California Park, which takes its name from adjacent California Avenue, is one of six parks created by the River Park District. The River Park District was established in 1917, Northwest Chicago residents formed the River District to provide recreational opportunities along the North Branch of the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel and to prevent commercial encroachments there. Soon after its formation, the River Park District began to purchase more than 13 acres south of Irving Park Road, between California Avenue and the North Shore Channel. Acquisition of parkland began in 1917 to 1931 as the River Park District acquired land from different property owners. Although land acquisition dragged on until 1931, development began in 1920, when Leesely Brothers prepared a landscape plan. Improvements were confined largely to plantings until 1927, when the River Park District began construction of an outdoor swimming pool that was, for a time, Illinois's largest. An athletic field, baseball diamonds, and playgrounds followed in 1928, as did a small brick fieldhouse designed by Chicago architect Clarence Hatzfeld. In 1934, the District was one of 22 independent park systems consolidated into the Chicago Park District.
In the 1970s, the Chicago Park District demolished the original fieldhouse and erected a new changing facility in its place. The Park District also constructed an impressive new indoor sports complex, the first of its kind for the District. The structure contains a year-round ice rink for figure skating and hockey, as well as six tennis courts. This facility was officially designated the McFetridge Sports Complex in 1974 for William L. McFetridge, who served as park district president in 1968, and as vice-president for the preceding 22 years. In 2017, the park was expanded with additional property adjacent the River.