The Central Park Dairy, located on the east side of the park at 65th Street, was originally built in 1870 as a milk dispensary to provide fresh, clean milk to the children of New York City.
The idea was to combat the spread of disease caused by unsanitary milk practices in the city. The Dairy quickly became a popular destination for families and children, and over time it evolved into a community hub.
In the early 20th century, the Dairy underwent a significant transformation. Architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. redesigned the building to serve as a restaurant and snack bar, complete with outdoor seating and a terrace. The new design was meant to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding park landscape, and it quickly became a popular destination for park visitors.
Throughout the years, the Dairy has served many different purposes. During World War II, it was used as a recruitment center for the Women's Army Corps. In the 1960s, it was home to the New York City Visitors Center. In the 1970s, it became a youth center, providing educational and recreational programs for young people in the community.
Today, the Dairy has been fully restored and serves as the home of the Central Park Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the park. The Dairy provides space for the Conservancy's offices, as well as public restrooms and a small gift shop.
The Dairy's rich history is a testament to the important role that community spaces can play in shaping the cultural and social fabric of a city. Its evolution from a milk dispensary to a community center to a park conservancy headquarters is a reflection of the changing needs and values of the people who have called Central Park home over the past century and a half.
Whether you're visiting Central Park for the first time or you're a longtime New Yorker, the Dairy is a must-see destination. Its beautifully restored architecture, rich history, and commitment to community make it a true gem in the heart of one of the world's greatest cities.