If you’ve been in Vancouver for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard about or seen events happening at Esther Short Park. Conveniently located in the heart of the city, Esther Short Park is the “go-to” place for concerts, The Farmer’s Market, and festivals. It’s the oldest public square in the state of Washington and it’s a true gem! It was established in 1853 and its five acres includes a lovely rose garden, a large children’s playground, a 69-foot bell/clock tower, the historic Slocum House, a large green space and stage, and a large fountain system that is popular with kids in the warm summer months.
Who was Esther Short?
Esther Short lived in Vancouver with her husband Amos & their 10 kids. They “jumped a claim” near the present-day downtown area of Vancouver – the land was part of a larger area of land that was owned by American Henry Williamson. When he left for California, he left his caretaker David Gardner in charge of the land. Gardner and Amos Short began arguing over the land and Short killed Gardner, but was later acquitted of any crime. Short became a judge and claimed the disputed land for himself, but shortly after that died in a shipwreck on his way back from San Francisco. Esther Short filed paperwork to claim the land and eventually got part of the land (present-day Esther Short Park). She also owned land that is now part of the Port of Vancouver.
In the 1990s, the downtown area in general was on the decline and Esther Short Park was known for being a home to transients. It was messy and not maintained, and there was a lot of drug activity that was going on in the park. The crime rate was high there and there were a lot of 911 calls that originated from the park. However, George Propstra saw potential for the park. He donated $2 million to help improve it, then donated $1.3 million to build the bell tower. In addition, when Royce Pollard began work as the mayor of Vancouver in 1996, part of his city revitalization project included a revamp of Esther Short. The park received $5.67 million in direct aid and $220 million of capital funding. This money allowed for redevelopment of the park and the surrounding area and Pollard began hosting a series of events that showed that the park was now a great area to bring families. It took a while to rebrand the park’s image, but in time, it has been transformed into a great public area. In 2013, it was even named as one of the nation’s “10 great public spaces” by the American Planning Association.
Have you been to Esther Short lately? If not, check it out! The park is a busy place! Families and individuals from all parts of Vancouver frequent the space – whether it’s just for a simple picnic on the green space or for gathering locally grown fruits and veggies at the weekly Farmer’s Market.