Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Structure/Property Name (Current and Original, if Different): Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir; formerly Lake Manahatta
Street Address/Location: In Central Park, stretches 86th to 96th Street (south to north) and 5th Avenue to Central Park West
Town/City: Manhattan
County: New York
Owner: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Architect/Engineer/Other Responsible Parties:
Historic Use: Distributing reservoir
Present Use: Serves as a significant viewshed in the Central Park landscape as well as the neighboring areas, particularly Central Park West and Fifth Avenue. Provides pond and wildlife sanctuary.
Typology: Reservoir
Architectural Style: N/A
Period(s) of Construction: 1858-1862
Date of Decommissioning: 1993
Date(s) of Demolition: N/A
Structural System/Materials: Iron, earth
Significant Alterations: No longer connected to Croton Reservoir which was situated ~250 feet to the south because Croton Reservoir has been decommissioned (and replaced with Great Lawn).

Brief Architectural Description: The Onassis Reservoir measures 1.58-miles in circumference. Constructed of excavated earth with iron reinforcement, the reservoir was formed using graded and contoured land. Croton Aqueduct pipes fed water into the reservoir via the northern gatehouse. Water was then distributed from the reservoir via the southern gatehouse.

Brief Statement of Historic Significance: Until it was decommissioned in 1993, the reservoir was used for distributing water from the Croton Aqueduct system to various parts of Manhattan south of 96th street. It acted as the main water source of the Croton system in Manhattan and provided about 50 million gallons of water or 5% of the city’s total water consumption daily. The reasons for its decommissioning were two-fold: 1) it was believed that the water could become contaminated by microbiology because of its open-air configuration and 2) the Croton system underwent water main reconfigurations which made the Central Park reservoir somewhat obsolete.

Accessibility to Public: Very accessible for recreational uses
Landmark Status: N/A
Threats: Environmental contamination
Current Interpretation: Limited, interpretation includes Parks Department/Conservancy signs


Historic Image

Source: Wurts Brothers, “Central Park Looking West”, New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Catalogue Call ID AZ 06-6805, Image ID 1558529.


Koeppel, Gerard T. “Water For Gotham”, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001

Blackmar, Elizabeth and Roy Rosenzweig “The Park and the People: A History of Central Park” Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1992

Kifner, John “Central Park Honor for Jacqueline Onassis” The New York Times, 23 July 1994

“Reservoir” Central Park Conservancy website, accessed 26 Jan 2011

“Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir” Wikipedia, accessed 29 Jan 2011.

Wurts Brothers, “Central Park Looking West”, New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Catalogue Call ID AZ 06-6805, Image ID 1558529.


Kaity Ryan


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