At 1,146 acres, this northwest Bronx park provides active recreation alongside a natural wilderness. The glaciated terrain, marked by steep ridges and vales, was consolidated by the Van Cortlandt family beginning in 1694. Over time their improvements on the land included the construction of a 16-acre lake, the family mansion in 1748, and the 41-mile Croton Aqueduct in 1837, which brought freshwater from farther upstate. In 1888, the City of New York purchased the land, naming the parkland after the Van Cortlandts in 1913.
Early park development focused on passive recreation amid the natural landscape, with trails through the tulip poplar, oak, and maple-filled Croton Woods and the planted pin oak and pine memorial groves. The 66-acre Parade Ground was used for drills and maneuvers through World War I. The Van Cortlandt Golf Course, designed by Tom Bendelow and the nation’s first public fairway, opened in 1895, while the Mosholu Golf Course designed by John Van Kleek was built in 1914.
Robert Moses enhanced active recreation while greatly altering the park’s landscape with the construction of the Henry Hudson and Mosholu parkways. By 1938, the Parade Grounds were adapted to support numerous sports fields and a stadium which opened in 1939. In more recent years work has focused on renewing the ecological health and scenic qualities of the park, including conversion of the former Putnam Railroad into an unpaved trail contiguous with Tibbetts Brook, the establishment of two hiking trails, and the transformation of an asphalt baseball diamond into a green space with play equipment.