The cave became a popular spot for the youth in the late 1800’s, however it soon became a notorious spot for harassment and a number of violent acts (this included a suicide attempt). As such during the 1930’s the cave was sealed off by the City. The Lake side was firmly bricked up, while the arch entrance was filled and smoothed over to appear just as a hillside would.
We discovered this long-lost secret while researching some old books on Manhattan’s eclectic history. As we have visited New York countless times over the past twenty years, we really were on the lookout for a different experience, and this fitted the bill perfectly.
We found the bridge within minutes, however that die entrance is so well sealed, there was no way of locating it for sure. The hidden steps however were a different matter and after an hour searching all sides, we had all but given up. But then when climbing the barrier on a steep pathway and moving a number of bush remains there they were! We couldn’t believe we had passed this historic stairway countless times whilst visiting the ramble, blissfully unaware of their existence.
What a find! Although the stairs do literally lead to the once notorious cave, they now conclude at the bricked up wall.
I couldn’t help but wonder what secrets are hidden behind that wall? what the natural cave looks like nowadays after eighty years of concealment. I hope one day they will remove the wall and open up the natural cave, that existed before the ark itself up to the public.
More of New York lesser known gems coming soon – follow A Wandering Memory today.