Van Cortlandt Park

In 1639, the Dutch West India Company purchased most of today's Bronx County from the local Natives and, in 1646, sold it to Holland native Adrian Van der Donck. Van der Donck, New Netherlands' first lawyer, barely lived on his new homestead, having ... more

In 1639, the Dutch West India Company purchased most of today's Bronx County from the local Natives and, in 1646, sold it to Holland native Adrian Van der Donck. Van der Donck, New Netherlands' first lawyer, barely lived on his new homestead, having been drawn into a lengthy legal battle between the settlers and the Company in Holland. At the time of his death in 1655, a period of unrest began between Native groups and European settlers, forcing his widow back to the safety of New Amsterdam (in present-day lower Manhattan). After Van der Donck's widow sold the property to her brother in 1666-7, the land changed hands several times before Frederick Phillipse, a wealthy English merchant, purchased it in 1693. The name Van Cortlandt was first associated with the area the following year when Jacobus Van Cortlandt bought property. In 1698, he married Phillipse's daughter Eva, and soon after, bought the 761/2 acres encompassing the site where today's house stands. Over a 38 year period, Jacobus, a future mayor of New York City, systematically purchased the entire land area of the present-day park, developing it into a productive grain growing and milling operation. In 1748, Jacobus' s... more

In 1639, the Dutch West India Company purchased most of today's Bronx County from the local Natives and, in 1646, sold it to Holland native Adrian Van der Donck. Van der Donck, New Netherlands' first lawyer, barely lived on his new homestead, having been drawn into a lengthy legal battle between the settlers and the Company in Holland. At the time of his death in 1655, a period of unrest began between Native groups and European settlers, forcing his widow back to the safety of New Amsterdam (in present-day lower Manhattan).

After Van der Donck's widow sold the property to her brother in 1666-7, the land changed hands several times before Frederick Phillipse, a wealthy English merchant, purchased it in 1693. The name Van Cortlandt was first associated with the area the following year when Jacobus Van Cortlandt bought property. In 1698, he married Phillipse's daughter Eva, and soon after, bought the 761/2 acres encompassing the site where today's house stands. Over a 38 year period, Jacobus, a future mayor of New York City, systematically purchased the entire land area of the present-day park, developing it into a productive grain growing and milling operation. In 1748, Jacobus' son Frederick built the Van Cortlandt House. The family lived on and farmed the land through the 1880s, operating, in essence, a northern plantation with servants and tradesmen in their employ.

The 19th century brought projects to the future parkland that were indicative of the city's growth. These included an aqueduct and railroad lines. Construction began on the 41-mile-long Croton Aqueduct in 1837 bringing clean water from the upstate Croton Reservoir, through Westchester and Van Cortlandt Park, across the High Bridge, and finally to a distributing reservoir where the Main Branch of the New York Public Library stands today at 42nd Street in Manhattan. In the 1880s, two railroad lines were laid across the parkland. The Putnam Railroad Line established service to Brewster and points north. A spur of this line provided a quick trip northwest through the park to Yonkers' Getty Square.

New York City took title to Van Cortlandt Park on December 12, 1888. It subsequently developed some sections, added play areas, made wild areas passable, and upgraded existing features. Unfortunately, highway construction in the 1940s and 50s cut swaths through the park that resulted in a loss of precious wetlands and an increased difficulty to traverse the park. A series of fiscal crises beginning in the 1970s inflicted a tremendous strain on the park, impeding its upkeep.

In response, park planners and community activists sought ways to preserve and enhance much of Van Cortlandt's natural splendor and improve its built facilities. In 1983, the Parks Commissioner established an Administrator's Office to oversee all aspects of the park's maintenance, operations, and management. Primary achievements include the creation of a natural resources crew to actively care for Van Cortlandt's forests, meadows, and wetlands; major park renovations such as the main entrance at Broadway and Van Cortlandt Park South and the Cross Country Running Course; and increased children's programs, volunteer activities, and special events.

In 1992, a group of Bronx residents concerned about on-going cuts in the Parks Department budget founded the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park to assist Parks' efforts to protect, promote, and preserve this invaluable greenspace. Their flagship project -- a Summer Teen Program -- emphasizes the Friends' commitment to youth involvement in the park. The group continues to promote public participation in Van Cortlandt Park and fund-raise for renovation projects and special programs.

Free Wi-Fi is available in this park.


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Info

Bronx, NY 10470
718430189
Website

Editorial Rating

Admission And Tickets

Free

This Week's Hours

Sunrise - 1 am

Nearby Subway

  • to East 180th St
  • to White Hall St/S Ferry -- 0.2

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