One of the most breathtaking sights in Central Park is the reservoir. This 106 acre body of water is perfect for a run along its jogging track or for observing the many species of waterfowl who call this place home.
The reservoir was constructed for the purpose of providing fresh water for the people of New York City. In the early 1800s, fresh water was unheard of to Manhattanites, many of whom viewed it as a luxury only available to the wealthiest of residents who in their opinion were too good for the thick and hearty water provided by the Hudson and East Rivers.
At the grand opening 1862, Mayor George Opdyke graciously invited all citizens to take as much fresh water from the reservoir as they wanted as a souvenir. As people waited on line for their free water, fights broke out when the wealthy citizens claimed the surface water was reserved for them while the water at the bottom was for the poorer classes. Things got worse when east side residents started a rumor that the water on their side was better because the water on the west side was “contaminated by the Irish.”
Finally an exasperated Mayor Opdyke ordered the police to disperse the crowd, and the next day construction of a heavy iron fence surrounding the reservoir began. While overseeing the installation of the barricade that would keep his citizens away from the fresh clean water of the reservoir, Opdyke sighed and sadly muttered “This is why we can’t have nice things.”