- is the third largest New York City Park with 1,146 acres.
- has the largest freshwater lake in the borough.
- contains The Bronx’s oldest building, the Van Cortlandt House built in 1748-49.
- has the oldest municipal golf course in the United States, the Van Cortlandt Golf Course, founded in 1895.
- has a National Historic Landmark trail, the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which travels the route of the city’s original water tunnel.
- has a cross-country running course with a national reputation. Every year, the rugged course hosts the national cross-country championships as well as the Manhattan College Invitational for high school students throughout the U.S.
Facilities in the Park
- Baseball/Softball Fields: 18
- Basketball Courts: 7
- Bocci Courts: 2
- Cricket Pitches: 13
- Football/Soccer Fields: 7
- Gaelic Football Field: 1
- Golf Courses: 2- Van Cortlandt Golf Course (18 hole) and Mosholu Golf Course (9 hole with Driving Range)
- Handball/Paddleball Courts: 17
- Nature Center: Van Cortlandt Nature Center, focusing on the city’s forest habitats
- Playgrounds: 4- Southwest Corner, Classic, Sachkerah and Woodlawn Playgrounds
- Riding Stable: Riverdale Equestrian Center
- Running Tracks: 440 yard track at Stadium. Circumference of Parade Ground is 1.5 miles.
- Tennis Courts: 18
History of Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park’s land is a result of millions of years of geologic activity. Its steep ridges are evident of a mountain chain that held formations as tall as Mount Everest. These were broken down by erosion and glacial movements. Flooding led to plains such as the Parade Ground, which was the land’s only farmable area.
Weckquaesgeek Indians, attracted by the Tibbetts Brook valley’s fertile land, situated themselves in a village where the Parade Ground is today. In 1639, they sold much of what is now the Park to the Dutch West India Company, which in turn sold it to Holland native Adriaen Van der Donck in 1646. When Van der Donck died in 1655, the Indians attacked, forcing the settlers to New Amsterdam.
In 1693, Frederick Philipse, a wealthy English merchant, bought the property from Van der Donck’s widow. In 1699, he sold a tract of land that is now part of the Park to his new son-in-law, and future Mayor of New York, Jacobus Van Cortlandt. Soon after, Van Cortlandt dammed Tibbetts Brook to power mills, creating Van Cortlandt Lake. In 1748, Jacobus’ son, Frederick, built the Van Cortlandt Mansion. The Van Cortlandts lived on and farmed the land through the 1880’s.
The 19th century brought projects to the estate that were indicative of the city’s growth. These included aqueducts and railroad lines.
New York City took title to Van Cortlandt Park’s land on December 12, 1888. It subsequently developed some sections, added play areas, made wild areas passable, and upgraded existing features. Throughout the years and through many chages, park planners have managed to preserve much of its natural splendor.
Click here to download of PDF of A Van Cortlandt Park History Brochure created by the VC Administrators Office in 1986.
2015 Bio Blitz in Van Cortlandt Park
The Parks & Recreation Committee of Bronx Community Board 8, in conjuction with the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, conducted a bioblitz in Van Cortlandt Park. A bioblitz is a careful survey of the plant and animal life within a defined area. In this case, the area was the southern end of the Putnam Trail, the southeast corner of the Parade Grounds, and the adjacent woodlands and wetlands. The data from the bioblitz was compiled by naturalist Parker Gambino. Click here to read the report.