Saturday, October 03, 2009

Bank Rock Bridge re-opened and re-named

Photo by Marianne Girards

Marianne Girards, a long-time Central Park birder and one of the regular Shakespeare Garden entomology investigators [under the tutelage of Nick Wagerik] just sent in the photo above, taken on Oct 1. It shows the newly restored Bank Rock Bridge. After several years of construction, the beautiful new bridge reopened in mid-September.

According to the Central Park Conservancy it is now to be called Oak Bridge. In the history below, [from the website of the Jan Hrd Pokorny, the architect in charge of the restoration,] you'll see that the name Oak Bridge is actually the span's original name. Nevertheless I have a strong feeling that most of the Central Park nature gang will always call it Bank Rock Bridge.

Below, a photo of the "nondescript bridge" [see history below] in its previous unadorned state:


Designed by Calvert Vaux, Oak Bridge was constructed in 1860 across a narrow arm of the Central Park Lake at its northernmost tip to provide a connection from the path along the West Drive into the Ramble. Also referred to as Bank Rock Bridge, it was one of the larger and more elegant of the Park’s wooden bridges, constructed of carved white oak with panels of decorative cast iron set in the railings and a deck of yellow pine.

With the exception of its stone abutments, the original bridge did not survive long. Deterioration of the woodwork, which had been replaced in 1872, continued to be a problem through the early decades of the twentieth century, requiring reconstruction and repair on several occasions. It was replaced in the early 1930s by a nondescript bridge of ordinary wood planks and iron pipe railing.

In an effort to restore the historic architectural character of this part of Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy hired Jan Hrd Pokorny Associates to investigate the possibilities for reconstructing a replica of Oak Bridge based on the original drawing and historic photographs. JHPA performed exhaustive research into the types of materials that would allow a faithful reconstruction while also lasting much longer than the original wooden bridge.