Like many of Los Angeles' first public parks, Eastlake (now Lincoln) Park began as unwanted land: a fifty-acre site rejected by a railroad and given to the city for free. But like its crosstown rival, Westlake (now MacArthur) Park, Eastlake soon grew into one of the city's most popular outdoor retreats.
Located along an old wagon road to the San Gabriel Mission, the land that eventually became Lincoln Park might never have become a public space were it not for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The corporation had acquired the land as a site for its maintenance shops in 1874, transferred by the city of Los Angeles to the railroad as a sort of ransom. (The railroad was then extending its transcontinental line to Southern California and had threatened to bypass Los Angeles if the city did not pay $610,000 in fees and in-kind contributions, including land for its rail shops.)
But the railroad never located its facilities there. Perhaps it thought the land unsuitable; the bed of one of L.A.'s lost streams, the Arroyo de las Pasas, crossed the site on its path from the Monterey Hills to the Los Angeles River, rendering the ground marshy in places.