The Central Park Conservatory WaterOct 21st, 2009 | By Lindsay | Category: Jennifer Aniston Locations, Sex and the City Filming Locations
Because I spoke only very briefly about the Central Park Conservatory Water in yesterday’s post regarding the filming of Gossip Girl, today I thought I’d do a more in-depth blog on that location and the myriad of filming that has taken place there over the years. So, here goes. The Conservatory Water is so named because in the original plans for Central Park, which were drawn up in 1857 by designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, an oval-shaped conservatory, or greenhouse, containing tropical plants was to be situated in the area where the Model Boat Pond now stands. When the money for that particular project fell through, Olmstead and Vaux instead decided to place an oval-shaped model boat pond, designed after those in Paris’ Jardin du Luxembourg, in the exact spot where the conservatory was originally positioned. Hence the name “Conservatory Water”. Over the years, the Pond became incredibly popular with children and adults alike and, thanks to the model yacht races which are held there each weekend, the area has come to be more commonly known as the “Model Boat Pond”. In fact, ask any New Yorker for directions to the Conservatory Water and I doubt they’d know what you were talking about.
Besides its weekend boat races, the Conservatory Water is also famous for two statues which are situated along its perimeter. The statue pictured above is of children’s author Hans Christian Andersen, who penned the stories “The Little Mermaid”, “The Snow Queen”, and “Thumbelina”, among countless others. In the statue Hans is depicted reading his tale “The Ugly Duckling” to an attentive little duck. So cute!!! And please don’t ask what the heck I am wearing in the above picture – it was a freezing cold and rainy day in New York and I threw on whatever warm clothes I could find. LOL
At the North end of the pond sits the famous Alice in Wonderland statue, in which Alice cavorts atop a life-sized mushroom with her friends the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit. The statue was commissioned in 1959 by George T. Delacorte, founder of the Dell Publishing Company, in honor of his wife. Legend has it that George’s face was the model for the face of the Mad Hatter in the statue.
The Model Boat Pond is so incredibly beautiful and picturesque, with its flat pool of reflecting water, curving benches running along its perimeter, lush green foliage and pink cherry trees juxtaposed against the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, that it’s not very hard to see why producers have returned to film there time and time again.
In fave movie 13 Going On 30, the Model Boat Pond shows up very briefly during the montage scene in which Jenna is shown enjoying her newfound age. You can see the Alice and Wonderland statue in the background of the first screen capture pictured above.
In fave show Sex and the City, the Model Boat Pond shows up in the Season One episode entitled “The Power of Female Sex”, in the scene in which Carrie takes French Architect Gilles on a tour of the city. While at the Pond, Carrie says, “I felt like I had landed in a Claude Lelouch film”, Lelouch being a French film director known for his picturesque cinematography. The Alice and Wonderland statue shows up in this scene, as well – Carrie is sitting on top of it in the first screen capture pictured above.
In Just My Luck, yet another of my favorite teeny-bopper movies, cutie Chris Pine has some incredibly bad luck while visiting the Model Boat Pond at the very beginning of the film. Again you’ll notice the Alice in Wonderland statue pictured in the background above. It seems to be a favorite of filmmakers.
In the 1998 movie The Object of my Affection, it is while sitting on a bench overlooking the Pond that my girl Jen Aniston tells Paul Rudd that she is pregnant.
In fave movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Fred is followed by Doc Golightly, Holly’s former husband, while taking a stroll near the Conservatory Water.
And in the 1999 movie Stuart Little, Stuart (who was voiced by none other than Alex P. Keaton himself – Michael J. Fox) and his pal Jonathan Lipnicki race a model sailboat at the Pond. (That’s Hugh Laurie, aka Dr. House M.D., who plays Stuart and Jonathan’s dad in the flick, pictured in the second screen capture above!)
The producers definitely took some liberties while filming this scene, though, because while the race starts out at the Model Boat Pond, it ends up in the Central Park Reservoir, which, contrary to what the movie would have you believe, is not actually connected to the Pond and is, in fact, located quite a few miles away.
At one point, the boats even sail under a small bridge, but, being that the Model Boat Pond has no bridge, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m fairly certain this scene wasn’t actually filmed in Central Park. My guess is that the scene was filmed a few thousand miles away on a soundstage at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. LOL When watching that scene, you’ll notice that the camera never pans back far enough to show the entire Pond, leading me to believe that producers built their own version of it at the studio in Los Angeles which they then used for the filming.
The Pond also showed up in I’m Not Rappaport, F/X, Jungle 2 Jungle, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Key Exchange and in 1964’s The World of Henry Orient. And it has even been immortalized in print, as well! In J.D. Salinger’s famous Catcher in the Rye novel, Holden Caulfield laments his problems to the Conservatory Water’s resident ducks.
I honestly cannot recommend stalking the Model Boat Pond enough!! It is one of my very favorite places in all of New York! In fact, one of my favorite things to do while visiting the city is to grab a bagel from a street vendor and eat it while sitting on one of the many benches surrounding the Pond – weather permitting, of course. Which is exactly what my best friend, Kylee, and fiancé are doing in the above photograph which was taken during my 30th birthday trip to the Big Apple. Ironically enough, while doing research on the Pond for today’s post, I kept running across the following sentence – or some variation of it – written again and again: “The Conservatory Water is so relaxing and peaceful that you almost forget you are in New York.” But to me, the Pond is a perfect representation of what it is that makes New York so incredibly unique. I mean where else can you find a huge and incredibly quiet and picturesque piece of nature located smack dab in the middle of a beautiful, bustling, towering city? No, for me, the Model Boat Pond couldn’t be more New York and I never forget what city I am in while visiting it!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Conservatory Water, aka the Model Boat Pond, is located in Central Park on New York’s Upper East Side and can be reached from 72nd through 75th Streets.