Most Popular Film Locations: Bethesda Terrace
Bethesda Terrace overlooks The Lake in New York City's Central Park. It is on two levels, united by two grand staircases and a lesser one that passes under Terrace Drive to provide passage southward to the Elkan Naumburg bandshell and The Mall, of which this is the architectural culmination, the theatrical set-piece at the centre of the park. The upper terrace flanks the 72nd Street Cross Drive and the lower terrace provides a podium for viewing the Lake. The mustard-olive coloured carved stone is New Brunswick sandstone, with a harder stone for capping, with granite steps and landings, and herringbone paving of Roman brick laid on edge.
Bethesda Fountain is the central feature on the lower level of the terrace, constructed in 1859-64, which is enclosed within two elliptical balustrades. The pool is centred by a fountain sculpture designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 and unveiled in 1873. Stebbins was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City. The bronze, eight-foot statue depicts a female winged angel touching down upon the top of the fountain, where water spouts and cascades into an upper basin and into the surrounding pool. It was the only statue in the park called for in the original design. Beneath her are four four-foot cherubs representing Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace. Also called the Angel of the Waters, the statue refers to the Gospel of John, Chapter 5 where there is a description of an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda, giving it healing powers. In Central Park the referent is the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842, providing the city for the first time with a dependable supply of pure water: thus the angel carries a lily in one hand, representing purity, and with the other hand she blesses the water below.
The base of the fountain was designed by the architect of all the original built features of Central Park, Calvert Vaux, with sculptural details, as usual, by Jacob Wrey Mould. In Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted's 1858 Greensward Plan, the terrace at the end of the Mall overlooking the naturalistic landscape of the Lake was simply called The Water Terrace, but after the unveiling of the angel, its name was changed to Bethesda Terrace.
Bethesda Terrace became a site for an outdoor luncheon restaurant at the end of the 1960s, then became a congregating spot for the Hair generation before devolving into a drug-trafficking venue in the 1970s. The fountain, which had been dry for decades, was restored in its initial campaign, 1980–81, by the Central Park Conservancy as the centrepiece of its plan to renovate Central Park. The Terrace, designed by Vaux with sculptural decoration by Mould, was restored in the following season, its stonework disassembled, cleaned, deteriorated surfaces removed, restored and patched and reset.
Most Iconic Film Moment: One Fine Day
Other films that feature Bethesda Terrace include:
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