Bow Bridge at Dusk by James Maher

Bow Bridge History and Photography

Bow Bridge at Dusk, Central Park, 2010 by James Maher.

 (*I write these articles because I love the city and the incredible stories behind each grand structure.  You can help support my photography and writing by purchasing an archival print of Bow Bridge for your home.  Photos with links below them are for sale.)

The History and Photography of Bow Bridge

The crown jewel of Central Park, Bow Bridge’s slightly swooping ‘archer’s bow’ has held the hearts of native New Yorkers, tourists, couples, brides and grooms, movie-watchers, joggers, row-boaters, photographers, and fishermen since it was built in 1862.

The epitome of New York romanticism, this Victorian cast-iron bridge was built with ‘classical Greek refinement,’ incorporating elements of Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance design, and has eight three and a half foot tall planting urns.  The bridge spans 87 feet, with a walkway of ipe, a South American hardwood that turns a deep red when wet.  The bridge is the second oldest cast-iron bridge in America.

The passageway was created as part of the plan of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (the creators of Central Park) to develop an interwoven transportation system of pedestrian paths, bridle trails, and carriageways, with a system of compact bridges and archways that would allow for a large number of competing paths within a small area.

Bow Bridge, Central Park

 Bow Bridge and Leaves, Central Park, 2010, by James Maher.

Bow Bridge swoops gently over The Lake, connecting the lakefront setting of Bethesda Terrace and the hilly, grassy area of Cherry Hill, named for the Cherry Blossom trees that bloom in winter and popular with picnickers, readers, and sunbathers, with The Ramble, a tree-covered, hilly woodland walk, meant to allow New Yorkers to get lost in nature and often frequented by bird watchers and natives looking to momentarily escape the city.

A park favorite of New Yorkers and Tourists (and my #1 recommendation of things-to-do in New York), is to grab some sandwiches, rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse, and travel under Bow Bridge (even better, grab a drink at the Boathouse before).  The Lake has a huge network of hidden alcoves to stop and eat, to lie down, or read a book in (or to see turtles mating), and mainly to escape the other boats roaming the lake.  Boats cost $12 for the first hour with a $20 deposit and each addition 15 minutes is $2.50.  It is cash only and the nearest ATM is hard to find.

A six-person gondola with a gondolier can even be rented for $30 per half hour, but reservations must be made in advance.

Bow Bridge, Central Park, Historical Photograph

Bow Bridge in Fall, Central Park, New York Photography

Bow Bridge, Central Park

Bow Bridge, Central Park

(Note: as I took the below image at dusk, a long exposure that made me stand still for 30 seconds, I looked down at the end to see a family of raccoons surrounding me.)

Bow Bridge, Central Park

Bow Bridge at Dusk in Color, Central Park, 2010 by James Maher. 


– Built: 1862

– Length: 87 feet, 60 feet over The Lake

– Second oldest cast-iron bridge in America

– Walkway made of South American ipe hardwood.


Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Where can I enter Central Park to find Bow Bridge?

Bow Bridge can be best accessed by entering Central Park at 72nd street on either end of the park.  It is also easily accessible from Bethesda Terrace.

2. Where can I rent a rowboat in Central Park?  How much does it cost?

Rowboats can be rented at the Loeb Boathouse on The Lake with a deposite of $20 (cash only).  The cost is $12 for the first hour and $2.50 for each additional 15 minutes.

3. How long is Bow Bridge?

Bow Bridge is 87 feet long and 60 feet span over The Lake

4. What movies and television shows have Bow Bridge appeared in?

Manhattan, The Way We Were, Spiderman 3, Highlander, Keeping the Faith, When in Rome, Made of Honor, Night at the Museum, Autumn in New York, Great Expectations, Uptown Girls, Glee.

5. When is the 150th anniversary of Bow Bridge?

The 150th anniversary of Bow Bridge occurs in 2012.

The Lake, Central Park

7 thoughts on “Bow Bridge History and Photography”

  1. Hi James,
    My name is Dede Osserman Tanzer. My grandmother, Lucy Goldschmidt Moses, paid to rebuild Bow Bridge when it had fallen to disrepair. She received the first Frederick Law Olmstead award given by New York for her work.
    We were raised calling it Grandma’s bridge.
    I’ve just been going her things and decided to educate myself about it further and came across your posting. I actually have a few photos of the ribbon cutting. If you ever happen to be around Delray Beach, FL let me know…if you’re interested.
    Best regards,

    1. Dede, I’m the author of The Central Park Lost Mitten Party (which has great notes about the Park, including Bow Bridge). Amazingly, I am often in Delray Beach and would love to be in touch with you. BTW, I am doing a second signing of the book at FAO Schwarz 12-14-2019, 49th & 5th, Rockefeller Center if you are in town!!

    2. Terrific, Dede. The ‘70s were a particularly fraught time for the Park so the contribution was especially valuable. Here’s a quick note on the restoration. Enthusiasts were buoyant about the restored bridge, but mourned the loss of the irreplaceable urns. Someone (I need to ck who!) was rummaging around a Parks Dept storage facility when they spotted an exceptional cast iron flower pot. The urn was identified and funds were raised to have it restored and duplicated seven times!

  2. Bradford Neil

    Beautiful photos, informative and evocative text. A quick tidbit.. Olmsted and Vaux didn’t want a bridge to the Ramble, which was (and is!) an oasis within the oasis of Central Park. The Commissioners insisted, Vaux and Mould delivered. Indeed, it was among the first completed in the Park and competed with Marble Arch to be the most exquisite.

  3. Pingback: The Most Romantic Places In The World To Purpose - True love still exists

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