Named after the Greek colony of Croton, known for its Olympic athletes, Crotona Park has served the Bronx community steadily since its purchase by the City in 1888. Among naturalists, the park is widely known for its variety of tree species (28 in all) and gorgeous 3.3-acre lake, which serves as home to turtles, ducks, and fish.
However, manmade structures within the park thrill visitors as well. Crotona Park’s pool is the largest in the borough at 300 feet. Tennis buffs happily head to the park’s 20 hard courts during the warm season, and baseball teams flock to its five diamonds. In addition, families log many hours romping in the eleven playgrounds spread throughout the park.
Young and old alike agree; Crotona Park is worth a Saturday spent exploring its wonders.
For more than one hundred years, Crotona Park has been one of the most important public parks in the Bronx, a sanctuary of rolling grass, lofty trees, baseball diamonds, a pool, and a peaceful lake. It is the largest park in the South Bronx and the sixth largest in the borough.
The City of New York acquired the property from Andrew Bathgate as part of the consolidation of the Bronx park system in 1888. Known at the time as “Bathgate Woods,” the park was already famous for its views, its trees, and its pond. From high points in the park one could see the Palisades of New Jersey to the west and the towers of Brooklyn Bridge to the south. Although the city planned to name the park for the Bathgates, a dispute with the family led a Parks Department engineer to name it after Croton, an ancient Greek colony famed for its Olympic athletes. Croton is also the name of the old New York City aqueduct.
As ice skating grew popular in the Bronx around the turn of the century, the Department of Parks paved the perimeter of Indian Pond and installed a warming hut and concession stand for skaters. In the 1930s, Works Progress Administration employees built the present boathouse on the east side of the pond and entirely rebuilt the area around the lake. Other projects in Crotona Park completed during the tenure of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1934-60) included the construction or renovation of five baseball diamonds, twenty tennis courts, twenty-six handball courts, nine playgrounds, four comfort stations, and picnic and sitting areas. The most spectacular addition was the creation of an enormous swimming pool and bathhouse complex, which Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Commissioner Moses opened on July 24, 1936. A major restoration of the pool and bathhouse was completed in 1984.
Bronxites continue to treasure Crotona Park for its natural beauty and outstanding recreational facilities. Crotona Park is home to some of the most majestic and varied trees in the city. Around Indian Lake stand native tulip, black cherry, hickory, sassafras, sweetgum, and twenty-three other species, including specimens over a century old. The 3.3-acre lake was originally a natural pond and provides a home to ducks, turtles, and numerous species of fish. In the southwest corner of the park, generations of gardeners have tended plants and flowers. The old “Farm Garden” was established in the 1930s to teach children about plant science, conservation, nutrition, and hygiene.
Crotona Park hosts many special programs throughout the year. Since 1984 the Bronx Urban Park Rangers have organized walks and tours that use Indian Lake and the trees and fields around it as an outdoor learning laboratory. Visitors explore pond ecology, bird-watching, Bronx history, and Bronx plant and animal life. The park’s twenty tennis courts are the site of the annual Bronx Pro Tennis Classic.