Established in the late eighteenth century as the 558-acre Westbrook Estate, the site served as the gathering place for slaves involved with Gabriel’s Conspiracy in 1800. Subdivided among heirs, the 262-acre agricultural parcel known as Rosewood was purchased in 1909 by Belle Stewart Bryan and donated to the City of Richmond in honor of her husband, prominent citizen Joseph Bryan. Embodying the City Beautiful aesthetic, the property was developed to include a naturalistic landscape of ponds, waterfalls, carriage roads, and rustic structures amidst pastoral meadows, meandering streams, and 100 acres of woodland. Throughout the park, two-dozen structures were constructed in the auto-tourism boom of the 1920s and later during the Depression Era by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Today, located 2.5 miles northwest of downtown and bordered by industrial and residential neighborhoods, the park includes a diversity of features. The heavily-wooded western segment includes trails through wetlands and a ravine. At the convergence of three creeks, the northern section includes two ponds marking the site of Young’s Mill, which is associated with the early development of Westbrook, a concrete spillway built by the WPA and the fifteen-foot Upham Brook waterfall. Originally constructed in 1912, a triple-arch Stone Memorial Gateway was relocated by the Turnpike Authority from the original entrance of the park in 1952 to its present location in the north of the park and reconstructed as a rectangular frame of course-cut granite. In the 1950s Robert Harvey, Superintendent of Richmond’s Parks and Recreation Department, designed the seventeen-acre Azalea Garden oriented around an oval pond with granite walls. The 1960s and 70s saw the development of athletic fields to serve area residents. Joseph Bryan Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.