Donate FacebookJoin

Parade Ground

The Van Cortlandt Park Parade Ground has been a center of activity for centuries. The completed Parade Ground contains ten cricket fields, six soccer fields, two baseball and two softball fields. The Parade Ground is encircled by a 1.5 mile running path with fitness stations throughout. To the immediate south are six tennis courts and the oldest building in the Bronx, the Van Cortlandt House Museum.

The 66 acres officially became a Parade Ground when the City of New York acquired the land as parkland in 1888, and set it aside for the National Guard. It opened to the public in 1901 when three polo fields were created. The earliest documentation of cricket fields in the park dates from this period as well. The National Guard used the area for drills, mock battles, and polo matches until World War I (1914–1918), when the Army used the entire park as a training facility and spectators gathered to watch training exercises. In 1907, the Parade Ground became a temporary home to 15 bison who were awaiting relocation to Oklahoma. In 1938, the Parade Ground was transformed into a recreational field with baseball, soccer, and cricket areas.

A major 2008–2010 restoration of the Parade Ground re–graded and relocated the fields, adding irrigation and drainage systems to create a lush new recreation area in a place previously known for mud–filled spring seasons and with dustbowl summers.

Early History

The Wiechquaeskeck tribe of the Lenape nation originally inhabited the land and used it as a planting field, a housing settlement, and a burial ground. They established a trail, the Hudson River Path, that ran from the southwest Bronx to the site of the village. The Wiechquaeskeck sold the land to the Dutch West India Company in 1639, and the land then passed to Adrian van der Donck in 1646. Van der Donck maintained peaceful relations with the Wiechquaeskeck until the Peach Wars of 1655.

The month–long conflict between the Dutch and the Native Americans was the result of a Wiechquaeskeck woman’s attempt to steal a peach from the orchard of Henry Van Dyck, a Dutch settler. Van Dyck shot the woman, and Native Americans retaliated by attacking the homes of all settlers in the northern reaches of New Amsterdam. The settlers fled to Manhattan. Van der Donck died in 1655 and the land passed to several owners until Jacobus Van Cortlandt purchased the land in 1699. The last tract in the Van Cortlandt Manor was finally purchased in 1701.

The Van Cortlandt family lived on the land until the 1880s. George Washington stayed at the mansion during the Battle of White Plains in 1776 and returned there twice more in 1781 and 1783. According to legend, the general had bonfires lit around the house as a decoy while his troops withdrew to Yorktown. On his final visit he turned the mansion into his temporary headquarters before triumphantly marching into Manhattan.