New York's Angel of the Waters Fountain

The Bethesda Fountain, also called the Angel of the Waters fountains, is located on the Bethesda Terrace. The terrace is located on two levels; overlooking Central Park in New York City. The two levels are connected to by two grand staircases, as well as a smaller one that travels under the Terrace Drive leading to The Mall. The lower terrace is perfect for viewing the lake, while the upper terrace flanks 72nd street and Cross Drive.

The Bethesda Fountain is the focal point of the lower level terrace. It was constructed in 1859-64, and is enclosed with two elliptical balustrades. The sculpture, designed by Emma Stebbins, is a bronze eight foot statue of a female angel landing on the top of the fountain. Water spouts into an upper basin and then into the pool surrounding it. Stebbins was the first woman to receive a public commission of artwork in the state of New York. Below the angel are four cherubs, which represent Peace, Temperance, Purity, and Health. The alter name for the Bethesda Fountain, the Angel of Waters fountain, refers to the Gospel of John, where the Angel blesses the fountain of Bethesda.

The fountain is important to the city in many other ways. The Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842, and brought pure and fresh water to the city for the first time. This is why the statue carries a lily in one hand. It represents purity, as she blesses the water with her other hand. The base of the fountain was designed by Calvert Vaux, the architect who built all of the original features located in central park. The sculpted details were designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. The lower Terrace, according to the original plans created in 1858, the name for the terrace would just be The Water Terrace, because it overlooked the natural landscape of the lake. It was not until the Fountain’s angel was reveled that the name was changed to the Bethesda Terrace.

During the 1960’s, this terrace was used for an outdoor luncheon restaurant, but then in the 1970’s became a site for drug trafficking. During the 1980’s, the Central Park Conservancy made plans to restore the site as well as the fountain, which had been dry for decades. During this reconstruction of the area, the panels of the fountains were all taken down cleaned, patched and restored. Any deteriorated surfaces were removed.  The grounds were re-sod and fifty new trees, 3500 new shrubs, and a lot of ground cover was added. In 2008, a lot of this had become dense block, and were removed. Plants that were native to the United States were added to replace the ones that were removed.

The Bethesda Fountain is one of the largest fountains in New York. The fountain is 26 feet high and 96 feet wide. This fountain is one of the most well known fountains in the world. The Neoclassical Design of the statue was the first to be commissioned as a park of the original design of Central Park. This fountain is certainly the crowning jewel of Central Park, a place tourists visit in droves to view, relax, picnic and just take in the beauty of the setting. It is also a popular site in many different movies and TV Series. The Bethesda Fountain is a staple of New York City cultural destinations.