History of Ferry Park
Tacoma's first park was Ferry Park at South 14th and Cushman. This tiny park, just a little over one-half acre, was donated by C.P. and Evelyn Ferry on May 14, 1883. Colonel Ferry platted the C.P. Ferry Addition to the city and set aside this piece of land for a park. He wanted to show the new and growing City of Tacoma how the European custom of small parks scattered throughout the residence districts could add its charm and beauty.
In 1902 the Tacoma Daily Ledger reported that Colonel Ferry ordered five pieces of handsome statuary for Ferry Park. He sent a draft to Brussels with an order for the purchase of two Sphinx, two Griffins, and a large piece for the center of the park of the "Lioness and Her Cubs." The Sphinx and Griffins were to be placed at the two entrances of the park.
These statues were installed in the park as planned but some in the neighborhood did not approve of the subject matter so they were removed by the Park District sometime in the late 1920s. A 1928 article in the Tacoma Daily Ledger bemoaned the loss of the statues.
"Art for art's sake is all right in Greenwich Village or Paris but art in Tacoma should be discreetly modest if it is to be exposed to public view. Because residents near Ferry Park reasoned in such fashion, two statues, one a lioness and two cubs, the other a sphinx, have been relegated to a dump way up behind the work shops at Point Defiance Park where visitors seldom penetrate.…..Of course, being stone, they maintain the attitudes into which they were chiseled many years ago. The lioness glares at an unseen danger threatening her cubs and the sphinx lady, after the manner of all sphinxes, just stares. And maybe they are just as happy as in the days when they presided over Ferry Park with youngsters playing hide and seek through the surrounding shrubbery, but they don't look it. ….It must be awfully tough on a statue to be banned from public gaze…..And it's quite true, of course, that it must have been meal time when the artist sculpted the lioness and her cubs, for one of the youngsters reposes in an informal attitude of perpetual feeding. But that's entirely natural, isn't it?"
No seems to know what ever happened to these statutes after they were taken to the maintenance yard which was located at the Point Defiance Zoo. Perhaps when the maintenance yard was moved from the zoo area to its present location they were simply disposed of. Do you know where they went?
Even with the statues gone, Ferry Park was the site of another first – the first organized playground program during the summer months beginning in the 1920s. In 1928 a field house was built and equipment purchased thanks to a $2,000 donation from the Kiwanis Club.
By the 1940s, the Park District decided to remove the existing play equipment due to "some controversy in the neighborhood". Apparently, people living directly across from the park did not want play equipment. They simply wanted a pretty grass covered park area so the Park District removed the play equipment and cut down all the trees. This situation didn't last long as neighborhood children protested with a parade including homemade banners and slogans such as, "Keep us off the Streets", "We have no Place to Play", and "We Want a Park and Playground". Play equipment was reinstalled in the park and the grounds cleared of tree stumps and debris.
Do you or any of your family members have any pictures of Ferry Park? Even though this is the oldest park in the city, we can find only a very few photographs of it. It would be especially exciting to locate pictures of the statues when they were in the park. If you have any photos you would be willing to share or know of anyone we should be contacting about pictures please contact Melissa McGinnis – (253) 305-1003.
IMPROVEMENTS MADE TO THE PARK
Improvements completed in the park in 2009 include a kiosk to house utilities with interpretive signage describing the history of Ferry Park, ornamental steel fence, perimeter sidewalk, gravel paths, picnic tables, park benches, small seating wall/benches, play equipment and park sign.