The land on which Duthie Park now stands was barren ground in the 18th century. Professor Thomas Maxwell bought several acres and built a large house but apparently planted little. After Professor Maxwell's death part of the land was re-feued to Mr Ewan and Arthur Dingwall Fordyce. Strangely Mr Ewan never built a house but he did lay out the property including paths, planting trees and placing memorial stones. Mr Fordyce did build a house on his land, calling it Arthurseat. The Fordyces first occupied the house in 1807 and the property didn't change hands until 1850. It is interesting to note that Keith's Survey of Aberdeenshire 1811 has conflicting information as he describes Arthurseat at that time as 'a convenient house in a fine situation, well wooded, near the banks of the Dee.'
On 16th March 1850, with the arrival of the first train from Forfar at the new Ferryhill station, the new owner had plans for a Royal Garden with the main attraction being the view of the incoming trains. However the land was eventually bought by Miss Elizabeth Duthie, including part of Pulmoor to the east. Miss Duthie's intention was to present the people of Aberdeen with a public park in memory of her uncles and brother which she declared at a council meeting in 1880. Miss Duthie had acquired the strip of ground between Allenvale and Arthurseat from the council. The first turf was cut on 27th August, 1881.
The layout of the 44 acre park was by Mr William R McKelvie of Dundee who was also responsible for the laying out of Balgay Park, Dundee. 'The execution of the works was carried out under the superintendence of Mr Alex Murray, Surveyor, and the chief contractors were:- for laying out the ground, and for building the enclosing walls, houses, etc: Messrs Abernethy & Co; for iron pipes for water: Messrs Blaike Brothers; for carpenter work: Messrs. James Buyers & Co; for plumber work: Mr James Farquhar.' By the spring of 1882 the clearing of the old farmland, the layout of paths, and the planting of trees and shrubs was under way. The park was opened on September 27, 1883. There were a couple of important historic features in the park which are no longer extant. The first is McKelvie's Rockery which photographs show as an enormous feature covering a huge area of bank at the southern end of the park on the bank above the Lower Lake. It had a path meandering through it called Lovers Walk and was planted with saxifrages, mosses, ferns, and sedums. It was of unusual construction with the rock arrangement bearing no relation to rock strata. The pointed rocks were arranged in a vertical manner and variety was provided by using a variety of rock types including Derbyshire spar and limestone. It very much resembled the rock garden at Hoole House, much praised by Loudon. There was similar rockwork around the lake at Duthie Park. Another interesting feature was a Rootery. This was constructed from roots when the ground was cleared while the park was under construction. There was a similar feature at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, the trend setting garden of that time owned by James Bateman, although this was called a stumpery.
Having opened a park in the north of the city, there was felt a need for a park in the southern part of the town. Allenvale Cemetery had opened on the land adjacent to Duthie Park and they owned a strip of land between the cemetery and Arthurseat, where Duthie Park now sits. The council purchased this strip of land in the hope that if Arthurseat came up for sale they would acquire it and combine the two to make a public park. This would also make possible the construction of a drive along the river.