One of the places that always intrigued me was the famous and well-known restaurant in New York City smack dab in the middle of Manhattan in Central Park Tavern on the Green. It has been written about and it has been shown and mentioned in Hollywood movies.
The official location of Tavern on the Green is on the Upper West Side in the borough of Manhattan in New York City’s Central Park. It is a place often associated with romance and pleasant memories which dates back as far as 1934 when it first opened its doors. The restaurant served American cuisine. Its unfortunate closing due to failing income came in 2009 at which time the building that housed the famous restaurant became a public visitor’s center and gift shop which is now run by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation however it is still called Tavern on the Green and I’m sure that it draws many visitors who remember the old times and have fond memories of the days when it was a restaurant.
It all began with a sheepfold in 1870 and its residents at that time were 200 South Down Sheep which grazed in peace across the street from the location in what was then Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was in 1934 that the Park Commissioner Robert Moses decided that the building standing there should become a restaurant. So in 1934 Tavern on the Green became the place to be seen especially in the summertime when the social scene came alive here. However, in the late 1930s, the building was taken over by the Civilian Patrol Corps to be used as its headquarters until 1943. Afterward Tavern on the Green became a year-round restaurant.
Throughout its illustrious lifetime, the restaurant switched hands many times and therefore seemed to always have a new owner. When it first opened in 1934 it was managed by restaurateurs who were associated with the New York Parks Department. When new owners took over in 1943 they made sure that the dance floor was given more space and people could now dine, enjoy music, and dance. When the weather would permit there was a large outdoor patio where people could dine enjoying the beauty of the surrounding park. The trees which surrounded the restaurant were wrapped with strings of lights that when lit at night resembled twinkling stars and became a well-known sight associated with this restaurant. Tavern on the Green has several dining rooms and one of them the Elm Tree Room was incredibly designed and built around one of the classic American Elm trees which New York City is known for. So that the residents of New York, as well as tourists, would be able to dine at Tavern on the Green the menu provided affordable dining and to make things fresh and exciting the luncheon and dinner menus were constantly changed. There would be special desserts made for people who were celebrating family events.
In the 1970s Tavern on the Green was redone and when it opened once more in 1976 its Crystal Room which was surrounded all in glass could seat up to 800 people. The restaurant ran into a lot of problems in the 1980s when it would be attacked by hoodlum gangs which were part of what at that time was called “wolf pack crime” and was overrunning New York City. The restaurant suffered from vandalism, assaults and robberies. Its customers weren’t safe as hoodlums would come right into the restaurant making off with purses and attacking people in the parking lot. It was a sad time and one could say the sad downfall of such a famous restaurant.
In Tavern of the Green’s heyday, it was frequented by many famous people from many different fields of life such as writers, actors, actresses, musicians, and even politicians. It was the place to be seen socially. Among its regular patrons, there was former New York City Mayor La Guardia and actresses Fay Wray of the original “King Kong” movie fame and Grace Kelly. The restaurant has also hosted a number of famous wedding receptions. After its closing in 2009, it became the finish line of the New York City Marathon.
Tavern on the Green will certainly never be forgotten by New Yorkers and that is the reason why the visitor’s center has kept its name. It has been featured in many movies so it has so to say gone down in history. Some of the movies in which you can get a look at how Tavern on the Green once looked include “Beaches”, “Ghostbusters”, and “The Out-of-Towners” among others. I believe the last time the restaurant was seen was in the movie “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” where Mr. Popper played by Jim Carrey wishes to purchase the restaurant from the owner portrayed by Angela Lansbury. The memories, the building, and the name remain and if you’re feeling nostalgic all you have to do is take a trip to New York City and let your daydreams do the rest.
Finally as amazing as it might seem after an incredible renovation “Tavern on the Green” reopened once more in 2014. On Memorial Day Weekend in 2015, the restaurant opened up a Beer Garden which can seat 100 people.