The hill was created around 60,000 years ago from the ash of a volcano whose crater was approximately at the intersection of Victoria Street East, Bowen Avenue, and Kitchener Street.
The area was known as Rangipuke by the original Maori settlers. The hillwas a settlement of around 160 people, there was a pa on the northwest part which was called Te Horotiu refering to an old landslide.
After the European colonisation the hill became a defensive post against Maori attacks. The army base was located there between 1840 and 1850. It comprised of a stone wall surrounding over 9ha of land including part of the current University land. Fighting never reached the barracks.
After the army left the hill reverted to the City Improvement Commission who designated it as a public park and designed the roads and paths.
The commission was strapped for funds and little development was done until the Auckland City Council tookmover the site in 1879. A competition was held to design the layout, the winning entry was by James Slater.
During the 1960 "Jumping Sundays" were held where speakers, artists, and entertainers gathered in defiance of the city's public speaking by-lawys. Part of the park was set aside for public speaking and the by-laws were eventually lifted.