One of Fort Wayne’s first public parks, Swinney Park was established in 1869 when Colonel Thomas W. Swinney leased his property to the city. Upon his death in 1875, the park was bequeathed to the city with the stipulation that the Swinney family could remain on the property as long as they lived. The park became an integral part of George Kessler’s Park and Boulevard Plan from 1912, serving as both a western gateway to the city and a northern terminus anchor along the St. Mary’s River.
In 1916 Arthur Shurcliff incorporated Swinney Park within a larger plan to extend a scenic parkway (now called West Jefferson Boulevard) westward from downtown Fort Wayne to developing automobile suburbs, including Wildwood Park, which Shurcliff designed that same year.
The park is roughly divided in half by the St. Mary’s River. The eastern 46 acres are entirely in the floodplain, while the remaining 48 acres consist of both floodplain and higher ground. Within the park are a small man-made lake, recently rehabilitated, and an extensive Japanese Rock Garden begun in 1928 by Jaenicke and extended by the Civil Works Administration in 1933, remnants of which still exist today.