Late in the afternoon in mid-May, while exploring the southern end of New York’s Central Park, I came across The Dairy, one of the more unusual remnants of the original design for the park by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. I was surprised that I had not come across this structure while attending the Schaefer music festival in the mid-1970s—until, that is, I learned that it had been vacant for years, not reopening until 1979, as the park’s first visitor center.
Vaux and Olmsted had intended the dairy as a refreshment stand with light snacks and fresh milk for children. Due to heightened regulatory standards, it never fulfilled that function. For decades after it opened in 1871, it fell victim first to obsolescence, then to lack of use, until restoration efforts allowed park users over the last 30 years to see it anew, as a delight to the eyes and a respite from fierce summer temperatures.