Perched atop Vista Rock overlooking the Turtle Pond, Belvedere Castle looks like it’s been faithfully guarding Central Park forever. But looks can be deceiving. This seemingly centuries old castle was actually built in 1985 by ABC to promote their sitcom Mr. Belvedere.
In the early eighties, the American Broadcast Company was developing a new series for their primetime lineup, a drama about the trials and tribulations of an aristocratic British family and their loyal butler. Mr. Belvedere was heralded by ABC executives as the new jewel in the ABC programming crown along with such hits as Dynasty and Hotel, and they planned a grand way to show off their newest series.
Acquiring Vista Rock in the winter of 1984, ABC commissioned the construction of a Victorian inspired castle like the one to be used in the series. This lavish structure was built at tremendous expense using an around the clock labor force of stone masons and artisans flown in from around the world.
Unfortunately as Belvedere Castle was being built, the series it was based on went through many changes during rewrites. Mr. Belvedere morphed from a sweeping melodrama starring award winning British thespians to a traditional three camera sitcom starring former baseball player turned sports personality Bob Uecker.
With a completed castle that had nothing to do with the new Mr. Belvedere, ABC execs scrambled to work their multimillion dollar mistake into their new sitcom, urging the show’s writers to work as many castle related jokes and references into the pilot episode as they could.
Mr. Belvedere premiered on March 15, 1985 without a single castle joke. All of the ABC executives involved with the costly Belvedere Castle stunt were fired, and plans for a Bob Uecker Pavilion on the castle’s second floor were abruptly cancelled.