Stewart Park is in Ithaca, New York. Ithaca is located on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, the largest Finger Lake, and Stewart sits directly on that tip. The park is a popular place for barbecues, frisbee, tennis, baseball, and softball, as well as fishing and swimming on the lake. The park has a carousel that operates throughout the summer. In addition, there is a playground, with slides, and a fountain, along with sheltered areas for picnics and large gatherings. The park is also equipped with grills dispersed around the grounds.
The park is also notable for hosting the final day of the Ithaca Festival, during which the park is notoriously difficult to get into, due to parking overflowing.
Fall Creek empties into Cayuga Lake through Stewart Park. Stewart Park is also the location of the Cascadilla Boat Club's boathouse. The Fuertes Bird Sanctuary sits at the southern end of the park, and it is bordered on the west by the City of Ithaca's municipal golf course.
Stewart Park was originally part of the James Renwick estate. It was sold to him on December 12, 1790, and remained in his family for 104 years, undeveloped. Then the combination of events occurred in the early 1890s. With the purchase of 40 acres by the Cascadilla School to build athletic facilities. Then a trolley line was constructed straight to the lake followed by the Cayuga Lake Electric Railway Company developing an amusement park, all leading to those 40 acres becoming Renwick Park, which opened to the public in 1894.
When the park was first developed it contained a zoo, a merry-go-round and a renovated dance pavilion for use as Ithaca's first vaudeville theater. However, in 1908, due to a decrease in the public's use of the railway system the Cayuga Lake Electric Railway Company dissolved. Resulting in the Renwick Park and Traffic Association forming to replace it. Around 1915, the trolley access to the park was discontinued all together. At the same time, 55 acres next to the park were set aside as a bird sanctuary and maintained by the Cayuga Bird Club. Named Fuertes Bird Sanctuary after their clubs president upon his death in 1927.
The park officially closed in 1915 and The land was leased to The Whartons film studio during Ithaca's brief heyday as a silent film production center, from 1915 to 1919.
In 1920, during Mayor Edwin C. Stewart inauguration speech he declared that it was a "travesty" that Ithacans couldn't enjoy the lake without trespassing on private property. So by 1921 he made good on his promise, and the city purchased the former Renwick Park land and opened it to the public. Mayor Stewart died before the official opening of the park on July 4, and it was renamed in his honor.
In 1934, the park land was raised by several feet to reduce flooding. Then in 1964, a prohibition against swimming was strongly enforced. After the unfortunate drowning of a boy, due to the unsafe turbid sediment-laden water that prevented the lifeguards from seeing him.
In 2011, the Friends of Stewart Park began a wide-ranging rehabilitation and restoration project for Stewart Park. This effort began with the renovation of the Mayor Stewart Memorial Flagpole garden, and future efforts are underway.
Official Web Site of Ithaca, New York. Stewart Park. Retrieved from (http://www.ci.ithaca.ny.us/parks/stewartpark.cfm)
How Parks Swimming Days Ended. The Ithaca Journal.(http://www.egovlink.com/public_documents300/ithaca/published_documents/Public_Works/Streets_and_Facilities)
- Cayuga Waterfront Trail, Flight Film and Public Works. Available online