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What was here before?
Crotona Park is one of the original six public parks acquired in 1888 to create the Bronx Parks system. It is characterized by rolling hills and lush greenery. Over the next half century, the borough’s accelerated urbanization and explosive population growth created a need to build large-scale public recreational facilities. The land occupied by today’s Crotona Park was once part of a large agricultural estate known as Bathgate Woods. The City of New York acquired it from Alexander Bathgate in 1888 as part of the effort to consolidate parks in the Bronx.
How did this site become a pool?
The summer of 1936, deep in the Great Depression, broke local heat records. Crotona Pool was one of eleven immense outdoor public pools the Parks Department opened that summer. The heroically scaled pools project was financed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), as part of a massive effort to alleviate adverse health conditions and provide safe recreation in predominantly working-class communities.
The pools were not just huge but also examples of state-of-the-art engineering and fine design. Each pool had separate swimming, diving and wading areas, perimeter bleachers, and bathhouses whose locker rooms served as gyms during non-summer months. Led by architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the planning team produced a series of distinct complexes, each one sensitive to its site and topography. Massive filtration systems, heating units, and even underwater lighting provided a more controlled bathing experience than the often treacherous and polluted waterways in which the City’s masses had traditionally swum. The palette of pools building materials was mainly inexpensive brick, concrete and cast stone, but the styles ranged from Romanesque Revival to Art Deco.
Crotona Pool measures 330 by 120 feet (nearly four times an Olympic-regulation facility) and was designed by architect Herbert Magoon to accommodate 4,265 bathers at a time. It opened July 24, 1936. The bathhouse features animal-themed sculptural elements (still visible today) created by Frederick George Richard Roth that exemplify WPA-funded art of the era. In 2007 the facility was designated an official New York City landmark.
Who is this pool named for?
Like the park in which it sits, the pool’s name is derived from Croton—the ancient Greek colony famed for its Olympic athletes, a name it also shares with the oldest New York City aqueduct.
Directions to Crotona Park
Know Before You Go
Crotona Park Nature Center
The Crotona Park Nature Center is currently closed for reconstruction, with no public access. Please check our Capital Project Tracker for the latest updates on this project.
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