Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park

Infobox park
park=Van Cortlandt Park

image size=300px
caption = The Parade Ground
location=The Bronx, New York City, NY, USA
size=1,146 acres (4.6 km²),
operator=New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
annual visitors=

Van Cortlandt Park is a 1,146 acre (4.6 km²) park located in the Bronx in New York City. It is the fourth largest park in New York City, behind Pelham Bay Park, Flushing Meadows Park and Staten Island Greenbelt.

The park was named for Stephanus Van Cortlandt, who was the first native-born mayor of New York, and the Van Cortlandt family, which was prominent in the area during the Dutch and English colonial periods. Contained within the Park is the Van Cortlandt House Museum, the oldest building in the Bronx. The park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.


The land that Van Cortlandt Park now occupies was once a vast grain plantation, owned by Frederick Van Cortlandt (1699–1749) and family. In 1748, he built what is now known as the Van Cortlandt House on the property, but died before its completion. Frederick willed the massive home and surrounding lands to his son, James Van Cortlandt (1727–1787).

The Van Cortlandt family land was used during the Revolutionary War by Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Washington. It was in this area that the Stockbridge militia was destroyed by the Queen's Rangers; a stone memorial was placed at "Indian Field" in 1906. [Cite web|title=Indian Field|publisher=City of New York Parks and Recreation|url=|accessdate=September 28|accessyear=2008]

In 1888, the family property was sold to the City of New York and made into a public parkland, with the majority of the grain fields converted into a sprawling lawn dubbed "The Parade Ground". The Van Cortlandt House was converted into a public museum and, with the city's approval, particularly overgrown areas of the property were made passable. Wide walking paths were built over original walkways, including the thin paths that led to the Van Cortlandt family cemetery, high on the nearby bluffs.

Robert Moses's development plans in the 1930s called for the construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway and Mosholu Parkway to bisect Van Cortlandt Park and meet at a cloverleaf interchange about half a mile north of the center. The last remaining freshwater marsh in New York State was dredged and landscaped to accommodate construction.

The Van Cortlandt House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1967 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. [ [ Van Courland House] National Park Service] , [ [ National Historic Landmark Survey, New York] , retrieved June 3, 2007.]

The city's fiscal crisis in the 1970s caused much of the park to fall into disrepair. Gradual improvements began taking place from the late 1980s through the mid-2000s, including the addition of new pathways, signage, and security.


The Van Cortlandt Golf Course, the nation's first public golf course, opened in 1895 and is located on the park grounds. The "Parade Ground" north of the museum is one of New York's principal cricket fields. A bicycling path runs through the woods between this lawn and the golf course, northward along Tibbets Brook and the former New York and Putnam Railroad line into Yonkers. Another runs east from the golf course's clubhouse to connect to the Mosholu Parkway bike path. The Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway begins in Van Cortlandt Park. A nonprofit group called Friends of Van Cortlandt Park offers educational and stewardship programs in the park.

Cross Country

Van Cortlandt Park is a popular site for cross country running due to its miles of cinder trails, race courses, and hills. The path surrounding the parade ground known to runners as the "flats," is 1.37 miles (2.2 km) around. The infamous "back hills" provide a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) loop in the northwestern section of the park, and is used for the Northeast regional championships of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. A modified 2.5-mile (4 km) course is used for the Manhattan Invitational, one of the largest high school cross country meets in the nation. Numerous college championships are held in the park as well. It is often used as a benchmark when comparing times and performances from other cross country courses nationwide.


External links

* [ New York City Department of Parks and Recreation VCP page]
* [ Cross country at Van Cortlandt Park]
* [ Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course]

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