Located in the northeast corner of Central Park, the Harlem Meer was constructed on what was originally part of a wetland fed by the Harlem Creek. During the nineteenth century the lake and surrounding landscapes had few amenities or paths, reflecting the still predominantly rural character of the adjacent land. As the city grew, and use of the northern park increased, the area became more urbanized. By the 1940s under the aegis of the NYC Department of Park and Recreation, a boathouse and walking paths had been added and the shoreline regularized and fenced. In the late 1980s the Central Park Conservancy began the restoration of the Harlem Meer landscape, focusing on restoring the naturalistic character of the shoreline and recreating access to the water. The shoreline work included the construction of the Dana Discovery Center, a visitor center and programs space designed by Buttrick White & Burtis Architects, on the site of the boathouse.
The landscapes surrounding the Meer are diverse and offer a range of recreational opportunities and scenic experiences. The rocky bluffs overlooking the Meer to the south were the site of forts created during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Also to the south near Fifth Avenue is the Conservatory Garden, the Park’s only formal garden. Today, the Dana Center, along the northern shore, offers a variety of programs and events. Just beyond the Meer to the west are the North Woods, the Park’s largest woodland. The Meer was designated a National Historic Landmark along with all of Central Park in 1978.