In 1887 Richard Stanhope Pullen donated 66 acres of farmland to the City of Raleigh for the establishment of a public park. Pullen and park-keeper Wiley Howell designed the recreational space, planting a variety of trees and shrubs, including magnolias, cedars, and willow oaks. They constructed a central pavilion and circular concrete fountain, as well as several pedestrian bridges over an existing railway. In 1891 Pullen installed a men’s-only wooden swimming pool, and in 1895, a pool for women was added. From 1899 to 1938 the park was home to a small zoo. Jim Crow laws prohibited African Americans from using many of the park facilities, and in 1937 John Chavis Memorial Park was established approximately two miles away to serve as Pullen Park’s “separate but equal” counterpart.
Throughout the twentieth century many amenities were added, including a manmade lake for boating, picnic facilities, concession stands, ball fields, tennis courts, indoor recreation and community centers, a carousel, and a miniature train. In the 1970s prolific landscape architect Richard Bell worked on a master plan for the park. In 2009 Little & Little Landscape Architects, architecture firm HagerSmith Design, and structural engineers Lysaght & Associates were hired to renovate the park and restore many of its historic features. A new welcome center, entry and picnic shelters, and a replacement structure for the historic miniature railway were introduced. The design team also constructed a house to protect the park’s rare, hand-carved Dentzel Carousel, built circa 1900, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.