The East Central neighborhood, a densely African American populated area was established in the 1890s and stands as one of the earliest streetcar neighborhoods in the region. It primarily housed working-class laborers from various industries, such as mining, logging, construction, timber, and the railroad, fostering a diverse community inclusive of Black, Italian, and Japanese residents.
A significant contribution to the neighborhood came from F. Lewis Clark, a prosperous mining entrepreneur, who generously donated 21 acres of land to the city in 1897 for the establishment of a public park. Following the residents petition, the park was officially named Liberty Park in 1898.
The original design for Liberty Park was devised by Kirtland Cutter and Pacific Northwest, subsequently refined and modified by the esteemed John Olmstead of Olmstead Brothers in 1908. His masterful plan encompassed tree planting, children's play areas, a tennis court, and a stone pergola with octagon shelters, offering picturesque views of the serene lake. This design was meticulously executed and completed in 1913, providing the neighborhood with an essential and cherished focal point.
However, after World War I, economic hardships affected the neighborhood, aggravated by the implementation of the redlining policy, which hindered homeowners from purchasing properties or undertaking necessary repairs. As a result, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) designated the area with a yellow mark, signifying a "definitely declining" status. By 1960, East Central had predominantly become a Black community, facing significant economic challenges and ranking as the city's most impoverished area.
Another major turning point in the neighborhood's history occurred in 1956 when the Federal Highways Act proposed the construction of Interstate 90, which traversed through Liberty Park. It resulted in disconnect and displacement of the population. This development claimed 18 out of the 21 acres of the park's land, resulting in the demolition of over a thousand homes, businesses, churches, and even a synagogue.
In the aftermath of this project's completion, John Byrne of the East Side Commercial Club expressed his sentiment: "I think we have just finished one of the saddest funerals I have ever attended. We have buried the East End." Presently, the ruins of the Old Park stand as bitter reminders of the neighborhood's bygone era.