Dairy Visitor Center

Dairy Visitor Center

Photo: Cititour.com

Type of Place: Gift Shops

Hours: 10am-5pm, Thursday-Sunday

At the end of a long ride north to the new Central Park, 19th century children could enjoy a fresh, wholesome glass of milk at The Dairy. In the 1850s, residential Manhattan reached only as far north as 38th Street. During that time, New York City suffered milk scandals. Some tainted milk from cows in the southern parts of the City that were fed brewery mash instead of hay was being sold commercially throughout the City. Fresh milk was worth seeking out. Cholera outbreaks in the densely-populated areas sent anxious families in search of healthier environments for their children, and by the time the Dairy opened 20 years later, milk was fresh and regulated. Olmsted and Vaux thought of the southernmost part of the Park as the Children's District since it was the first arrival point for travelling families.

The Dairy design is a vintage Victorian hybrid: Swiss chalet meets Gothic country church. One half of the Dairy is an open loggia, made of wood with geometric gingerbread borders. The other half is a granite structure with window treatments and spires reminiscent of a country church. Olmsted and Vaux designed the loggia to catch both cool summer breezes from the Pond, and as much warmth as the winter sun could offer. The view from the loggia south is framed by two tree-crowned bedrock outcrops. Historically, the focus of the view was the shoreline of the Pond; today it is colorful Wollman Rink, with the midtown skyline as backdrop.

The Dairy today serves as a general visitor center with information on the history and design of Central Park, as well as current Park events and programs. In addition, The Dairy serves as the official Central Park gift store with maps, guides, history books, and a line of mugs, key chains, T-shirts, and caps especially designed for the Central Park Conservancy.

To the west of the Dairy, on a large bedrock outcrop (called the Kinderberg or "children's mountain") stands the brick Chess and Checkers House. The City built the house in 1952 to replace the Park's largest and most ornate rustic wood summer house. Players from around the City gather at the 24 chess tables under a modern-day pergola to match wits and enjoy the summer shade.   - Central Park

Dairy Visitor Center
Mid-Park at 65th St
New York, NY
(212) 794-6564