One of the goals of the Fort Worth Park Superintendent Clarke (1921-1929) was the creation of a large park for the city’s African American community. To achieve that goal, the city acquired 60.24 acres along the north side of East Belknap Street from L. L. Hawes for $15,662.40 in 1926. This tract was just north of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Mason, which was the largest fraternal hall for African Americans in the United States at the time of its construction (1924). The park was roughly bordered by Belknap Street on the south, the Trinity River on the east, Pharr Street on the north, and what is now Gilven Street on the west. It reputedly received its name from the wealth of greens which grew on the site. According to a newspaper article from 1929, a concrete bandstand had been erected in the park by that date and plans were then in place to convert it to a shelter, similar to those found in Capps and Hillside parks. The park had walks and playground equipment in place. The landscape architecture firm of Hare and Hare of Kansas City had created a landscape plan for the park but its implementation had been delayed because of a lack of watering facilities. That same newspaper article projected that Greenway would become the most popular park among those designated for African Americans because of its size and the projected improvements. Superintendent Adams’ annual report for 1930 indicated by that date the park had a lighting system, toilets, shelter house, play equipment, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, outdoor ovens, and picnic tables.
Several improvements were made to the park between January 1940 and May 1941 through the WPA. These included the construction of a shelter and restrooms, twelve picnic tables, one baseball diamond, the installation of two floodlights, waterlines, sidewalks, two tennis courts, parking areas, graveling roads, a drinking fountain, steps, concrete culvert, playground equipment and general landscaping.
Coinciding with these improvements, a group of white citizens in the adjacent Riverside area of the city voiced objection to the use of the park by African Americans and according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram “were determined to have the negro park removed.” Members of the Negro Allied Council were just as determined to keep the park for the African American community and numerous white citizens telephoned the park department to express their opposition to the park’s change of use. The matter eventually died down and Greenway remained a “black park” through the era of segregation.
For many years, Greenway Park was the center of Juneteenth celebrations in Fort Worth. Juneteenth commemorates the day that slaves in Texas first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, June 19, 1865. Typically, additional picnic tables and benches would be installed in Greenway to accommodate the large crowds. In 1951, Juneteenth events at the park included a parade, singing of spirituals, a baseball game, boxing, a picnic, and a dance. Also included was the crowning of a king and queen of the festival. That year, it was estimated that five thousand people attended the festivities in the park which were sponsored by the Crime Prevention Society.
As early as 1951, it was known that the proposed North-South Freeway (today’s I-35) was slated to run through the middle of the park and there were thoughts that the park would be abandoned. At that time, the park board was contemplating allowing the Organized Reserve Corps to build an armory on ten acres on the west side of the park but this proposal did not come to fruition. In 1958, the City Council approved the sale of twenty acres to the Texas Department of Highways for $158,200 for the construction of the North-South Freeway.
Today, the park contains approximately sixteen acres and is roughly bounded by E. Belknap Street and the northbound access road to I-35W on its south and west, Pharr Street on the north and the Trinity River on the east. In 2000, the City Council authorized the use of Community Development Block Grant funds for park improvements and the development of a softball field. Playground improvements were made in 2004 with funding through a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Urban Park and Recreation Recovery and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Community Development Block Grant funds and road and parking improvements were initiated in 2006.