Engaged by the Union County (New Jersey) Parks Commission in 1921, the Olmsted Brothers firm designed a county-wide system of urban and suburban parks, including a scenic reservation in the mountains (Watchung Reservation) and a series of parkways along the Elizabeth and Rahway Rivers. As the plan developed, landscape architect Percival Gallagher guided the firm’s work, which included the creation of Rahway River Park, one of the four neighborhood parks in the overall plan. The construction of the park commenced in 1926, and in 1929 the building of a pool and bathhouse was begun in the southwestern section. Installed by the Works Progress Administration, the swimming pool was among the first such pools in a public park in the United States.
The 124-acre park is cradled by the Rahway River, which serves as a backdrop and a natural buffer from the nearby houses to the north and west. The expansive greensward at the center of the park offers uninterrupted views in all directions and is skirted by a walkway shaded by a steady, rhythmic tree line. Encircling the walkway is a perimeter road bordered by an even denser tree line that further isolates the park from its neighbors. From the park’s beginnings, the central green space included informal ball fields and a running track, while tennis and basketball courts were added near the pool. Picnic and play areas were concealed among stands of mature trees around the perimeter. An elongated pond stretches within the southern border of the park, which is home to an array of wildlife and several species of migratory birds.