Pullen Park is a 66.33 acres (26.8 ha) public park in Raleigh, North Carolina west of downtown, adjacent to the campus of North Carolina State University, between Western Boulevard and Hillsborough Street. The park features picnic areas, a concessions stand along with several small rides including the Pullen Park Carousel, train, and kiddie boats. Pedal boats are also available for rent seasonally on the park's large pond. The Pullen Aquatic Center, Pullen Arts Center and Theatre In the Park are also located on the park grounds. It is one of the most famous and known parks around the Raleigh/Durham area.
Pullen Park was founded on March 22, 1887 when Richard Stanhope Pullen donated farmland to the City of Raleigh expressly to be used as a space for recreational enjoyment of citizens and visitors to Raleigh, NC. This land became Pullen Park, the first public park in North Carolina, although its founder, always shying from thanks and publicity, opposed giving it his name. A "Committee on Public Parks" was formed to oversee the transformation from farm land to landscaped park and a Park Keeper was hired in 1888 to oversee these modifications.
Pullen continued his own involvement by taking part in the planning and financing of bridges, roads and paths throughout the park as well as the planting of trees and general landscaping in the park and the neighboring NC State University which was built on land also donated by him. Pullen's landscape architecture design was in keeping with the times. He also financed a round pavilion for outdoor entertainment and a fountain, located near the city's first swimming pool (for men only) in 1891.A congressman from another county donated fifty Japanese carp for the fountain which shows the significance of the park even outside of Raleigh. In 1895 modifications to the structure and use of the pool allowed for female usage. The pool remained in the same place until it was replaced by the Pullen Aquatic Center in 1992.
Richard Stanhope Pullen was born on September 18, 1822 to Turner and Elizabeth Smith Pullen on the small family plantation in Wake County, NC. Little is known about his early life and education and even in his later life he shied from press and recognition. However, it is known that as a young man he began working for his uncle, Richard Smith, in Raleigh. Eventually he inherited quite a large sum of money from his uncle and began embarking on developing Raleigh through business endeavors as well as philanthropic projects.
In addition to several swing sets, sand areas and other various playground equipment for children of all ages, the park also contains lighted tennis courts, two ball fields, a lake with paddle boats, covered and uncovered picnic areas, many picturesque paths and bridges, an adjacent Aquatic Center as well as the adjacent Pullen Arts Center and Theatre In the Park. The Aquatic Center and the Arts Center both offer classes to all ages in fitness, swimming and art (pottery, jewelry making, weaving, glass art, etc.) and plays are performed on a regular basis in the internationally acclaimed Theatre In the Park.
Pullen Aquatic Center, completed in 1992, is one of three city-run, public year round aquatic centers. It contains an Olympic size swimming pool, a warm water therapy pool, a mezzanine with spectator seating, an outdoor patio, and locker room facilities and is open for swimming laps as well as recreational swimming. Services offered at Pullen Aquatic Center include water exercise programs, aquatic therapy programs, a city swim league, and American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim lessons, lifeguard training, and instructor-level classes.
The park features 4 rides with a nominal charge for each. Tickets are purchased from the office near the park entrance. Adults are welcome on all rides with the exception of the kiddie boats which are intended for small children and circle in a small pool. Pedal boats are available for rental by the half hour. There must be one person aged 16 or older and boats can accommodate up to four people