The name Topčider stems from the Turkish word topči – cannoneer and the Persian word der – valley. An artillery camp once stood there where the Turks cast cannons to attack Belgrade in 1521, during the siege of Belgrade. Later it became the favourite picnic ground of the pashas of Belgrade. The residence of Prince Miloš Obrenović was built there during his reign, as the chief building of the residential complex. Accessways were built in parallel with the construction of the residence, along with the planting of trees and the decoration of the palace complex environs. The first park in Belgrade arose from the reeds and sedges.
The tale of the planting of the famous sycamore before the Residence survives to this day. The Frenchman managing the work of arranging the park asked Prince Miloš what to do with the single remaining sycamore seedling. The prince ordered the seedling to be put in the nearby lime pit and buried. Thus did one of the oldest and most beautiful sycamores in Europe grow, protected as a natural treasure, over 170 years old.
The function of Topčider Park changed in time. Built as a palace park for the ruler, it became open to the general population in 1903. Topčider was mostly accessed by fiacres, while the introduction of the electric tram, the popular “topčiderac” departing for Topčider from Terazije turned this natural complex into the most popular picnic ground of the citizens of Belgrade.
The park in front of the Residence contains three monuments. The Obelisk, set up in 1859 in honour of the second reign of Prince Miloš, is the work of the stonemason Franc Loran and is one of the few preserved monuments from mid-19th century. The “Žetelica” (“Harvester”) sculpture was set up in 1852 and is the sole preserved and oldest remaining example of decorative park sculpture from 19th century Belgrade. It represents the goddess of agriculture Ceres and is the work of the Viennese sculptor Fidelis Kimmel. The monument to Archibald Reiss was erected in 1931 in gratitude to Archibald Reiss, the Swiss criminologist, publicist and honorary captain of the Serbian army. It is the work of Marko Brežanin and it was set up in the immediate vicinity of Reiss’ house (Vojvode Mišića Boulevard 73), two years after his death.