“There’s a spot in Central Park, the Bethesda Fountain, where if you sit there long enough, the entire city walks by.”
—Matthew Perry as Alex Whitman, “Fools Rush In” (1997)
Central Park co-designer Calvert Vaux called Bethesda Fountain “the centre of the centre.” Its story is one of uplifting innovation in water transport, impressive architecture, and the novel creation of spaces dedicated to leisure in verdant surrounds; meanwhile, the little-known tale of its underdog designer getting her first shot in the art world is one that’s not touted nearly enough. The structure’s symbolic meaning, too, synonymous with love, peace, and healing, shouldn’t be overlooked. So let’s start at the beginning.