On April 20, 1881, Mayor Feramorz Little and the Salt Lake City Council authorized the purchase of 110 acres at the southeast edge of the city from the estate of Brigham Young for the purpose of establishing a grand city park. The purchase price of $27,500 (about $665,000 adjusted for inflation) was to be financed by the sale of city-owned land near Warm Springs.
Plans were immediately put into place to formally open the new park on July 4th 1881 in celebration of the country’s 105th anniversary. To further commemorate the Fourth of July holiday the new park was named Liberty Park.
The land now known as Liberty Park was originally owned by Isaac Chase who established a farm and mill (many structures and monuments of which, including Liberty Pond, are still present within the park). Because of the mill and the large trees on the farm, it was locally known as Forest Park, the Locust Patch and the Mill Farm. In 1854 Brigham Young became a partner with Isaac Chase and then in 1860 the farm and mill were fully acquired by Brigham Young and the mill was then more commonly known as the Lower B. Y. Mill.
After Salt Lake City purchased the land for Liberty Park, a committee to plan the opening ceremonies was soon established. Plans to officially open the park on July 4th applied the “liberty” theme and included singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Our Flag is There” by a choir, reading of the Declaration of Independence, a brass band playing “Yankee Doodle” and “Red, White and Blue,” as well as several speeches. In addition, a variety of races and sports with prizes were planned including a wheelbarrow race, climbing the greasy pole, three legged race, football match, greasy pig race, rope pulling, and many others.
Unfortunately, just a day before the official opening of Liberty Park, word was received that United States President James A. Garfield had been shot. As the Salt Lake Herald reported, “a day for rejoicing [was] changed to a day of mourning.” The Independence Day and opening celebrations at Liberty Park were cancelled. President Garfield lingered for several months finally dying from his wound and infection on September 19, 1881.
The assassination of President Garfield delayed the opening of Liberty Park- for nearly a year. Although the July 4th 1881 opening ceremonies were cancelled, Liberty Park was still utilized as a city park until the opening ceremony was rescheduled the following year.
Salt Lake City decided that after nearly a year of waiting to dedicate Liberty Park, it should take place on the 107th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill: Saturday June 17, 1882. On that day, a procession was led by Mayor William Jennings from City Hall (City and County Building) to Liberty Park. Speeches were given congratulating the City and patriotic music was played by the Camp Douglas band. After Mayor Jennings officially opened the park to the public the procession of honored dignities returned to City Hall.
Liberty Park had been officially dedicated and opened to the public on June 17, 1882, nearly a year after the original July 4, 1881 planned ceremony.