Rose Hill Park
Rose Hill Park
This small park is a vestige of a far larger estate once called "Rose Hill" by its owner, Robert Watt. His lands covered a tract now occupied by Fordham University and additional territory extending to the present day New York Botanical Garden in Bronx Park.
In 1775 John Watt, Robert's brother, married Jane DeLancey, whose family lived on the adjacent property that is now Bronx Park. Prior to his marriage, John Watt had lived on an estate in Manhattan near what is now Madison Square. In 1787 John purchased this property, which was known as the Andrew Corsa estate. Shortly afterwards, John transferred the property to his brother Robert. The latter named this area "Rose Hill" after the family seat in Scotland. The Watts then transferred this name to their manorlands in the countryside of a forested Bronx.
In 1839 the estate and manor house were purchased by the Catholic Church to establish St. John's College. The university was opened in 1841 by Bishop John Hughes, New York's first Catholic archbishop. John McCloskey, the college president, became America's first cardinal. In 1907 the college was renamed Fordham University.
The historic New York Central Railroad bounds the small park to the east. Originating in 1832, it was the first railroad in New York City. The earliest cars were pulled by horses. Steam-powered operations began in 1835 when the railroad extended its services to Harlem. The railroad eventually reached as far north as Chatham, New York, and as far east as Albany. In 1857 the railroad merged with the New York and Hudson River Railroad to form the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.
The park was acquired by the City through condemnation in 1896. A public comfort station was erected in 1923, and the park entrances at East Fordham Road and Webster Avenue were updated around 1940. Until 1945 the park was called Fordham Square, but then resumed the older name. Renovation activity in the 1960s removed stumps and benches, added benches, and increased the recreational facilities. The comfort station was reconstructed, and new cobblestone paving was installed in 1991.