Instead, a compromise was reached with a low-rising cast iron bridge the graceful arch of which resembled an archer's bow, hence the name.
Problems had to be overcome from the start. For one thing, the northern bank is much lower than the southern side. Therefore the north abutment is necessarily higher.
A much repeated story was that because the cast iron would need to expand and contract with changes in temperature, cannon balls were integrated into the abutments to act as giant ball bearings. Indeed, the expansion differential is as much as 2 inches between high summer and mid-winter. The roadway was constructed of South American hardwood which successfully allowed for expansion and contraction.
Rising nine and a half feet above the lake, Vaux and Mould's graceful sweeping bridge would be a masterpiece of Victorian design. Intricate, interlaced pierced ornamentation leads the eye across the span. Vaux contracted Janes, Kirtland & Co. to manufacture the ironwork. These were good days for the firm. While they were casting the span they won the contract for the Capitol dome in Washington, DC.
The bulk of construction was completed between 1859 and 1860; the last details being finished in 1862.
Bow Bridge was immediately a romantic destination for lovers and a favorite site for proposals. It quickly became one of the most photographed spots in the Park, with hundreds of stereopticon card depictions being published. It has been the constant subject of paintings for more than a century.
In February of 2010 New Yorkers, responding to a Department of Parks poll "Central to Your Heart," voted Bow Bridge the most romantic spot in Central Park. The second oldest cast iron bridge in America, Bow Bridge is mid-park off 74th Street, west of Bethesda Terrace.