Crotona Park

Crotona Nature Center

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

What was here before?

Crotona Park was once part of Andrew Bathgate’s estate. The Bathgates were managers of the vast Morris family landholding, namesake of Morrisania. They eventually received a portion of the land for themselves. Known at the time as Bathgate Woods, their farm was one of the larger agricultural estates in the Bronx in the 19th century and famous for its scenic vistas, trees, and pond.

How did this become a nature center?

The City acquired the property that now comprises Crotona Park from Andrew Bathgate as part of the consolidation of the Bronx parks system in 1888. In 1914, designers fortified Indian Lake with concrete edges to improve its use for ice skating and erected a wooden warming hut on the edge of the lake. During the 1930s, the hut was replaced with the current structure that housed a row and paddle boat concession.

Beginning in the early 1980s, the building was used as a part-time nature center, with exhibits produced by NYC Parks’ Urban Park Rangers that were funded by a United States Department of the Interior Urban Park and Recreation Recovery grant. The Crotona Park Nature Center opened for full-time use in 2001.

The Nature Center hosts activities that give children a feeling of connection with the outdoors.  Nature walks, fish and bird identification, and summer camps allow young visitors to enjoy the landscape in an immediate physical way, while developing an appreciation and respect for natural life. Camps and schools run programs in conjunction with the center.

In 2020, significant upgrades were made to the Nature Center, including an expanded gathering room, removing dropped ceilings to reveal the original 15-foot ceilings, and cleaning and repointing of the building’s exterior. Restoration of the building's original windows and replacement of the double-entrance doors now fill the building with natural light and views of Indian Lake. A regional office has also been provided for the Urban Park Rangers.

What is this nature center named for?

This nature center is situated in Crotona Park on the eastern side of Indian Lake. The lake’s name originated in the stories of local children of the 19th century, whose imaginative tales depicted Native Americans meeting here in lakeside conferences. The park name springs from Hellenistic mythology, however, rather than from local folklore. “Crotona” honors the former Greek colony in Italy that was famed for its prominence in the ancient Olympic games. Although the city planned to name the park for the Bathgates, a dispute with the family led an NYC Parks 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.

Directions to Crotona Park

Know Before You Go

Nature CentersCrotona 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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