Parque Lira is one of the most beautiful and urban-feeling of public parks in Mexico City. The park is laid out on the former grounds of the famous Casa de Amarilla, the Yellow House. This house is so called because it was the home of Agustín de Ahumada y Villalón, the Marquis of Amarillas. He was Viceroy of New Spain from 1755 to 1760.
Today, the headquarters of the Miguel Hidalgo government, that house was begun in 1618.
Later, the enormous (and wealthy) estate came under the ownership of the Count of La Cortina and included the Casa de la Bola house, which today is a museum for decorative arts. The original Count of Cortina, José Justo Gómez de la Cortina (1799-1860), was an aristocrat, diplomat, writer, politician, and leading academic. He founded the Academy of Language which later became the Mexican National Academy of Language. The gardens were famous for the adjoining palaces, stone bridges, reflective pools, and bronze fountains. The neoclassical grand archway designed by Italian architect Francesco Saverio Cavallari who was active in Mexico from 1857 to 1864.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the property had come under the control of Vicente Lira Mora, a textile magnate, art collector, and philanthropist. Parque Lira is today named after the family. In the 1930s, during the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas, the property was expropriated. An asylum for children suffering from mental illness was briefly established in the house. But eventually the offices of the alcaldía of Miguel Hidalgo moved into the original mansion.