Situated in South Baltimore between Federal Hill and Locust Point, Riverside Park is one of the Baltimore City’s oldest and most unique park spaces. Early in Baltimore’s history, the site of Riverside Park was used as a lookout point due to its clear panoramic view of the South Baltimore peninsula and Patapsco River. During the War of 1812, Major General Samuel Smith ordered Captain Samuel Babcock to build a circular battery here called Fort Lookout. Commanded by Lt. George Budd during the Battle of Baltimore, the battery played a key role in the defense of the city on the night of September 13th into the early morning of September 14, 1814. Combined with the garrisons at Fort Covington and Fort Babcock, the forces at Fort Lookout assisted in repelling a British attempt to assault the peninsula by land, saving the city. After the battle, the fort was renamed Fort Wood in honor of Captain Eleazer Wood and the site remained in limited use through the mid-1800s.
In 1854, Baltimore approved, for public use, 3 acres of the old fort along Randall, Covington, and Heath Streets, renaming the property Battery Square. The city formally purchased the 3 acre square in 1862 from James Polk. The city acquired an additional 14 acres to the south of Battery Square in 1873 and renamed the property Riverside Park, making it one of the city’s earliest parks. In 1876, the city passed an ordinance putting the park under control of the Public Parks Commission.
Over 17 acres, Riverside encompasses three hallmarks of a great park—the first being passive recreation. With a Victorian-inspired design, Riverside’s paths are accented with memorials and entranceways to beautiful open space in the upper half of the park. The northern section, beginning along Randall Street, has gorgeous scenery and ornamentation, idyllic for an afternoon stroll, weekend picnic or leisurely reading. The upper half of the park also hosts the picnic pavilion, flagpole and Cannon Memorial.
The lower half of the park has active recreation space —a second hallmark of a great park. Riverside’s pool complex forms the transition between the two park halves. Through the pool house entry park visitors will be excited to find a recently renovated kiddie pool area that adjoins the larger outdoor pool. Also comprising Riverside Park’s lower half: two basketball courts, a softball diamond, two athletic fields and a playground area.
In October 1976, the park was renamed Leone-Riverside Park in memory of Councilman Dominic Leone, Jr. From 2009-2012 the park underwent some major updates. These included new formed concrete sidewalks replacing older cracked ones that extended all the way to the curb, custom brickwork at selected park entrances, new benches throughout the park, and new trees throughout the park.
Today Riverside Park is popular for its large public swimming pool, jogging and walking paths, and plenty of grassy and shady spots to relax. It features a number of recreational amenities from sporting fields and courts to a playground. Community events and outdoor concerts are held here and more recently the neighborhood surrounding the park has seen some revitalization with restoration projects of characteristic Baltimore row homes.
- Large swimming pool
- Jogging and walking paths
- Athletic fields
- Accessible by MTA Bus Routes
- Accessible by Charm City Circulator Banner Route
In Proximity To…
- Key Highway
- Interstate 95
- Inner Harbor
- Locust Point
- Fort Avenue
- Stores and restaurants at McHenry Row
- Fort McHenry
- MARC Train
- American Visionary Art Museum
- Baltimore Museum of Industry
****Fun Fact- The National Park Service designated Leone Riverside Park as a Star-Spangled Banner Trail site.