Joseph Bryan Park is known for its azalea gardens and offers picnic shelters, tennis courts, athletic fields (primarily soccer), walking trails and a lake.
Bryan Park has been undergoing many small projects to help bring back a park that had been neglected until the early 1990s. Now soccer fields, tennis coursts, a playground, disc golf course and an exercise area have been added in the 262-acre park on Richmond’s North Side, along with a completely natural area.
The park also has some hiking/biking trails and has paved roadways that are usually blocked to automobile traffic which bring in many road cyclists.
BRYAN PARK HISTORY
Before becoming a park, this property in the late 1700s was part of the Young Family’s 600 acre Westbrook Estate. After William Young’s death in 1832, the property was divided between his son and daughter, John (who received the house and the eastern portion) and Rosina (who was given the western portion, most of Bryan Park today). In 1835, Rosina Young married Augustus Mordecai, whose family had lived in Spring Farm, just north of Bryan Park, in the early 1800s. Several years later, they built a farmhouse on their 288 acres and called it Rosewood in her honor. They raised four children. During the Civil War, this area became Richmond’s Outer Defense Line. Confederate camps and batteries were situated near Rosewood. Following the war, Rosina (and her daughter) continued to farm Rosewood until her death in 1906.
By the turn of the century, development was growing into Richmond’s North Side. Prominent Richmond citizens, such as Lewis Ginter and Joseph Bryan, were developing large “suburban” residential communities, served by electric trolley lines. Bryan, publisher of the Richmond Times since the late 1880s (now the Richmond Times-Dispatch) was a lawyer, social progressive, and philanthropist, who had built his “Laburnum Estate” on Brook Road . Less than a year after his death in 1908, his widow, Belle Stewart Bryan of Brook Hill (2 miles farther west of Laburnum on Brook Road), bought Rosewood at a public auction. It was donated to the city as a memorial to Joseph Bryan “as a free park for the use and benefit of all its citizens,” to ensure that the wooded hills, streams and lakes would be enjoyed by Richmond citizens in perpetuity.
The Richmond City Council spent several years transforming the farm into a park with a formal entrance, a gatekeeper’s house, boating, horseback riding and picnic areas. Roadway construction and landscape development took place throughout the first third of the last century; the rustic shelters, bridges, granite curbs and cook-out pits were built during the Depression.
Joseph Bryan Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October, 2002. Many of the park’s roads are pedestrian-only, allowing for jogging, skating, and child-friendly bicycling.
Credit: Friends of Bryan Park