Parks & Nature
Tibbets Brook Park
Location: Yonkers, New York
Size: 161 Acres
Hours: 8 AM to Dusk
From a quick glance at a map of Yonkers, one will notice two large green areas—one to the North, and one to the South. The southern-most area is known as Tibbetts Brook Park. While many Yonkers residents use the park for recreational activities, they are often unaware of the park’s deep and rich history. In fact, Tibbetts Brook was one of the first developed parks in Westchester County, and has progressed from a large patch of undeveloped land to one of the most used public facilities in Yonkers.
It is also interesting to note the history of the land and the park’s namesake. Tibbetts Brook Park was named after a man named George Tippett. Tippett settled on the land in 1668, after he purchased it from Elias Doughty. During the American Revolution, Tippett’s descendants were forcibly removed from the land because they were British loyalists and remained loyal to the Crown. Their land was confiscated and sold throughout the years.
Unbeknownst to many Yonkers residents is the fact that the Battle of Tibbetts Brook took place on the land. On August 30th 1778, a Native American chieftain by the name of Daniel Nimham fought alongside the Americans against a military unit called the Queen’s Rangers, led by John Simcoe. In the two-day battle, the British emerged victorious; Nimham and forty other Native Americans were fatally wounded. Simcoe, the leader of the Queen’s Rangers, was wounded during this battle. The slain natives were buried in an area known as Indian Field, which is located in Van Cortlandt Park, less than a mile south of Tibbetts Brook Park’s southern boundary.
To appreciate the full history, it is perhaps beneficial to discuss the development of the park from a purely chronological standpoint. In 1923, the Westchester County Park Commission acquires a 424-acre property in Tibbetts Brook Valley in South Yonkers. Their mandate for the land was simple: establish a Tibbetts Valley Parkway and a recreational facility. With the heavy foliage and rocky terrain, the land seemed ideal for a park. In addition to this, the land was already used in local culture for recreation; Peckman Lake, which was located on the land, was a popular destination for swimming. Unfortunately, due to the proximity of a city dump along the western branch of the land, the water quality was poor in Peckman Lake. The assumption was that, through the development of a parkway, traffic volume could be greatly reduced and the water quality of Tibbetts Brook, which fed Peckman Lake, would be subsequently improved. The proposed parkway could also serve as the main road granting access to whatever facilities were developed on the land.
The plan was set, but the commission needed men who were capable of carrying it out. In 1924, a year after the land was acquired, two men started the development plan for the land. The first of these men was the commission’s Landscape Architect, Gilmore D. Clarke. The second, Jay Downer, was the commission’s Chief Engineer. Both Clarke and Downer receive great praise for their role in the shaping of the Westchester County Parks system. In April of 1924, they laid out a plan to develop the land so that that it encompassed both water and land in its recreational activities. After careful surveying of the landscape, Clarke and Downer agreed upon the key components of the park that would be the building blocks. These components were a bath and field house, athletic fields and facilities, and a lake for boating purposes. These areas would all be connected by both pedestrian walkways and small roads for access with vehicles. They proposed the draining the water out of Peckman Lake and filling it (and surrounding areas) to make way for athletic fields.
In 1925, the planning stage was over, the landscape development plan was completed, and construction began. During construction, the ideas for a separate bathing lake and swimming lake changed—the bathing lake was to become a large outdoor swimming pool and would lie directly to the south of the bath and field house. The swimming lake was reduced in size from the original plan and entered the new plan as a skating lake. As such, the new plan allowed for 3 bodies of water: the swimming pool, the skating lake, and a separate boating lake. A man named O.J. Gette was brought onto the project as the designer for the bath and field house, along with the swimming pool. Gette was a graduate of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture and was not new to this type of work—in fact, he had already designed a public bath house for the city of Yonkers once before.
Also vital to the development of the land was the authorization for the Cross Country Parkway in 1925. This parkway would span across the northern edge of the land and connect the Saw Mill River Parkway to the Bronx River Parkway. In 1926, the Westchester County Park Commission decided that the Cross County Parkway would serve as the main access point for the park. By April of this year, Peckman Lake and surrounding areas had been completely drained; the sites for the skating lake and the boating lake were completely unearthed, and the swimming pool was near completion. By the summer of 1926, Gette’s bath and field house and swimming pool were both completed. Today, the bath and field house is simply known as The Bathhouse. Plans to fill the skating and boating lakes were also underway at this time.
The following year marked the completion of many of the projects for Tibbetts Brook Park. By April, the Boating Lake and Skating Lakes were completed. The Skating Lake is referred to today as Swan Lake. In addition to this, a children’s playground was erected and an overlook between Swan Lake and the Boating Lake was also built. A couple of months later, on June 25th, 1927, Tibbetts Brook Park was officially named and opened for public use.
Over the years, the Westchester County Parks Commission continued to improve upon the park and provide Yonkers citizens with more services to better suit their needs. By 1930, the remainder of the swampy areas on the land was filled in. South of the boating lake, the land was cleared with plans for another athletic field. In 1931, a year later, the Saw Mill River Parkway was completed. This parkway lined the western edge of Tibbetts Brook Park and intersected with the Cross County Parkway to the north. This served to provide greater access to the park. In the same year, an additional comfort station was built east of The Bathhouse. In the following years, improvements continued: 1932 marked the opening of the Cook Avenue athletic fields; in 1933 the athletic fields south of the Boating Lake were completed, and the construction of a pedestrian walkway that allowed citizens to enter into the western part of the park was finished in the 1940s.
While not a part of the Westchester County Parks Commission’s plan for Tibbetts Brook Park, a major development unfolded between 1837 and 1842 with the construction of the Old Croton Aqueduct. During this time, the population of Manhattan was growing exponentially and the water supply was inadequate; furthermore, the water had become polluted and a solution had to be found quickly. A forty-one mile aqueduct was built during these years that reached from the Croton River to Manhattan’s water reservoirs. This aqueduct did not use any complex machinery to move the water: gravity did all of the work. Accompanying the aqueduct was a trailway, which still exists today in the interior of Tibbetts Brook Park. In the years to come, the Old Croton Aqueduct was closed and a New Croton Aqueduct was opened in 1890. These aqueducts run parallel to each other and both, along with the trailway, pass through the western side of the park.
The Cook Avenue playfields are no longer a part of Tibbetts Brook Park; in 1951, the city of Yonkers leased the fields and later fully purchased them to use as a city park facility. This meant that the city of Yonkers would be responsible for the fields’ development and maintenance, as opposed to Tibbetts Brook Park, which is maintained by the Westchester County Parks Commission. The loss of the Cook Avenue playfields also marked the shrinking of the northern boundary of Tibbetts Brook Park so that it no longer stretched north past the Cross County Parkway. A few decades later, in the 1970s, the park shrunk along its northern boundary again; the cross county parkway underwent construction to expand the number of lanes. This led to a series of major changes in the park. Most importantly, while this brought the parkway closer to the main athletic field, the expansion meant the end of direct access to the park from the Cross County Parkway. Midland Avenue, which stretched up and down the eastern side of the park, became the sole entrance for vehicles into the park.
With the focal entrance point now at the eastern side of the park, usage of the northern side of the park shifted. Previously used as a recreational area, this northern part was transformed into a park maintenance support area. Originally, the maintenance yard was located to the west of the Cross County Parkway ramp that led into the park. After the construction in the 70s, it expanded east past the former ramp and north of the main driveway into the park. With the shift in usage to the eastern side, a picnic pavilion was erected in the southeastern section of the park. A comfort station was built alongside this pavilion at the same time, along with two additional parking areas to the south of the original parking space. In the 1990s, a stage platform was built north of the main driveway to the park (on the eastern side along Midland Avenue). A mini golf course was also added to the park around this time.
While the northern part of the park had become mostly used for maintenance, there was still a lot of land that could be developed. The athletic fields that were present in the park served as fields to participate in sports, but they were simply large fields. A plan was proposed for a sports complex that would consist of three soccer fields and an additional parking lot. In June of 2007, construction for this project was completed and the complex, named Tibbetts Brook Park North, was opened. The pool, too, has seen a major change in recent years. In 2011, the pool was transformed into a saline water park.
The park stands today as a center for public recreational activities. It takes up 161 acres of the original 424 acres that were acquired in 1923.
 "Battle of Kingsbridge." Accessed May 7, 2012. http://gnadenhutten.tripod.com/patriotsblood/id4.html.
 Jeffrey Williams, "A History of Tibbetts Brook Park," Yonkers Historian, 14, no. 3 (2005): 1-3,
 Jeffrey Williams, 1-4.
 Westchester County Parks Commission, "Tibbetts Brook Park." Last modified April 27, 2012. Accessed May 7, 2012. http://parks.westchestergov.com/tibbetts-brook-park.