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Sheep MeadowThe Highlights
Sheep Meadow is the best example of the vision that was intended for Central Park’s meadows.
The Sheep Meadow was the largest open meadow feature in the original plan for Central Park, as it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The open space had been a requirement of the design competition for Central Park, which specified a parade ground for the civic function of militia drills and military exhibitions. Olmsted and Vaux’s design called for peaceful expanses of green that inspired calm and refreshing thoughts just by looking at them, not necessarily walking upon them. The fifteen-acre meadow holds true to this intention today as Central Park’s largest lawn without ballfields and as a designated quiet zone. No organized sports or gatherings are allowed on Sheep Meadow to preserve the space for relaxation, sunbathing, kite flying, and summer picnics. Originally a rocky and swampy terrain, Sheep Meadow was the most costly construction undertaken in the new park. Its transformation to a meadow required the blasting of rocky outcrops and the installation of four feet of soil. When the location of the Sheep Meadow was decided, some small communities of poorer New Yorkers were uprooted: including Irish, Germans and African-Americans. Few sunbathers today realize the effort that created this "natural" grassy terrain. This meadow was the largest meadow in Central Park until the old reservoir was emptied in 1929 and made into the Great Lawn in 1935. The landscape was first known as “the Green” or “the Commons,” but became known as “Sheep Meadow” in the early twentieth century due to the ever-present flock of pedigree sheep that grazed the meadow. For nearly fifty years, the sheep spent their days on the meadow and their evenings in the nearby Sheepfold, which is now the landmark Tavern on the Green restaurant. In the 1960s, Sheep Meadow became the iconic gathering spot for New York’s counterculture, including anti-War protests, peace rallies, love-ins, be-ins, draft card burnings, Earth Day celebrations, and popular concerts. This expansive 15-acre field admits up to 30,000 people per day during the summer months