Historic American Engineering Record
Bronx River Parkway Reservation
HAER No. NY-327


The Bronx River Parkway Reservation parallels the Bronx River for 15.5 miles from the New York Botanical Gardens north to Kensico Dam at Valhalla in Westchester County. The parkway extends 12.5 miles in Westchester County and 3 miles within New York City. Later parkway extensions connected north to the Taconic State Parkway and southward through the Borough of the Bronx in New York City.

Dates of Construction

The Bronx River Parkway Reservation was suggested as early as 1895 in legislation creating the Bronx Valley Sewer Commission. The Bronx Parkway Commission was appointed in 1906 but did not receive funding for parkway acquisition until 1913. Despite the lack of public funds, planning began in 1907. The parkway was completed in 1925.

Present Use

The Bronx River Parkway Reservation is a linear park that includes recreational facilities, preserved and restored natural areas, and a road that is restricted to private passenger vehicles. The main parkway drive is a heavily used commuter route that connects suburban Westchester County to New York City.


The Bronx Parkway Commission (BPC) designed and supervised construction of the Bronx River Parkway Reservation. The longest-serving commissioners were Madison Grant, James Cannon, William Niles, and Frank Bethell. Warren Thayer was the project’s initial engineer. Consulting Landscape Architect Hermann W. Merkel was primarily responsible for landscape design and development. BPC Engineers Jay Downer, Leslie Holleran, and Gilmore Clarke supervised general construction. Engineer Arthur G. Hayden developed the rigid-frame bridge technology used for many grade separations. Private architects, including Charles Stoughton, worked with BPC engineers to provide architectural details for many bridges and grade separations.


Westchester County, New York City


The Bronx River Parkway Reservation was the first public parkway designed explicitly for automobile use. The project began as an environmental restoration and park development initiative that aimed to transform the heavily polluted Bronx River into an attractive linear park connecting New York City’s Bronx Park with New York City’s Kensico Dam and reservoir. With the addition of a parkway drive the project became a pioneering example of modern motorway development. It combined beauty, safety, and efficiency by reducing the number of dangerous intersections, limiting access from surrounding streets and businesses, and surrounding motorists in a broad swath of landscaped greenery.

Project Information

Documentation of the Bronx River Parkway Reservation was conducted in 2001 by the Historic American Building Survey/ Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER), E. Blaine Cliver, Chief, a division of the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior. The project was funded by Westchester County, Andrew J. Spano, County Executive, and administered by the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation: Joseph Stout, Commissioner; Dr. Jack Robbins, Deputy Commissioner of Conservation; David DeLucia, Director of Park Facilities. The Department of Information Technology, Norman Jacknis, Chief Information Officer; The Westchester County Records and Archives Center, Patricia N. Dohrenwend, Director; the Westchester County Department of Planning, Joyce Lannert, Commissioner; and the Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy, Betsy Dolan, Executive Director; Lowell Tooley, President, provided additional support.

The summer 2001 documentation team worked under the direction of Christopher Marston, HAER Project Leader, and Tim Davis, HAER Historian. The field team consisted of field supervisor and landscape architect Tanya Folger, architects Brandon Andow (Rhode Island School of Design) and Kamalahasan Ramaswamy (US/ICOMOS, India), landscape architect Karolina Buczek (US/ICOMOS, Poland), and historian Dawn Duensing. Large-format photography was produced by David Haas.