The history of Lakeshore Park can be traced back hundreds of years – the land on which Lakeshore Park currently sits originally belonged to local Cherokee tribes who used it mainly for hunting, fishing and gathering. Captain William Lyon purchased 500 acres from the Cherokee Nation in 1809 and held the land until 1874, at which point 300 acres of the property was donated to the State of Tennessee by his daughters for the purpose of constructing the state’s first mental health institute. In 1886, the East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane opened its doors, beginning what would be more than a century and a quarter of mental health care for our community. In 1993, as the hospital began to emphasize community-based services, the State of Tennessee agreed to lease 60 acres of the campus to the City of Knoxville for use as a public park. The City then entered into a management agreement with Knox Youth Sports, which began construction of the initial walking trails and baseball fields.

In 1996, the not for profit Lakeshore Park Conservancy was founded and a public-private partnership with the City of Knoxville was formed, signaling a new chapter and furthering the transformation of the campus. In 2013, the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closed its doors after 127 years of extraordinary service to its patients and the community. Working in concert with the City, the Conservancy continued the preservation and transformation of the Park, resulting in the Hank Rappé playground, the restoration of the Lakeshore Chapel (now Marble Hall), the reclamation of the Tennessee River waterfront, additional greenways and much more. The land at Lakeshore Park is as historically significant to our area as any other building, structure or landmark in East Tennessee. As caretakers of the Park, the work of the Conservancy continues to this day, thanks to your engagement and steadfast support.

History Postcard Illustration
Original Buildings

A Bit of History

Lyons Family
Hospital Drawing
Youth Sports Soccer History
Playground History

Following the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians to reservations, settler Captain William Lyon purchases a 500 acre plot of land on the north bank of the Holston (now Tennessee) River

Mary Catherine and Louisa Trimble, Captain Lyons’ daughters, sell 300 of their 500 acres to the State of Tennessee, which was then planning a mental health facility for the land

East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane opens, beginning the 126 year history of mental health services at what would become Lakeshore Park

The hospital is renamed Eastern State Psychiatric Hospital

Eastern State reaches its peak patient population of approximately 2,800

Eastern State begins a gradual process of consolidation and de-institutionalization

The hospital is renamed for the final time: Lakeshore Mental Health Institute

State of TN and City of Knoxville announce a plan for the creation of Lakeshore Park

State of TN leases 60 acres to the City of Knoxville for use as a public park

State of TN grants conservation easement to the City of Knoxville for construction of a walking trail

Walking trail opens to the public

Baseball fields open and Lakeshore Park formally dedicated, coupled with the formation of the Lakeshore Park non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and Board of Directors

Soccer fields open

With mental health treatment increasingly shifting toward community based options, the number of beds at Lakeshore falls to 90

Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closes 

City of Knoxville begins demolition of Lakeshore’s largest facilities to make way for Park improvements

Opening of the Hank Rappé Accessible Playground, the first major addition to Lakeshore Park since the adoption of the updated master plan

Lakeshore Park undertakes its first capital campaign, including a lead gift from Pilot Flying J of $15M

Several new park facilities open, including Marble Hall, Marble Pavilion, landscaped parking lots, central restrooms, an additional mile of trail and the Haslam Overlook

January 2018
Scripps Networks Interactive announces a $3M gift for construction of a scenic, landscaped overlook as well as the engagement of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects for the project

June 2018
With the completion of Phase “1A,” additional park improvements are open to the public, including an additional mile of trail, a 300 foot riverside boardwalk, 2 piers and direct waterfront access at 4th Creek

January 2019
Lakeshore Park, Inc. renamed Lakeshore Park Conservancy; construction begins on the new HGTV Overlook