by Megan Fitzpatrick
The Mineral Springs building is a 1950s design which currently houses La Pain Quotidien. Its name derives from the original 19th-century pavilion that sold park goers mineral water.
The immediate need for publicly accessible mineral water came from the belief that mineral water provided health benefits, especially important to New Yorkers who remembered the devastating impact of the cholera epidemic of 1832 that took the lives of 3,515 citizens. There was also the hope that a “spa” for dispensing the waters would attract visitors. Then came the idea for a pavilion northwest of the Sheep Meadow, when Olmsted and Vaux were making additions to the park around the late 1860s. In collaboration with Jacob Wrey Mould, responsible for much of the structural reliefs and tile work on built structures throughout the park, Olmsted and Vaux built an ornate pavilion, known as the Mineral Springs Pavilion. The pavilion had also been petitioned by the owner of a mineral water company, Carl H. Schultz.
From ‘The Park and the People: A History of Central Park’ by Roy Rosenzweig & Elizabeth Blackmar, published in 1992,
“When Olmsted and Vaux were reappointed as landscape architects on July 19, 1865, they added new features to enhance the park’s attractions and convenience. Vaux (working with Mould)…created the Moorish-style Mineral Springs Pavilion at the northwestern edge of Sheep Meadow”
The springs attracted the upper crust of New York society. Rosenzweig & Blackmar state that “in the 1890s most of the early morning patrons of Vaux’s Moorish-style Mineral Springs Pavilion were well-to-do gentile and Jewish German Americans – including leading ministers, bankers, lawyers, and brewers – who lived in upper Manhattan. A Times reporter found it reminiscent “of Kissingen, Carlsbad, and other European waterplaces.”
By the 1920s, the Mineral Springs were gone, and the building was demolished in 1957. A new building was constructed in 1959, but the delightful and ornate structure of the mid-19th century was lost forever.