Erected in 1888 to encompass an entire block, the Painter Hotel built by Quaker John Hunt Painter included formal gardens, expansive orchards, and an arroyo stone retaining wall surrounding the property. Providing uninterrupted views of the San Gabriel Mountains across level terrain, the hotel was renamed La Pintoresca (Spanish for “picturesque”) following Painter’s death in 1892. The hotel burned in 1912, and the City of Pasadena purchased the property three years later for use as a park.
In 1924, landscape architects Ralph Cornell and Theodore Payne were commissioned to design the four-acre site. The northern section of the park accommodated active recreational activities with the installation of courts for tennis and roque, a game similar to croquet. A wood and concrete pergola was constructed south of the courts and a large, elliptical lawn occupied the center of the park, encircled by a walk connected to the peripheral streets. Cornell incorporated the existing landscape features including vegetation and a retaining wall, which he opened to the south to create a new entrance to the park. Cylindrical drinking fountains constructed of arroyo stone and concrete were also installed at this time. The park's perimeter was planted with palms, camphor, and specimen trees including Deodar cedars and a Moreton Bay Fig.
By 1930, the park was reduced to three acres by the construction of an electric substation and a Spanish Revival library, both designed by architects Cyril Bennett and Fitch Haskell. In the 1960s, the lighting and paths were renewed though Cornell’s alignment and placement was retained.