Shawnee Park is a park in Louisville, Kentucky. It was created by Frederick Law Olmsted, who made 18 of the city's 123 public parks. Along with the rest of the city's Olmsted-designed park system, Shawnee Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Shawnee Park was first planned in 1890 to be one of the free flagship parks in Louisville's new park system. All three were found on the geographic edges of the city. In Shawnee's case, it was the western edge bordering the Ohio River. The land at the time was still mostly used for truck farms, but it was clear residential development was imminent even without the park. Shawnee was the slowest of the parks to create, as much of the land was already owned by investors who thought they could increase the sale price by holding out.
The city had to force owners to sell the properties to obtain the land for the park, and won the case in 1895. In 1896, the city started to create access to the park, another area in which Shawnee was behind the other two parks. River Park Drive was laid out in 1899, but the Broadway entrance remained unfinished until 1914.
The Olmsted firm advised the city not to build a golf course at Shawnee Park due to the "grave danger to visitors in the park and especially the children" but demand was such that the course was built anyway in 1927.
All three parks had the intended effect of spurring residential development near them. The interest was so great that developers found themselves promoting the parks rather than their own developments, as the highest prices would exist for the park perceived to be best. Dozens of subdivisions were built near Shawnee Park, and the neighborhood itself came to be called Shawnee.
Shawnee Park allowed access only to whites from 1924 to 1954, although park officials and police had a de facto policy of not allowing blacks access to the park for some years prior to that. The only park blacks were allowed access to was nearby Chickasaw Park, which many people entered by traveling through Shawnee.
Although now overshadowed by the Louisville Waterfront Park, Shawnee boasts an expansive Great Lawn which is very useful for formal gatherings. The Great Lawn, the principal feature of the park, is enclosed by plantings and a circular drive that is lined with trees.
Louisville's Riverwalk Trail, which passes through Shawnee Park, extends across Louisville's waterfront, which is an extensive, mostly flat pedestrian pathway. The one-way distance between the Belvedere and Shawnee Park is 6.2 miles.
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