Designed in the late 1860s by architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead and as part of their “Greensward Plan” to beautify a then-young Central Park, this turret-topped castle of schist and granite stands atop Vista Rock, looking out on the woodlands of The Ramble, the Turtle Pond, and panoramic views of the Upper West Side.
Originally built in 1865 as a Victorian Folly – a structure with no intended use beyond sheer delight – it would come to be used as both a weather station and a nature center. In 1919, the National Weather Service began taking wind and rainfall readings from the top floor of Belvedere’s tower, the highest point in Central Park; this practice continues today. Over the next several decades, the largely empty structure of high ceilings and winding staircases fell into increasing disrepair, until it was renovated and re-opened in 1983 as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory.
This small natural history museum is geared towards children and
families, providing education about the flora, fauna and geology of
Central Park, and inviting observation via maps, binoculars, and notes.
Its on-site weather instruments allow for up-to-the-minute forecasts,
and its hidden corners and gentle views allow it to remain a romantic
destination within the park.