Date: 1933 (purchased by City)
Address: Main entrances at Forest Hill Ave and West 41st St; New Kent Ave and West 42nd St
Forest Hill Park has a surprisingly large footprint, and when one has walked the meandering cobblestone paths through wetlands to the central lake, it is easy to feel completely secluded from the urban environment. This sensation in the heavily wooded valley is reinforced by the presence of river otters, great blue herons, and other creatures unusual in an urban climate, a condition brought about by the amount of storm sediment in the park.
The rocky, wilderness-like 105 acres link the important Southside intersection of Forest Hills Ave and Semmes Ave to the south, and a section of the James River park system to the north. Historically, its location served as a catalyst of development for Forest Hill, Woodland Heights, and Westover Hills neighborhoods. However the park existed as private property for many generations, passing first through the hands of William Byrd III, son to the founder of Richmond. Holden Rhodes purchased the land in 1820, and built an estate there that still stands today.
In 1889, the land was sold to Southside Land and Improvement Co., who used the land as an end stop for the Forest Hill trolley route. During this time the additions to the Rhodes House included a carousel, roller coaster, golf course, swimming area and other amusement park attractions in an effort to lure passengers to the trolley terminus. The Great Depression caused the station and the amusement park to close, and the City took over ownership of the land, turning the area back to its natural state and the Rhodes House into a library and meeting house. The park received improvements from the Works Progress Administration, including construction of the stone gazebo along the lake and plants that would later become the Azalea Garden in Bryan Park. For this and the Rhodes House, Forest Hill Park was placed on the National Register of historic places in 2002.
Some of the main attractions to the park today include a popular sledding spot, as well as the South of the James Market, which brings hundreds of shoppers to the park every Saturday in the summer and fall for an open air locally sourced market. Friends of Forest Hill Park is an organization dedicated to the well being of the park, and since 2009 has been developing a comprehensive plan for its future, including supporting native species and protecting the valuable water resources.