History of the Park

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 the property in several tracts from land speculators, who had bought it from the federal government. The government “bought” it from the Cherokee Indians as part of the Treaty of the Holston (1791) and the later Treaty of Philadelphia (1863).

It was then that 300 acres of the property was sold to the State of Tennessee by Lyon’s daughters for the purpose of constructing the state’s first mental health institute.


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. On July 14, 1976, Harold Jordan, State Mental Health Commissioner, directed that all Tennessee’s mental health facilities change their names. Thus on October 31, 1976 the board had decided to change the hospital name to “Lakeshore Mental Health Institute.”

1993 – PRESENT

As the hospital began to emphasize community-based services, the State 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 nonprofit 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.

It was 2013 when the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closed its doors after 127 years of extraordinary service. Working in concert with the City, the Conservancy continues the preservation and transformation of the Park. This resulted in the Hank Rappé playground, the restoration of Lakeshore Chapel (now Marble Hall), the reclamation of the Tennessee River waterfront, additional greenways and 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.