Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.jpg
LocationCentral Park, New York City
Coordinates40°47′6.32″N 73°57′37.71″W / 40.7850889°N 73.9604750°W / 40.7850889; -73.9604750Coordinates: 40°47′6.32″N 73°57′37.71″W / 40.7850889°N 73.9604750°W / 40.7850889; -73.9604750
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area106 acres (43 ha)
Average depth8.8 m (29 ft)
Water volume3.8 million cubic metres (3,100 acre⋅ft)
Shore length11.58 mi (2.5 km)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (also Central Park Reservoir) is a decommissioned reservoir in Central Park in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, stretching from 86th to 96th Streets.


Map of notable buildings and structures at Central Park (note: not all entrances shown). Pan and zoom the map and click on points for more details.

Design and construction

In the 1850s, Central Park was proposed by Croton Aqueduct Board president Nicholas Dean, who chose the site because the Croton Aqueduct's 35-acre (14 ha), 150-million-US-gallon (570×10^6 L) reservoir would be in the geographical center.[1][2] It was complemented by the Yorkville Reservoir (also known as the Lower Reservoir or the receiving reservoir, now the site of Turtle Pond), which was built in the mid-19th century to store the city's drinking water.[3]

In 1857 a design competition was held for Central Park. The applications were required to contain extremely detailed specifications, including at least four east-west transverse roads through the park, a parade ground of 20 to 40 acres (8.1 to 16.2 ha), and at least three playgrounds of between 3 and 10 acres (1.2 and 4.0 ha). Furthermore, the plans had to incorporate a rectangular receiving reservoir for the Croton Aqueduct, which already existed on the site.[4]:PDF pp. 29–30[5][6]:24–25 The winning design was Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's Greensward Plan.[7] Vaux designed its two pumphouses of Manhattan schist with granite facings. It was never a collecting reservoir, but rather, replaced the smaller, nearby receiving reservoir.[8]

For several months, Central Park's commissioners faced delays and resistance from the New York City common council while attempting to gain funding.[9]:477[10] A dedicated work force and funding stream was not secured until June 1858.[9]:477 The re-landscaped Reservoir was the only part of the park that the commissioners were not responsible for constructing; instead, the Reservoir would be built by the Croton Aqueduct board. Work on the Reservoir started in April 1858.[11] The southern section of Central Park below 79th Street was mostly completed by 1860,[12] and the Croton Aqueduct board also started filling in the Reservoir around this time.[13]


Heinrich's 1875 Guide Map of Central Park

The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, after it was deemed obsolete because of a new main under 79th Street that connected with the Third Water Tunnel, and because of growing concerns that it could become contaminated.[14] Though deemed obsolete it remained a part of the NYC water supply and it was intended to be used to supplement the city's upstate water supply in drought emergencies.[14] Papers were signed to allow for the transfer of the reservoir in 1999 from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Department of Parks and Recreation.[14]

The year 1999 was chosen because it was the projected completion date for a filtration plant at Van Cortlandt Park, near the Jerome Reservoir in the Bronx, which is part of the city's Croton water-supply system.[14] The water filtration plant was activated in 2015.[15] Concern about the reservoir's future grew in spring 1992: many people worried that the city would put turf over it as was done in the 1920s, when the adjacent Lower Reservoir was deemed obsolete. The Great Lawn was developed over the Lower Reservoir's former site.[14] An 1875 map of Central Park clearly shows the two reservoirs.[16]


In 1994 the Reservoir was renamed in honor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to commemorate her contributions to the city (which included saving Grand Central Terminal from demolition and restoring it as an architectural landmark, protesting against the building of structures that would hinder Central Park’s beauty, and serving as a board member of the Municipal Art Society) and because she enjoyed jogging in the area.[17] The windows of her 1040 Fifth Avenue apartment, located on the Upper East Side, overlooked this area.


The fountain in the reservoir

The Reservoir covers 106 acres (43 ha) and holds over 1,000,000,000 US gallons (3,800,000 m3) of water.[18] Though no longer used to distribute New York City's water supply, it provides water for the Pool and the Harlem Meer. It is a popular place of interest in Central Park. There is a 1.58-mile (2.54 km)[19] jogging track around it used by many runners, and it is also encircled by the park's bridle trail. Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Mrs. Onassis have all run the track. The Reservoir is often visited by tourists, especially when its double pink "Yoshino" cherry trees (Prunus x yedoensis),[20] followed by 'Kanzan'cherry trees Prunus serrulata, are blooming.

The rhododendrons along the "Rhododendron Mile" were a gift to the city from Mrs Russell Sage in 1909. The Reservoir area is one of the main ecological sanctuaries in the park, attracting more than 20 species of waterbirds: coots, mergansers, northern shovelers, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, loons, cormorants, wood ducks, American black ducks, gadwall, grebes, herons and egrets, along with various species of gulls, may be seen in addition to the familiar mallards and Canada geese, making it a popular venue for birdwatchers.[21]

In popular culture

Films showing the Onassis Reservoir include:

Television shows include:

Panorama of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir at Central Park looking North
Panorama of the reservoir looking South

See also


  1. ^ Rosenzweig & Blackmar 1992, p. 45.
  2. ^ Heckscher 2008, pp. 12, 14.
  3. ^ Kadinsky, Sergey (2016). Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs. Countryman Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-58157-566-8.
  4. ^ "1858 Central Park Commissioners Annual Report" (PDF). New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. 1858. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Rosenzweig & Blackmar 1992, pp. 111–112.
  6. ^ Kinkead, Eugene (1990). Central Park, 1857-1995: The Birth, Decline, and Renewal of a National Treasure. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-02531-4.
  7. ^ "Central Park Highlights - Sheep Meadow : New York City Department of Parks & Recreation". Nycgovparks.org. July 20, 1969. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
  8. ^ "Central Park Reservoir". Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  9. ^ a b First-thirtieth Annual Report ... 1896-1925 to the Legislature of the State of New York ... Annual Report. 1911. p. 474. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  10. ^ Rosenzweig & Blackmar 1992, pp. 151–152.
  11. ^ Heckscher 2008, pp. 47–48.
  12. ^ "Central Park Matters.; PLAN OF WORK FOR THE YEAR SUMMER FEATURES OF THE PARK ALTERATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS THE RIDES, DRIVES AND BRIDLE ROADS, &C., &C". The New York Times. May 1, 1860. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  13. ^ Heckscher 2008, pp. 47–48.
  14. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Sam (August 28, 1993). "131-Year-Old Reservoir Is Deemed Obsolete". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  15. ^ Press Office, DEP (May 8, 2015). "Croton Water Filtration Plant Activated". DEP Press Release. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  16. ^ of Congress, Library (1875). "Hinrichs, O. (1875) Hinrichs' guide map of the Central Park. New York: Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, Lithographers. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  17. ^ Kifner, John (July 23, 1994). "Central Park Honor for Jacqueline Onassis". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  18. ^ "Central Park Reservoir - CentralPark.com". July 16, 2007. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  19. ^ Mileage given as 1.58 Archived February 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Some of the oldest trees remain from the original gift from the government of Japan in 1912; the earliest plantings of Prunus x yedoensis in the US were made in 1902.
  21. ^ "The Reservoir in Central Park". Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  22. ^ a b c d Smith, Kyle. "How the movies celebrate the Central Park Reservoir". New York Post. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  23. ^ Altman, Anna. "A Real-Life GIF In Central Park". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  • Rosenzweig, Roy & Blackmar, Elizabeth (1992). The Park and the People: A History of Central Park. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9751-5.

External links

  • "Central Park Reservoir - CentralPark.com". July 16, 2007. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  • "Central Park Conservancy: Reservoir". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  • Central Park Reservoir