Proposed in 1894 and constructed in 1906, the park originally stretched from 141st Street to 130th Street, with St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Terrace forming eastern and western boundaries. Parks Commissioner Samuel Parsons, Jr. designed the park to emphasize the steep, irregular terrain and extensive exposed stone, utilizing the Manhattan schist bedrock formations that penetrate the landscape as park features and retaining walls. Parsons specialized in sites that had steep terrain and this landscape is a rare example of a project he both designed and implemented for the city. In 1909, the park was extended to 128th Street, comprising a total area of 23 acres. The additional land included the “Point of Rocks” site where George Washington positioned himself for the Revolutionary War Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776. In 1931, a playground and educational garden were implemented in the park.
Since it was built, the contiguous twelve-block park, uninterrupted by vehicular traffic, has served as a point of connection between the Manhattanville, West Harlem and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods. After a period of decline several community organizations, City College of New York, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation have cleaned up the park and improved security, including the installation of perimeter fencing in 1996. In 2008 Alexander Hamilton’s historic home, the Grange, was relocated into the park and reopened to the public in 2011.