Through the work of local assemblyman Colonel Winthrop Jones, Brooklyn acquired land for a new nine-acre park in 1889 and dedicated the park in his honor. Located in the Greenpoint neighborhood between Russell and Monitor Streets and Driggs and Nassau Avenues, the park served the local workers employed in the waterfront industry that once lined the East River. Construction began in 1891, and by 1900 the park was built out to include symmetrical, gently arcing, tree-lined pathways, iron fences, and a playground for children. In 1910 the city commissioned architects Helme and Huberty to design a brick and limestone pavilion for the center of the park set in an oval plaza. The pavilion's curvilinear wooden colonnade echoed the curving pathways that surrounded it. Other significant features in the park are a World War I monument designed by Carl August Heber and a monument to the Monitor and Merrimac Civil War naval battle, sculpted by Antonio de Fillippo and added in 1939. The park was renamed in 1941 in honor of Monsignor Edward J. McGolrick.
Park improvements began in 1985 with the renovation of the pavilion and its associated landscape, including the replacement of the colonnade, windows and doors with new materials and the introduction of new paving in the center plaza. In 1995 a new playground was introduced which disrupts the otherwise-intact historic park plan. During this time the diagonal pathways from the four corner entrances were reconstructed around the playground and two entrances were added on Russell and Monitor Streets. The park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.