Stewart Park was originally part of the James Renwick estate. It was military lot No. 88 which had been granted to Andrew Moody of the Revolutionary Army on July 9, 1790. It was then sold to James Renwick on December 12, 1790 and remained in that family, undeveloped, for 104 years. In the early 1890's, two separate events occurred that resulted in what is known today as Stewart Park.
- Land was purchased by the Cascadilla School to develop athletic facilities followed by the construction of a trolley line to the lake and the development of an amusement park by the Cayuga Lake Electric Railway Company.
- The purchase of 40 acres between the Cascadilla School property and the hamlet of Port Renwick was developed into Renwick Park which opened to the public in 1894.
The park contained a zoo, a merry-go-round, and the renovation of the dance pavilion for use as Ithaca's first vaudeville theater. In 1908, due to the decrease in ridership, the Cayuga Lake Electric Railway Company was dissolved and the Renwick Park and Traffic Association was formed to replace it. Sometime around 1915, trolley access to the park was discontinued. At this same time, 55 acres south of the park were set aside as a bird sanctuary and maintained by the Cayuga Bird Club. This area was named after the club's president upon his death in 1927 and became known as Fuertes Bird Sanctuary.
In 1915, the park officially closed and was leased by Theodore and Leopold Wharton for use as a film studio until 1919. In 1920, there was a renewed interest in the park for use as a lakeside municipal park by the then mayor, Edwin C. Stewart. The City purchased the park from the Renwick Park and Traffic Association in 1921. One month before the park's formal opening, Mayor Stewart died and the park was renamed Stewart Park in his honor. In 1923, the City purchased the Cascadilla School property which was incorporated into the park. A Master Plan for the park was completed in 1934 and the present layout of the park, although the master plan was never completed, reflects many of the ideas presented in that design.
Today, Stewart Park is a regionally active park with several facilities including pavilions (available for rent), tennis courts, a playground with several play structures including a carousel, athletic fields, a duck pond, a spray pool, a municipal golf course, and a bird sanctuary. Stewart Park also has an array of trees growing in it. Visit the Virtual Tree Tour for a list of the trees and descriptions.
Swimming occurred in Stewart Park for a brief time prior to any beach or water safety requirements. For more information on why swimming is an unlikely use of this area in the future, please read the following articles:http://friendsofstewartpark.org/visit-stewart-park-ithaca-ny