The History of Lakeshore Park



Lakeshore Park was created 20 years ago through a public-private partnership. The State of Tennessee granted a conservation easement to the City of Knoxville for a walking trail on unused portions of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. The City entered into a Management Agreement with Knox Youth Sports, Inc., a non-profit recreation organization, and Knox Youth Sports began construction of a 2.2 mile walking trail around the circumference of the Lakeshore property. The trail was dedicated in March 1995, and Lakeshore quickly became one of the most used City parks.

The State leased an additional 60 acres to the City, and Knox Youth Sports began construction of baseball fields, soccer fields and other improvements. A new non-profit corporation, Lakeshore Park, was formed in 1996 to continue development of the park.

Today, the facilities at Lakeshore Park include the walking trail, six baseball fields, three soccer fields and a farmers market, plus large open spaces, parking, restrooms and pavilions. Thousands of people visit the park each day to walk the trail, participate in games and practices, attend special events or just enjoy the scenic beauty of the park.

AsylumThe history of the land at Lakeshore Park can be traced back to the late 1700’s, in fact to the very beginning of Knoxville itself. From the original negotiations with local Cherokee tribes, to the purchase of 500 acres by Captain William Lyon in 1809, to the purchase of the land by the State of Tennessee in 1874, Lakeshore Park has passed through many different owners and functions to become the spectacular park that exists today.

The land at Lakeshore Park is as historically significant to our area as any other building, bridge or landmark in East Tennessee. Of course, much of that history is the legacy of the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute…itself established in 1886 and closed in 2013, after 127 years of extraordinary service to its patients and the community.


1791 Cherokee Chief and Warriors enter into Treaty of Holston with United States.
City of Knoxville founded, named after signer of Treaty of Holston.
1792 William Blount claims Treaty gave Cherokee land to United States.
Cherokees disagree and attack Knoxville.
1794 New Treaty negotiated. Peace restored.
North Carolina gives land grant of 600 acres to Robert King, who resells to land speculators.
1809 500 acres acquired by Captain William Lyon.
1874 Lyon’s daughters, Mary Craig and Louisa Barnes, convey 300 acres to State of Tennessee.
1884 Administration Building constructed.
1886 East Tennessee Hospital for Insane opens.
1927 Hospital renamed Eastern State Psychiatric Hospital.
60’s Hospital reaches capacity with 2,800 patients.
1977 Name changed to Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.
1984 UT obtains license for construction and use of golf practice facility.
1986 Knox Youth Sports, Inc. formed to operate youth sports programs.
1988 State Veterans Cemetery constructed.
1990 Lakeshore Mental Health Institute begins to downsize.
1992 Knox Youth Sports initiates discussions with Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, Governor Ned McWherter and Mayor Victor Ashe concerning creation of park on vacant land.
Oct ’92 Plan for creation of Lakeshore Park announced.
Sep ’93 State leases 60 acres to City for City park.
Mar ’94 State grants conservation easement to City for walking trail.
City enters into Management Agreement with Knox Youth Sports for development of the park.
Apr ’94 Knox Youth Sports begins construction of park.
Mar ’95 Dedication of Lakeshore Park walking trail.
May ’96 Dedication of Lakeshore Park.
City of Knoxville $400,000
Knox Youth Sports/Private Donors $1,915,000
TOTAL: $2,315,000
Non-profit corporation (Lakeshore Park Inc.) created to develop and manage Lakeshore Park for the City.
Sep ’96 City enters into Management Agreement with Lakeshore Park Inc. for development and management of the park.
Lakeshore Park Inc. enters into Management Agreement for Recreation Facilities with Knox Youth Sports.
1996 State provides $1,500,000 grant for Lakeshore Park demolition and parking.
Riverbend, Cliffside and Peterson Buildings demolished by Lakeshore Park Inc.
1997 Water tower demolished by Lakeshore Park Inc.
1998 Knox County contributes $400,000 for soccer field improvements.
State Building Commission approves Lakeshore Master Plan, designating areas for Mental Health, Veterans Cemetery, UT Golf Facility and City Park.
Oct ’99 State and City enter into Agreement Concerning Implementation of Lakeshore Master Plan.
1999 Lakeshore Park Inc. starts work on Lakeshore Park Master Plan.
2000 Lonas Hall demolished.
Original Lakeshore Park Master Plan approved.
2001 City constructs new park entrance road and Lyons View turn lane.
Lakeshore Park Inc. constructs additional trail parking lots.
2005 AYSO Region 279 and Knoxville Football Club take over maintenance and operation of soccer fields.
2010 City acquires new 68 acre site for expanded State Veterans Cemetery on John Sevier Highway.
State agrees to convey 23 additional acres to City in exchange for new cemetery site.
Lakeshore Park Inc. provides funds to support relocation of golf practice facility, and UT vacates facility and terminates license for use of Lakeshore property. State agrees to convey 15 additional acres to City.
State Department of Mental Health announces closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.
Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closes after 126 years of providing mental health services for middle and upper East Tennessee.
May ’13 State agrees to convey remaining 23 acres to City.
State conveys all remaining Lakeshore property to the City of Knoxville for public recreational purposes.
1886 Asylum Building

The East Tennessee Insane Asylum, later called Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.

Old Photo 3

The Underhill Building built in 1889 was once situated between the current Administration Building and the steam plant.


Overhead view of the Mental Health Facility when the lower acreage was used for farming.

Help Build a Great City Park and Leave a Legacy That Will Last Forever