Did You Know: Phoenix Park Is Over 100 Years Old

September 13, 2013

Did You Know Phoenix has a park that is more than 100 years old? It’s located near the city’s downtown area.

park A sign welcomes visitors to Eastlake Park. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)

Over the years this Phoenix park has hosted civil rights marches and rallies. It is considered the center of the city’s historic African American community. Did you know Eastlake Park is the oldest park in the city of Phoenix?

“Yes, that’s true. It was actually established around 1890 by Moses Sherman who was the father of the Phoenix Railway system,” said Kevin Weight with the city's Historic Preservation Office.

“And it was established as a pleasure ground, if you will, for people who rode the end of the railway. They could go to the end of the line which was essentially 16th Street and Jefferson,” Weight said.

The park was a private property with a small lake. In 1914, the city of Phoenix acquired the land and named it Eastlake Park.

Eastlake has a long history. In 1911, Booker T. Washington came here to give a speech. Juneteenth, the event that marks the anniversary of African Americans in Texas learning slaves had been emancipated, has been celebrated here since 1921.

In the 1930s, the park was segregated and set aside specifically for the black community. In turn, many civil rights events took place here in the 1940s.

“Eastlake Park is the center, I think, of this community,” said Calvin Goode, a former Phoenix councilman who represented the neighborhood more than two decades and has lived there for 60 years.  “From the railroad tracks to Van Buren we’re certainly still evolving, as an upgrading of our neighborhood.”

Eastlake Park has gone through some extensive renovations recently. The swimming pool from the 1930s, the band shell from the 1940s and the gymnasium from the 1950s have all been restored. A baseball diamond, a children’s playground area and a memorial commemorating the moments in the park’s history have been added.

Oh, and Eastlake Park is home to two alligators. There is a legend the reptiles lived in the lake that once existed here 100 years ago. So, to honor the legend, the city installed two life-size statues on the playground.

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