When William J. Gordon died in 1892, he donated the land that became known as Gordon Park to the City of Cleveland under the condition that it would forever remain a free, public park. By the time of his death, Gordon, who made his fortune in the wholesale grocery and iron ore businesses, had accumulated some 122 acres of land along the shoreline near the spot where the Doan Brook enters Lake Erie. Gordon Park opened to the public in 1893 and quickly became a recreational destination for Clevelanders living on the east side. A grand bathhouse catered to the multitudes who crowded onto the park's beach, and the city also provided facilities for boaters, fishermen, and picnickers. Meanwhile, further inland, south of the beach, wooded areas and formal gardens provided quiet retreats for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere.
In the decades after World War II, however, Gordon Park began to decline. Water pollution affected all of the city's lakefront parks and Gordon Park was no exception. Swimming in particular became increasingly unsafe. Moreover, the late-1960s construction of a straighter route for I-90 (an upgrade of the Memorial Shoreway that the Works Progress Administration had built from East 9th Street to Gordon Park in the late 1930s) literally split the park in two, separating its lakefront areas from those further inland. Meanwhile, Doan Brook was culverted, and the area directly to the east of the park (Dike 14) became a dredge disposal site.
Lake Erie may not have gone anywhere, but it is hard to imagine that William J. Gordon would recognize his 122-acre gift to Cleveland if he could see it today.