Now one of Knoxville’s most popular parks, featuring several miles of walking trails along with gorgeous views of the Tennessee River and the Smoky Mountains, Lakeshore Park has a much deeper history than the current landscape might suggest.
Captain William Lyon acquired the property from the Cherokee Indians in the early part of the 19th century and held the land until 1874 when the Williams family donated a 300-acre parcel to the state of Tennessee to serve as the location of a progressive mental health hospital for East Tennessee. When it first opened in 1886, the first patients arrived at the Bearden Station and walked more than a mile to the new hospital. In its early days, it was more commonly known as Lyons View Asylum.
The hospital campus was a sustainable enterprise, almost a self-contained city, employing patients to work the dairy farm and cultivate produce for the kitchen. Witnessing many changes over the ensuing decades, a conceptual Therapeutic Village was notably introduced in the 1950s. The campus provided many jobs in the local economy, those not living nearby in Bearden rode the Lyons View Streetcar west along Lyons View Pike (then Lowe’s Ferry Pike) to the hospital entrance.
A memorable event occurred in January, 1972, when country music star Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, and Carl Perkins played a special concert for the patients.
The mental institution finally closed in 2013, but the property had served a dual use since 1995 when the first in a series of walking trails opened to the public.
The redbrick administration building that sits atop of the hill looking over the park was originally the central portion of a much larger structure containing hospital wards and dormitories. Behind it was a separate facility for black patients. Numerous other buildings have since been demolished.
The existing administrative building now provides offices for the Lakeshore Park Conservancy (which manages the park) and the City’s Parks and Recreation department. Marble Hall, originally a 1960s chapel, now located in the lower fields, serves as an attractive events pavilion.
Lakeshore Park is located at 6410 S Northshore Dr. Learn more at http://lakeshoreparkknoxville.org/