The Pool, Manhattan

Montayne’s Rivulet, the only natural water course within Central Park that was preserved and repurposed, is fed by The Pool. This artificial lake is a flooded ravine located in the northwest corner of the park near W. 101st Street. It has a naturalistic appearance that has its most colorful look in autumn.

Around this lake there are brooks flowing into it that emerge from pipes concealed under rocks to appear as springs. Prior to the development of Central Park, the rivulet has its sources across Central Park West, in the Upper West Side neighborhood.

Where it Flows

In its original design, Central Park was supposed to have its northern end at 106th Street but thanks to Central Park Controller Andrew Haswell Green‘s superb negotiating skills, additional land was purchased by 1860 to extend the park to 110th Street. This addition to the park preserved the ravine of Montayne’s Rivulet, which was redesigned  to include Harlem MeerNorth Woods, and Great Hill. It also had a little-known cascade named Sabrina’s Pool, which I had written about earlier. At Harlem Meer, the rivulet merges merged into Harlem Creek before emptying into the East River at 106th Street.

On this 1934 topographical survey by the Parks Department, the outline of The Pool is nearly identical to today. It has a bird sanctuary isle at the time, an important feature for wildlife that can be seen today at Kissena Lake, Goose Pond, and Prospect Park Lake, among other places. The map notes that the lake bottom was being excavated. At the time, many of the ponds in the city’s parks were being “citified” with concrete bottoms to prevent erosion and silting. Instead, they reduced the presence of wildlife and made conditions worse. In recent decades, concrete bottoms and shorelines have been removed in favor of naturalistic conditions.

At the western tip of The Pool, mulch and leaves cover a trail that rings the waterway. A rustic bridge spans a constructed brook that feeds into it. Behind this view, Central Park West runs high and flat above this dip in the landscape, hiding the past when tihs stream had originated further to the west.

One brook to the Pool’s south emerges from underneath a rock, while another has the appearance of a waterfall descending out of a cave. As with all waterways in Central Park, their source is the city’s upstate water supply. After experiencing cascades, rapids, and ponds, the water then goes back into the pipes of the sewer system.

The Pool narrows like a funnel at its mouth, where a rustic bridge spans the outflow. The ideal scene has the foliage reflecting on the water. A few yards downstream, Glen Span Arch carries West Drive across The Loch, where the water descends by more than 25 feet between The Pool and Harlem Meer. Looking back upstream, the apartments on Central Park West stand like a wall against the naturalistic landscape of the park.

Sources of The Pool

On the detailed Egbert Viele map, the furthest source of Montayne’s Rivulet appeared near present-day Amsterdam Avenue and W. 101st Street. The orange superblocks were imposed on this terrain in the 1950s, when Robert Moses had dozens of brownstone apartments and garages torn down in favor of urban renewal that resulted in the Frederick Douglass public housing and Park West Village co-ops. Traveling on Amsterdam Avenue at 99th Street, one feels a dip in the terrain where the stream used to flow.

Prior to urbanization in the 1870s, this section of the Upper West Side was known as Clendening Valley, after the farming family that owned land to the west of Central Park. In 1840, the Croton Aqueduct was extended from its source in Westchester County to the reservoirs in Central Park and Bryant Park. Along its route there were topographical challenges that were crossed with architectural distinction, such as the High Bridge. Between 101st and 96th Street, the aqueduct was built as an embankment with Roman-style arches to allow the streets to proceed. It was known as the Clendening Valley Bridge. Its appearance resembled the Park Avenue railroad embankment in East Harlem. As the neighborhood became more developed, the farmers moved on and the aqueduct was relocated beneath the ground. No trace of this embankment remains.

Frederick Douglass Playground shares its name with the public housing complex next to it. Their namesake is a former slave who settled in New York and became one of the leading public intellectuals of his time, opining not only on race, but also foreign policy, treatment of Native Americans, women’s rights, and much more. The 1.9-acre park has a playground, small pool, and a fake grass sports field. This is where Montayne’s Rivulet had its source.

Learn More:

Within the Montayne’s Rivulet watershed, I’ve previously written about The Loch, Sabrina’s Pool, the Lasker Pool demolition, and Harlem Meer.

In the News:

Urban Omnibus reports on the transformation of the Pennsylvania Avenue Landfill into Shirley Chisholm State Park.

New York Times reports on the abundance of wildlife in the city’s parks.

6SQFT reports on the reopening of the historic Highbridge Water Tower.

Cleveland.com reports on the completion of the restoration work on Stickney Creek in Brooklyn, Ohio.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports on the proposal to remove the dam on Crooked Creek in Harrison, Arkansas.

3 thoughts on “The Pool, Manhattan

  1. Andrew Porter October 30, 2021 / 5:50 pm

    Thanks for this. I eagerly visit this site every few days, hoping for a new post. This one is especially wonderful, chock full of fascinating information, and links. I especially like the multiple photos you now show. The last bit of information provides another reason to hate Robert Moses, who never saw an old building that couldn’t be torn down and replaced by something much larger and uglier!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AJ Schenkman May 8, 2023 / 12:31 am

    I am really enjoy your blog. I have been to these places so many times. Do you know which reservoir the park uses? Is it the Rondout or the Ashokan?

    Like

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