Sculpted Landscapes: Art & Place in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, 1916-2006, written by Mark T. Tebeau, Cleveland State University

Sculpted Landscapes: Art & Place in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, 1916-2006, written by Mark T. Tebeau, Cleveland State University

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Sculpted Gardens and Terraced Landscapes:

Art & Place in Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, 1916-2006

Mark Tebeau

Cleveland State University 

The long-dormant Cleveland Cultural Gardens experienced a dramatic rebirth in October 2006, with the unveiling of 10-foot memorial to Mahatma Gandhi along Martin Luther King Boulevard and a post-modern sculptural silhouette that symbolically connected Cleveland’s Latvian community with their home nation. For the first time in more than 20 years, Cleveland residents had developed new Cultural Gardens to express their identity. To some, the additions signified the rejuvenation of the internationally-unique gardens. Others took a more measured view, recognizing the long struggle to keep the Gardens’ “cultural harvest from dying on the vine.” Cleveland Plain-Dealer columnist Phillip Morris contrasted the Indian Garden’s vitality with the American Colonial Garden, located just across Martin Luther King Boulevard, “The American Colonial Garden simply wept. Lincoln is missing from the park, as are John Jay and Mark Twain. … Only Booker T. Washington, the noted author and educator, stands sentry. But he looks tired. The base of his bust is cracked and his pedestal is tilting. It seems only a matter of time before wind, vandals, or dogs send him rolling down onto Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.” In simultaneously highlighting revitalization and decay, Morris captured the paradoxical relation between the Cultural Gardens as art and as a distinctive place. How did the Cultural Gardens become so contradictory, how did they come to represent hope and despair? And, perhaps more pointedly, why plant a new garden amidst ruins?[1]

Cleveland’s gardeners have faced a struggle no different from others engaged in such monumental activities. As Viennese novelist Robert Musil wrote, “There is nothing in the world as invisible as monuments. Doubtless they have been erected to be seen—event to attract attention; yet at the same time something has impregnated them against attention.”[2] Writing shortly afterwards Lewis Mumford argued that monuments and memorials were not “modern,” and that “stone gives a false sense of continuity and a deceptive assurance of life.”[3] Nonetheless, public memorials continue to be built. Throughout the world people—such as the immigrant Indian community in Cleveland—remain undaunted by this Sisyphusian process, hoping to build memorials that survive the ravages of time.[4]  Of course the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are not typical memorials. They eschew easy categorization because of their unusual combination of artistic elements: landscape architecture, sculptural memorials, and organic material. This hybrid nature is brought into sharper relief by the gardeners’ attempts to create a transcendent place, an artistic landscape physically in Cleveland that also embodied international peace and brotherhood. It is precisely this interplay between art and place that has given the Gardens their historic and paradoxical character. 

Sculpture plays an important role in defining the character of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and the antecedents for this essay can be found in the rich literature on monuments and commemoration. Scholars, especially those studying historical memory, have used monuments as a lens through which to explore larger themes, revealing changing community values, power relations, institutions, and broad historical themes, such as gender, race, and war.[5] Often monuments take on new meanings and identities over time, evident in the history of the Lincoln Memorial or in the holocaust memorials, where James Young has developed a biographical approach to the study of monuments.[6] Such a life-course approach recommends itself to studying the Cultural Gardens because they are still actively being actively being built and rebuilt. Defining the gardens by any single moment would mischaracterize their history. It also would minimize the degree to which memorials live both in place and time, developing new meaning as they age, mature, and die.

Moreover, the Cultural Gardens were conceived as living “memory theaters,” to borrow a phrase from recent studies in the history of landscape architecture and gardens. According to John Dixon Hunt, gardens stand in a liminal space, mediating between commemoration of the dead and the aspirations of the living; they look backward in elegy to a lost perfection and inscribe spaces with the sacredness of nature. As invented traditions, gardens also can express collective identity and national prerogatives, encoding ideals in a variety of forms—stones, statues, fountains, inscriptions, and plantings. In this respect, gardens are like monuments; they demand attention to the interaction between people and landscape. A garden’s meanings and relevance depend on a knowledgeable audience educated in its codes, which can be “strung together into an icongraphical program or narrative.” Finally, gardens are dynamic, changing with the seasons and with human cultivation and/or inattention. Not only does this environmental logic shape garden lifecycles but also it ties gardens to particular places and geographic locales.[7]  

Thus the Cleveland Cultural Gardens offer a unique perspective from which to explore the relation between art and place. How did the development of these sculptural gardens intersect with changes in Cleveland, both in terms of its physical environment and social history? To what degree did these living works of art serve as metaphors for place in Cleveland, the United States, and even among international audiences? How did such symbolism develop in a particular historical moment and change over time? How did demographic factors at play during the twentieth century matter in the construction and reconstruction of these gardens as memory theaters? How did the urban processes that reshaped cities in the twentieth century shape the gardens as places and works of art? And, finally, what does the history of the Cultural Gardens tell us about the relation between art and place and the ability of art to define place into the twenty-first century?

The Cultural Gardens grew in Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park, which is located in the lower portion of the Doan Brook Watershed. Located six miles east of the Cuyahoga River and perpendicular to Lake Erie, the steep-sloped, 7.5-square mile brook is one of the city’s many Northward flowing watersheds, beginning its journey from the “heights” that surround the low-lying land on which much of Cleveland sits. Defined first by the edges of a large inland lake and sculpted by receding glaciers, the watershed was altered by European settlement beginning in the nineteenth century.  The upper portion of the watershed was first shaped by Shakers who dammed the Brook to power their early manufactories, creating a series of still extant lakes around which real-estate developers later built early garden suburbs, such as Shaker Heights. In contrast, as settlement encroached on the lower watershed, engineers carved a more definitive path in stone, gradually drying out low-lying wetland and pushing a lengthy stretch of the Brook into underground culverts.[8]

Doan Brook became part of urban planners desire to beautify Cleveland in 1897, when John Rockefeller bequeathed 276-acres in the lower watershed to the city for a city park. Designed by a protégé of Frederick Law Olmstead, Rockefeller Park was emblematic of an era of urban parks development, city beautification, and cultural uplift. City beautiful ideals also influenced the principle leaders of the Cultural Gardens, and city beautiful flourishes—including Beaux Arts ornament and statuary—became a prevailing motif of the Gardens, shifting it away from the more naturalist impulses of Olmstead-inspired park designers toward the more didactic and ceremonial character of nineteenth-century rural cemeteries.[9] 

            In 1916, Leo Weidenthal, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and Shakespeare devotee, planted the first seeds of the Cultural Gardens when he inaugurated a Shakespearean Garden as a way of elevating cultural life in Cleveland. Drawing upon the global commemoration of the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death, Weidenthal’s efforts referenced broader attitudes about the ascendancy of Anglo-Saxon racial identity, an outpouring of sympathy for Britain’s entry into World War I, and the resurgence of centenary celebrations as vehicles for asserting collective identity.[10] Such centenary celebrations—commemorations tied to the 100-year anniversary of the births, deaths, and other moments in the lives of artistic and cultural figures—were part of the broad process of inventing national identity, of the development of a historical consciousness in Western societies, and economic development through fostering tourism and culture.[11]

Cleveland’s commemoration featured the creation of a formal garden landscape that became a living embodiment of Shakespeare’s central place in Western civilization. In an elaborated opening ceremony, Weidenthal unveiled a sculpture of Shakespeare. He invited film icon Ethel Barrymore, Shakespearean actress Julia Marlowe, and other notables, to plant Hawthorne, Elm, and English Oak trees, as well as flowers in the Victorian tradition of using plants Shakespeare’s writings in gardens.[12]  Moreover, in a ritual replicated in Shakespeare gardens planted elsewhere during the tercentenary, Weidenthal created a sacred space by using organic materials that were literal embodiments of the bard, such a vine taken from the “traditional tomb of Juliet in Verona, Italy” and Sycamore Maples from the Great Birnam Woods of Scotland (the setting for Macbeth).  In addition, the program reached out to nearby Slovenian and Polish immigrant public schoolchildren, offering cultural uplift. Though Weidenthal fondly recalled the opening of the garden, he nonetheless recalled that, “standing alone (the Shakespeare Garden) failed to present the entire picture of the cultural backgrounds of Cleveland’s citizens.”[13]

As Cleveland celebrated Shakespeare, World War I raged in Europe, causing reverberations that would reshape Rockefeller Park and influence the development of the Cultural Gardens. Among the most notable changes associated with the War were the cessation of European immigration followed by the enactment of anti-immigrant legislation, increased industrial production, and the beginnings of the great migration of African Americans into Northern industrial cities like Cleveland. Additionally, in cities and towns throughout America, war memorials sprung up, giving new shape to public squares, plazas, and parks. In Cleveland, a memorial to World War I was planted in Rockefeller Park along the main boulevard that bisected the park, running parallel to Doan Brook. A promenade for carriages and locally-made custom automobiles, the boulevard became known as Liberty Boulevard in 1919. The city planted 830 Oak trees, stretching for over seven miles into the suburbs, each with bronze medallions at their base bearing the name of a Clevelander who had died in the conflict. The trees have remained testaments to the war, although over time, the plaques have disappeared, removed by vandals or consumed by the tree’s growing roots.[14]

In 1926, Weidenthal—by then the editor of the local weekly Jewish Independent—joined local ethnic leaders Charles Wolfram and Jennie Zwick to inaugurate the Cleveland Cultural Gardens League.  Wolfram and Zwick brought represented progressive-era civic organizations, the Civic Progress League and American Equity League, each with ties to the city’s immigrant communities, including newly formed inter-ethnic alliances forged by a Mayor’s unity commission during World War I.  The resulting Cultural Gardens League (CGL) imagined an organization and a landscape that would embody and contain the pluralistic cultures of the Cleveland, then one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, by drawing those communities together in common purpose.[15] They sought to “promote better understanding” by developing monuments to cultural heroes in formally landscaped gardens. The mission statement declared that the CGL advanced “the cause of human brotherhood and democracy by encouraging and developing sympathetic understanding.” The CGL sought to “perpetuate” the contributions “made to the advancement of civilization and the course of Peace by the cultures of these several groups” and in so doing “to enrich the lives of all American citizens.” Moreover, the organization’s leadership wanted to create a model that would be a beacon beyond the city, a mini “League of Nations” as many would later claim. They advocated a notion of “peace and brotherhood” that transcended Cleveland, providing a model for international cooperation.[16]

The organization’s founders further engaged debates about immigration and culture that raged in the 1920s, recommending the Gardens as an alternative to prevailing attitudes. Weidenthal, in particular, emphasized diversity as a key element of the Gardens, proposing a “multicultural” vision of America some 50 years before the concept would gain wider currency.  In the official history of the Gardens, Weidenthal articulated a philosophy of “one out of many.” He argued that “True cultures impose no barriers of race or creed. In fact, their influence is toward mutual understanding and wider sympathy.” [17] Weidenthal rejected the melting pot notion first articulated in 1908 by Israel Zangwill in his play of the same title. In this repudiation, Weidenthal and his colleagues offered a corrective to the National Origins Act, which had established quotas for immigrants and was based in Eugenics. Ironically, although Weidenthal rejected the melting pot, he embraced Zangwill’s celebration (appearing in later writings) of Shakespeare as a civilizing force. Moreover, Wolfram and Weidenthal provided a model that implicitly argued against both working-class and mass culture. By asking their neighbors to honor ethnic culture through centenary celebrations, the League’s founders rooted the Gardens squarely in elite culture. Moreover, when the Garden’s founders invited the city’s ethnic leaders to become delegates of the CGL, they further emphasized elite culture. As with the city beautiful movement, high culture became an agent of change—a way to civilize working-class immigrants but also to alter prevailing nativist sentiments. The Slovak Garden Delegation’s statement of purpose revealed the multiple audiences to which the gardeners spoke, “(the Garden is) “a vivid testimonial of our national maturity and education, not only to native Americans and other nationality groups, but to our offspring, to whom we desire to leave this beautiful heritage.”[18]  

The League built an organizational structure that balanced brotherhood against difference, with care to accentuate and promote diversity—of perspective, ethnic origin, and vision. The federated institutional structure of the Cultural Gardens League reflected Weidenthal’s “one out of many” approach. The CGL selected delegations from leading cultural organizations, usually a church or association, from each of the city’s ethnic communities. Each delegation sent two representatives to serve on a board that elected officers charged with administering the Gardens. The CGL held authority over designs and choice of sculpture proposed by delegations, which were charged with developing proposals for gardens, then funding and maintaining those spaces. The City Parks Department and Planning Commission also had an impact on garden plans, because this organization and its landscape architects received and judged every proposal and formal architectural drawing that were submitted.[19] In 1936, after the Works Progress Administration began funding the gardens, the Park Department’s oversight increased.[20]

Weidenthal’s plan for a “panorama” of gardens that would “stand as a symbol of democracy and brotherhood” flourished in the fertile demographic conditions of the nation’s fifth largest city.  In 1920, more than 30 percent of the city’s population had been born outside the United States; only New York City and Boston had a higher proportion of foreign-born residents. A decade later, over 60 percent of the population was foreign born or had at least one foreign-born parent. Not only was Cleveland diverse, but also it was one of the world’s most diverse industrial region during this period; its wealth grew with its industry which grew at a blistering pace of 10 percent yearly in the twenty years preceding the Depression. Clevelanders manufactured agricultural products, textiles, shipbuilding, automobiles, steel, chemicals, machine tools, electrical equipment, and “consumer durables”.[21]  

Energized by the city’s diversity and its economic well-being, the Gardens bloomed. In 1927, Cleveland City Council designated the section of Rockefeller Park where the Shakespeare Garden sat as “Poet’s Corner” and further subdivided it into several sections, the Shakespeare Garden, a bowl-shaped Shakespeare Theater (carved into a hillside) and the Hebrew Garden.  In 1930, the experiment was codified by the Council, which formally established the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and authorized German, Slovak, Italian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian Gardens. By 1934, the city had approved the addition of Hungarian, Polish, Czech, and Yugoslav Gardens, and in 1938, it set aside space for Rusin, Grecian, Syrian, American (Colonial), Irish, and American Legion Peace Gardens.[22] 

The gardens were built with money from many sources. Local community financing came from businesses, institutions, and churches as well as through individual donations and small fund-raising events. International governments donated statues and money. For example, the Italian Garden League toured Italy seeking funding, eventually securing support from Mussolini, and the Greek government donated sculpture to the project. Yet, ironically, economic depression may have provided the biggest boost as the federal government eventually bore a substantial portion of the cost of the gardens. As early as 1935, Cleveland began endorsing requests to the Works Progress Administration for garden construction. Over the course of the 1930s, the WPA funded labor and materials in building the chain. The $600,000 financed by the WPA amounted to about half of the total expenditures between 1926 and 1950.[23]

In advancing their particular understanding of their communities’ identities, garden delegates deployed organic and inorganic materials laden with both symbolic meaning but also possessing literal value as a relic of national identity. With its 1926 inauguration the Hebrew Garden provided other cultural gardeners with a reference point for how to integrate plant materials into a garden design.  Dedicated “to Israel’s singers, sages, and dreamers of dreams,” the Garden represented the cultural accomplishment of Jews and promoted cultural Zionism. National and international civic and political leaders participated in opening ceremonies, planning botanical materials that connected the Garden to a Jewish Homeland. For example, in 1926, Hebrew-language poet Chaim Bialik, who was traveling the United States promoting Zionism, planted three “Cedars of Lebanon” in the Garden. One year later, Chaim Weizman, then President of the World Zionist Organization and later President of Israel, repeated the ritual, planting three additional Cedars of Lebanon. Accompanied on the dais by other national and international figures, as well as by prominent local Jewish leaders, Bialik and Weizman had literally grounded the Hebrew Garden’s statement of identity to the Jewish community’s claim to land in the Middle East.[24]  Other gardens, too, planted seeds, trees, or flowers (sometimes directly brought) from their homelands as a way to express communal identity.[25]


In addition to using plants, cultural gardeners used artifacts and architectural relics to make the gardens sacred.  In the Italian Garden, for instance, the bust of Virgil stood on a column from the Roman forum that, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, was made of Travertine stone “of which most Roman buildings are made.” Also there was a granite boulder from Monte Grappa in Italy that was donated by the Italian Veterans of Cleveland. The eighteen-foot ornamental iron gate that presides of the Hungarian Garden’s main entrance was a wrought-iron copy of a traditional “Szekely Kapus”—a hand-painted and colored wood gate typical of Eastern Hungary from where many of the region’s Hungarian immigrants had migrated. By forging the gate in iron, the Hungarian delegation interpreted their past using the local vernacular, drawing upon craftsmen from Cleveland’s thriving steel and iron industries.[26]


Cleveland’s skilled craft workers, architects, and artists built the Gardens into significant artistic accomplishments.  The Gardens were shaped by some of the nation’s leading landscape architects, including James Lister a graduate of Cornell and fellow in the American Academy of Rome, who influenced the Gardens from his position on the City Planning Commission. Likewise Amos Mazzolini sculpted busts for the Polish Garden before embarking on a long career as an artist at Ohio’s Antioch College, where he opened an art foundry. Born in Cleveland to immigrant parents, Frank Jirouch attended the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited at the Salon Francaise in Paris before returning to Cleveland and sculpting as many as a quarter of the busts in the gardens. Renowned cubist Alexander Archipenko sculpted figurative busts of Ukrainian nationalist poets, Taras Schevchenko and Ivan Franko that take a subtly different approach to monumental sculpture than other works in the gardens. Interestingly, Archipenko’s only suggests his more radical interpretive works, which suggests the powerful manner in which the tradition of representative sculpture associated with nineteenth-century centenary commemorations shaped the Gardens.[27]


Most commonly, Gardens used centenary rituals to commemorate cultural figures whose music, writing, religion, and/or political activism had come to embody national revival or who were proponents of statehood—circumventing prohibitions against commemorating political or military leaders. Jonas Basanavicius was a physician and folklorist was the “patriarch of the Lithuanian national Renaissance” and first President of the Lithuanian Republic. Thomas Masaryck was a sociologist who shaped Czech national revival through the first half of the twentieth century; he was elected as first president of Czechoslovakia. Jan Kollar was a Lutheran minister whose poetry was most notable for its significance in resisting Magyarization during the Hungarian dominance of Slovakia. The poetry of Petar Njegos, Ivan Cankar, and Taras Shevchenko defined the national revival among Serbs, Slovenes, and Ukrainians.[28]


The Gardens were also notably influenced by principles of European landscape design, especially Italian Renaissance evident in the frequent use of fountains, pools, steps, and walls.[29]  Like water elements, religious designs shaped many of the gardens. Burton Ashburton Tripp organized the Hebrew Garden upon an expansive brick-laid patio shaped into a Star of David, and A. Donald Gray designed the Irish Garden around a Celtic Cross, composed of turf, slate, and sandstone walks, and sedum-filled lunettes. Irish juniper, yew and white lilac, hawthorn, lavender and wisteria were planted; shamrocks, cowslips, and Shannon Roses bordered the cross. Present in nearly every garden, this celebration of Judeo-Christian tradition stands as one of the most visible unifying themes that drew gardens together, even though ethnic catholic churches were often a point of community conflict among new immigrants.[30]

Curiously, when the CGL carved up the hillsides of Rockefeller Park it created physical, zoned boundaries between Gardens that delineated differences rather than create harmony. As the CGL planned the gardens, it did not seek to unify their physical elements. League delegates spent hours discussing ceremonies but did not consider a connecting pathway or common design elements. Garden delegations worked independently, creating formal designs with well-delineated entrances and exits centered upon a water fountain or monumental features. This gave each space an introspective character, with little or no reference the surrounding complex of gardens. This aspect of the Cultural Gardens is especially telling when judged from above—by an aerial photograph or through landscape drawings.[31]  This omission was apparently first noted and remedied by the City Parks Department whose landscape architect, Harold E. Atkinson, recalled that “as the Cultural Gardens grew and developed, an increasing interest in them resulted in large numbers of visitors, and it soon became apparent that more adequate ingress would be required and that a circulatory path system linking the gardens would be provided.” Although Atkinson finally created a “unification plan” in 1937, the “abundance of masonry” and steep hillsides worked against developing anything more than a “circulatory path.”[32]

Just as physical unity was difficult to create, so was harmony between and among the various nationality groups. Many of the symbolic figures chosen for commemoration in various Gardens represented social and political trends that directly opposed other figures or cultural groups. For example, the Slovaks and Czech celebrated figures that advocated pan-slavism in the face of the Austro-Hungarian empire, including figures like Jan Kollar and Frantisek Palacky. Meanwhile, Serbians, Slovenians, and Croatian, for example, battled relentlessly over the nature of the Yugoslav garden. Although they created shared a space, these groups created three committees to manage the garden, each memorializing separate figures and ceremonies. Moreover, the three groups contested over the individuals to be memorialized in the garden, eliminating a proposed Croatian statue to progressive Catholic Bishop George Strossmayer. The Slovenian Garden delegation feuded internally over who to honor. And, finally, before the Yugoslav Garden was even constructed, a Slovenian statue was stolen, which led to inter- and intra-community recrimination.[33] 

Likewise, the Gardens left open the question of their relation to American national identity. For the Gardens’ founders, the act of establishing and building the gardens symbolized a commitment to America democratic ideals and citizenship, as the city’s “nationality” communities came together, symbolically unifying Cleveland, the nation, and the world. There would be no need, it would seem, to build a distinctly American garden. Indeed, how would an American garden fit into the schema of nationality gardens? Who was an American? Apparently untroubled by such questions the CGL first invited the Cleveland Council Parent Teachers Associations to adopt a garden in 1933. The resulting American Cultural Gardens focused on patriotic expressions by schoolchildren and the celebration of satirist Mark Twain in 1935 and of United States Secretary of State John Hay in 1939. The presence of American patriotism in the Gardens grew increasingly strident when the Veterans of Foreign Wars sponsored an American Legion Peace Garden. Having former soldiers involved would seem to conflict directly with the Garden League’s emphasis on non-political and non-military figures. The Gardens’ official historian, resolved this contradiction by emphasizing that Veterans were “pledged to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses, to promote peace and good will on earth and to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy. These concepts are the embodiment of the spirit and purpose of the Nationality Gardens.” Nonetheless, the new additions undermined the Cultural Gardens’ metaphor for the United States and its constituent parts. [34]

Even so, as they bloomed into a full-fledged artistic landscape, the Cultural Gardens would come to embody contradiction and could be interpreted in multiple frames. It is precisely this balancing of conflict and cooperation that lent the gardens their immediacy. The many elements of the Gardens—architectural design, sculpture, or craft—demonstrated remarkable workmanship and artistry, but each existed within a broader framework. The Gardens were more than the sum of its pieces. They Gardens acquired monumental weight as sacred spaces through accumulating layers of multiple and sometimes contradictory meaning tied to Cleveland as a place with a diverse population. This required balancing conflict—local, national, and international—against the cooperative idiom promoted by the Cultural Gardens League. As a result, the Gardens may have displaced ethnic conflict from elsewhere in the city into a controlled fracas among commemorative statues in Rockefeller Park. This lent Cleveland’s landscape a different sensibility from other American cities, such New York, where communal monuments flourished with less direct references or connection to one another. The Cleveland Cultural Gardens metaphorically contained ethnic and neighborhood conflict within an artistic landscape; they became sites of conversation about ethnic and national identity, how that identity balanced with American identity, and how Clevelanders defined their communities and their city.[35]

By the start of World War II, the gardens had become a vibrant part of the city’s social fabric, with over fifty architectural elements and eighteen gardens. Remarkable numbers of people visited the gardens and attended celebrations. For example, over 60,000 Cleveland residents participated in and attended the dedication of the Hungarian Garden on a sunny July morning in 1938, watching as Cleveland’s Mayor received the garden on behalf of the city. The numbers were staggering, in no small part because the census reported that 23,833 people of direct Hungarian descent lived in Cuyahoga County at that time.  Just months earlier, on a cold and rainy May morning, a crowd that some estimated to be as high as 100,000 people watched the parade the marked the dedication of the Yugoslav Cultural Garden; another 35,000 attended the opening of the American Legion Peace Garden. Leading cultural and political figures nationally and internationally spoke at the Gardens and ceremonies reached thousands more via radio broadcasts transmitted around the globe.[36]

The Gardens had become shrines with international aspirations and reach. Collectively and individually, the Gardens had become a potent symbol drawing attention from international governments. They had, borrowing from the aspirations of the Slovak Garden League, become centers of “national gatherings and celebrations. Here will be placed the busts of our national leaders and heroes. Here also we intend to plant trees and flowers which are characteristic of our homeland, all as a symbol of our love and pride as Slovaks.” We, the delegation reported, “intend to invite and bring our distinguished guests and visitors from Slovakia, for the purpose of planting some tree or shrub as a memento of their visits to this land of freedom and liberty.”[37] In 1935, Guillaume Fatio, a representative of the League of Nations planted an American Elm Tree at the entrance to the Gardens and praised the effort. According to Fatio, “Cleveland’s cultural gardens are accomplishing in their community the same thing that the League of Nations is trying to do for the world.” Elevating the Gardens’ stature, Fatio emphasized the uniqueness of the Gardens as a model. He even took plans and other materials from the Gardens back to the organization’s new Geneva headquarters where, he related, they would be used as a guide for designing the grounds, with 60 garden plots for member nations. Such international interest reveals something about the Gardens’ growing influence and significance in the 1930s. Their ability to transcend Cleveland would be tested by World War II, in much the same way that the League of Nation’s own vitality came into question.[38]

As tensions mounted in Europe, the distance between the Gardens’ mission and commemorations grew more pronounced. For example, the opening ceremony for the Cultural Gardens in 1939 became the site of a political address by an emissary of Roosevelt in support of Britain’s battle against the Germans. At the same event, representatives of 28 nations stepped to a monument of “Peace” and one-by-one, they deposited soil from their home nations, as well as from European battlefields, into a funnel that emptied into a “Crypt of Nations” at the base of the monument. “There is something terribly real about a handful of soil,” wrote Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter Roelif Loveland. On the one hand, the ceremonial placing of dirt made the crypt sacred, using a common technique used to remember war dead. At the same time, embodying national identity in a handful of dirt, though evocative, called forth ideas that contrasted with the Gardens founding ideology. In intermingling soil the Cultural Gardens Federation created an American Garden made up of European homeland that suggested the melting pot vision of American more than it did Weidenthal’s vision of “one out of many.” At the same time, the ceremony suggested another vein of thinking gaining currency at the time: the eugenicist notion that there were organic and biological foundations to identity that were tied to national origins in the most literal fashion.[39]

The bombing of Pearl Harbor two years later exacerbated the challenges facing the Gardens. How exactly does one demonstrate ethnic pride and “Americanism” at the same time? The answer quickly became evident as the League passed a resolution to “discontinue all public celebrations and demonstrations in behalf of our respective nationality gardens for the duration of the war.” As members of the federation debated what it meant to be “patriotic,” they eventually loosened restrictions on holding public events in the gardens but determined that “none but the American flag be displayed on these occasions.”  Flag pins were distributed at ceremonies and the Gardens held a series of “four freedoms festivals.” As patriotism peaked, the Garden League’s restrictions on sculpture became lax. In 1940, eighteen months before Pearl Harbor, Charles Wolfram strongly opposed an effort by the City Parks Department to place a statue to Lincoln within Rockefeller Park, contiguous to the Gardens because inasmuch as it expresses strictly an American Patriotic Historical sentiment with no reference to Nationality Groups it does not fit into the theme and sentiment expressed by the Cultural Gardens.” Yet, not two years later, Wolfram wrote a fellow League delegate, “Our whole-hearted cooperation was pledged to the creation of a “Shrine to George Washington.”[40] American identity was being forged in entirely new ways. The gardens’ and the nation’s landscapes were being redefined.  

            The onset of the Cold War continued this process, transforming the gardens into places through which Clevelanders waged the battle for American democracy. In 1946, the CGL inaugurated the first festival that involved its entire membership. Held in conjunction with Cleveland’s Sesquicentennial, One World Day represented a new direction. The emphasis on peace, brotherhood, and diversity would become subservient to the notion that the Gardens were a place that represented distinctly American, patriotic sentiments. The Gardens diminished as a place to express difference.  For example, in 1957, Ohio’s Governor (and former Cleveland mayor) Frank Lausche noted “Americans of other national origins must have a devotion to this country above that to their ancestral heritage. While I love the songs of Slovenia, I love America better.” The festival ended that year with American folk dances, a personification of the Statue of Liberty and the audience singing “America.”[41]  Likewise, Cleveland Mayor Anthony Celebreze distanced himself from Weidenthal’s emphasis on diversity as the gardens’ strength. To Celebreeze, “The dream of the American melting pot has never been more clearly demonstrated than in the City of Cleveland where the Cultural Gardens stand as a memorial to the diverse nationalities and cultures of our city.” Such blind patriotism was gradually emptying the Gardens of some of their uniqueness by diminishing their complexity and diversity.[42]

            At the same time, the Gardens’ social foundation eroded as the city’s racial and ethnic composition changed. In 1950s, immigration restrictions from a generation earlier altered the ethnic flavor of the city. Cleveland’s immigrant community was less than half as large as it had been in 1940. By 1960, only 1 in 10 Clevelanders were foreign born. The white population shrunk by 25 percent as the baby-boom, post-war consumer culture, and racial anxiety drove the children of immigrants to the suburbs, further from the Gardens physically and intellectually. It is precisely at this moment in the 1950s that some scholars have argued that suburban children of immigrants became “white,” abandoning their ethnic heritage in favor a more homogenized identity purchased in a shopping malls. Even Cleveland’s ethnic heritage museums—Hungarian Museum, the Ukrainian Museum, and the Polka Hall of Fame—fled, or were encouraged to flee to the suburbs.[43] 

Simultaneously, the city’s racial composition shifted as large numbers of black migrants moved North following World War II.  Already, in 1940, African Americans already comprised the largest single migrant group to Cleveland, and by 1960, Cleveland’s black population had more than tripled. Yet, in 1940s, census maps showed relatively few black families lived in any of the communities immediately adjacent to the park. To the West, the Hough neighborhood began to change rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s when the movement of a black family into one section of the neighborhood led the “for sale” signs to “sprout likes tulips in springtime.”  To the East, in Glenville, the transition occurred more slowly but just as inexorably. An affluent Jewish community in 1940s, Glenville saw its Jewish population plummet in half by 1950, with an increase in the African American population. The last streets affected by this demographic transition were those located directly adjacent to Rockefeller Park. By the early 1960s, the demographic changes to the neighborhood were nearly complete as African Americans comprised over 90 percent of both neighborhoods’ population.[44] 

As the mix of the gardens’ soil literally and figuratively changed, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens became a site of intense social conflict, embodying the urban crises facing American cities in the 1960s, as well as the coming economic and cultural problems associated with deindustrialization. The Cultural Gardens League (which had changed its name in 1952 to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF)) found itself battling community apathy, vandalism, and a new racial landscape.[45] Of these, perhaps the most complex problem for them was how to involve African Americans in the garden. In 1961, the CCGF briefly considered the merits of creating a “Negro Garden,”—the first discussion of this sort by the organization since its founding.  However, the organization dismissed the idea quickly because, as the  minutes reported, “An article about the Negro in American appearing in the April 10th issue of LOOK magazine was read in part pointing out to the members present that the American Garden is the place for any bust of American Negro cultural expression. There had been some talk of having a special Negro garden, but as the article in LOOK magazine explains the Negro is American—he does not follow the customs of his so called “old country.” America is where his roots are. Nothing official has been presented as yet.” Within a year, City Councilman Leo Jackson proposed a Negro Cultural Garden, in part as an attempt to stop construction of a high-rise apartment building in Rockefeller Park, but also in an attempt to give the city’s black residents a voice in the Gardens. Not only was the measured killed in committee, but it disappeared from the public conversation for nearly a decade, after the Hough Riots and Carl Stokes was elected mayor. [46]

In 1966—the summer that the Hough riots exploded in the neighborhoods surrounding the gardens—racial tensions directly surfaced in the Gardens’ landscape.  During the riotous summer months, white supremacists tagged the Gardens, covering park buildings and benches twice with “anti-Negro slogans, swastikas and KKK symbols.” Overshadowed by the rioting in Hough, the white supremacist graffiti received little media attention. By September, with the summer’s tension still smoldering, the Gardens received tags of a different sort. “Get Whitey” and “Black Power” appeared in black paint on over 20 sculptures, including. The gardens had become, according to Cleveland’s NAACP executive secretary George Livingston, “a battleground between Negro and white youths.”  Moreover, the Gardens seemed to have lost their relevance and luster. Speaking at the 21st Annual One World Day on September 11, 1966, Plain Dealer publisher and editor Thomas Vail said, “The unity symbolized in the gardens is America’s contribution to a world in which nations have not yet learned to live in peace and understanding.” Vail continued, “We should be reminded that the purpose of all of us must now be directed at curing the evils that have produced racial unrest.”[47]

Bridging the racial divide in the Gardens occurred slowly and hesitantly. In 1968, Councilman Jackson proposed a memorial to Martin Luther King, but it appears to have gone nowhere. However, in 1970, the American Garden dedicated a statue of Booker T. Washington, which was placed in the American Colonial Garden under the auspices of the Tuskegee Alumni Association. Its inscription emphasized Washington’s resolve that no man would “degrade my soul by forcing me to hate him.” Nonetheless, the monument was strangely out of step with the views of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and other black leaders of the moment.  Not surprisingly, the statue was an insufficient expression of African-American cultural identity, and finally in 1977, the CCGF granted the land on the west side of Liberty Boulevard for an African American Cultural Garden. In 1981, Liberty Boulevard was renamed Martin Luther King Drive—another move that helped to heal the racial divide and also underscored the CCGF’s mission emphasis on peace and brotherhood. Even so, the African American stood a symbol of disunity.  In 1983, a Plain Dealer reporter editorialized, “the Cultural Gardens, intended to be a monument to an ethnically pluralistic society, have instead become a metaphor for divisiveness and hatred, segregation and racism, unfair housing and the poor relations among people that are at the root of so many urban problems.”[48]

As the problems facing Cleveland and Rockefeller Park mounted, the CCGF battled ferociously to remain in control of the Gardens’ interpretive frame.  At a 1962 meeting of the CCGF board, for instance, the organization struggled with how to respond to a McCall’s Magazine article that described Rockefeller Park as the second most dangerous in the nation. The group wrote a letter to the magazine, as well as to local news outlets, describing the continuing celebrations in the gardens, including the unveiling of statues in Czech and Ukrainian Gardens as well as the additions of Romanian and Estonian Gardens. The organization sent a copy of the Gardens’ official history, Their Paths are Peace, to President Kennedy, mulled over a statue or rose garden honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, and later invited Robert Kennedy to speak. Later in the 1960s, the CCGF worked hard to expand the number of Gardens, in cooperation with Mayor Stokes, inviting a garden from the local Japanese community, many of who came to Cleveland from World War II internment camps.  Moreover, the language of peace and brotherhood seemed increasingly shallow and naïve for any number of reasons. During the 1960s, the Cold War escalated, as did the Vietnam War. America’s racial crisis deepened, and the CCGF remained unable or unwilling to bridge the divide in Cleveland. Likewise, advocating Peace and Brotherhood through monuments and gardening grew increasingly out of touch with a generation raised on television and beginning to spend their leisure time in malls, not to mention that the counterculture offered a vastly different method of achieving peace and brotherhood—one tied to mass culture and the counterculture. 

As the CCGF had lost control of the Gardens’ message, they lost control over the park. The Gardens had become unmoored from their connections to Cleveland as a place and a culture, and the art and the landscape deteriorated, becoming physically and metaphorically incomprehensible to the Gardens’ neighbors in Cleveland. Always an issue, vandalism grew more pronounced in scale and scope. By 1982, for example, more than half of the plaques and monuments were missing from the Park, and the City removed at least 13 busts from their pedestals to prevent them from being stolen. Litter and graffiti regularly marred the landscape. Even maintenance declined alongside city budgets, leaving the organic materials poorly maintained. The professional care of the Gardens—trimming of hedges to their prescribed heights, pruning, and weeding—declined, giving the Gardens with an untended feel. Not only were the statues in ruins but the grounds were overgrown, poorly tended, and increasingly out of align with the original plans. According to a report commissioned by the CCGF, and funded by the Cleveland Foundation, it would cost more than $12 million to restore Rockefeller Park and over $250,000 yearly for maintenance, including lighting, parking, and other amenities. Nobody was certain where such money could be found, but all agreed that the Gardens could one day become a “regional attraction,” forgetting the time just forty years earlier when they had attracted international attention. Notably, strategies for renewal no longer focused on highlighting the importance of the Gardens as significant works of art, but centered upon remaking Rockefeller Park as a place.[49]

Despite calling for renewal, the CCGF also beganto view the Gardens as lost landscapes. In 1981, the CCGF considered moving the Cultural Gardens downtown, an idea that the group broached with the mayor. Although this idea met with little enthusiasm, the CCGF again contemplated abandoning Rockefeller Park in 1988, proposing building a “Hall of Nations” adjacent to the nearby Rockefeller Park Greenhouse. The plan called for the Hall to be divided in “24 sections, one for each garden. Put statues under lock and key, but open to the public daily. A showcase of busts now in storage.” CCGF delegates traveled to Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City to explore nationality exhibitions in those cities. Although the plan never went beyond a preliminary architectural sketch, it is nonetheless instructive. The CCGF was becoming desperate. Rockefeller Park appeared to be beyond repair and the Gardens themselves had lost much of their relevance, if not their meaning. The physical infrastructure was disappearing and the prospect of funding a recovery appeared dim at best. The CCGF was now considering the unthinkable—separating the Gardens’ landscape from their art—abandoning the Gardens as a living entity and creating a traditional museum with the remaining sculpture.[50]

And, yet, in their darkest hour, the Gardens were not completely languishing. In 1981, a delegation from Cleveland’s sister city, Taipei, visited Cleveland. Impressed by the Gardens, the group, led by the speaker of the Taipei City Council, suggested that Taipei “should present and build a Chinese Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park as a gift.” Slated to be located on the West side of Liberty Boulevard, adjacent to the Finnish and (proposed) Syrian Garden, the Chinese Garden include the National Flower of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the flower of Taipei, as well as a bust of Confucius. It represented a claim by Taiwan to be the true China. Funded by Taipei’s people and its business community to the tune of $500,000, the Garden was constructed in Taiwan and shipped to Cleveland in 1984.

Once in Cleveland, the Chinese Garden remained in limbo, crated in a municipal garage, as a battle about the proper place for the garden and its artifacts brewed over into the public realm. The problem began when the City and the Chinese Association of Greater Cleveland sought to relocate the proposed garden from land allocated for the Cultural Gardens by the City of Cleveland in the 1920s, the Chinese Garden delegation and the City decided to move the garden’s location. The Chinese Garden Delegation, led by local businessman Alex Mark and Anthony Yen had misgivings about the proposed site because it was not very visible and they would have had to build a bridge across Doan Brook to allow access to the Garden. The City, meanwhile, was concerned about vandalism and security in Rockefeller Park. Both sought to move the Gardens into Wade Park, in the heart of the University Circle Cultural District. This change was approved by the City Council but vetoed by the Mayor, George Voinovich, because the Chinese delegations had not followed proper procedures in making the change. The Cultural Gardens Federation supported the Mayor’s veto, preferring that the Chinese Garden be located in the chain of gardens, not in Wade Park, about one mile from the main chain of Gardens. In a letter to the CCGF, Alex Mark urged the organization to reconsider its support of the mayor’s veto because the Chinese Garden would “be the first garden to be built in many years.  … We foresee that the Chinese Gardens will help bring more visitors and tourists to visit all the Cultural Gardens in the area.” Even more to the point, Mark argued that “this in turn will focus more public attention to the gardens for increased public support and may attract more ethnic communities to build gardens in the area rather than moving away or locating to the suburbs.” Put another way, Mark believed that art could remake place in Cleveland.[51] 

 As the Cold War waned, the Cultural Gardens found new life. Setting in motion a dynamic wave of change throughout the former Soviet Union and its satellites, the cessation of the Cold War also freed the Cultural Gardens from their rhetorical prison.  The first manifestation of this shift was the reemergence of conflict between Serbs and Slovenes over the Yugoslav Garden. In 1990, as international tension heightened in the Balkans with the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Slovenian Delegation requested that the Yugoslav Garden be renamed the Slovenian Garden. The Serb Delegation agreed, after much cajoling, and removed the bust of Njegosh to a suburban church, where the community would later celebrate an orthodox priest who fought against the Nazis during World War II. Within 10 years, the Serbian Delegation requested and was granted its own Cultural Garden, located on the opposite side of MLK Boulevard. 

At the same time, the end of the Cold War set off a new wave, albeit small, of immigration to Cleveland, including a number of Ukrainians. Predominantly orthodox Christians who settled in Cleveland’s suburbs where the Ukrainian community had relocated itself and its churches, these immigrants helped fuel the rebirth of the Gardens. One particular migrant, Lena Pogrebinsky, drove by the Gardens and was horrified at their condition, especially the condition of the Ukrainian Garden. She lent energy and enthusiasm to the task of saving the Gardens. She located several missing statues—presumed stolen for many years—in a city garage, covered with oil under a tarpaulin, where they had been removed for safekeeping and apparently forgotten.  Emblematic of the efforts of new immigrants and old immigrants alike, Pogrebinsky’s efforts reveal that a grassroots revitalization had begun to take place in the Gardens during the 1990s. Indeed, other cultural diasporas emerged in the break-up of the Soviet Union, and built nationality gardens to celebrate their new states, including Azeris (Azerbaijan), Latvians, and Armenians in Cleveland.


Almost simultaneously, new immigrants from Asia, especially Indian professionals, began to move to Cleveland in small numbers, forming a vibrant community seeking to leave a mark on their new homeland much as Europeans had done two generations earlier. Creating and Indian Cultural Garden gained steam in the mid-1990s, emerging as part of a wave of redevelopment efforts in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Coupled with renewed investment from local foundations and long-established ethnic communities, the development of the new gardens represents a dramatic turnaround. Even so, problems remain, including the continuing failure to develop a viable African American Garden, which reflects both the continuing challenges of unity within the city’s black community as well as the social and economic challenges facing the community. Moreover, continued challenges in maintaining and/or restoring a number of the gardens’ remain, as do long-standing issues surrounding lighting and parking. Both weeds and new growth exist side-by-side in the Cultural Gardens, offering a tantalizing vision of the possibility against a sobering view of past failure. 

In the 1930s, the Cultural Gardens had emerged as a singular work of landscape architecture and art in the distinctive soils of Cleveland, defining the city and offering a vision of unity to a nation and a world torn by war, economic depression, and xenophobia. Embodying the time and place of their birth, the Gardens’ changed with the demographic and economic fortunes of Cleveland. As demographic, economic, and political changes reshaped the city, the nation, and the world, the Gardens changed, both in terms of their physical and symbolic composition. The Gardens became less vibrant symbols of unity during the Cold War as they became another battlefield on which it was fought and as they became a site on which America’s racial crisis would be contested. Such conflict stripped the Gardens of their metaphoric quality and simultaneously their physical structure was imperiled. The processes of metaphorical and physical degradation intersected, forcing the Gardens into dormancy. With the cessation of the Cold War and attempts to recover Cleveland as a place, the Cultural Gardens reemerged from dormancy. Whether this new growth will see the Gardens flourish remains an open question, but surely the Gardens’ future will be determined by the continuing interaction of symbol and landscape, of art and place. 

[1]          Phillip Morris, “Cultural Harvest Dying on the Vine,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 5, 2007; Robert L. Smith, “Cultural Gardens Reviving, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 29, 2006; Robert L. Smith, “Garden chain adding link for first time in 21 Years,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, September 24, 2006.  This essay made extensive use of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Newspaper Morgue; the papers of the Cultural Gardens Federation (formerly the Cultural Gardens League) are housed at the Western Reserve Historical Society, Manuscript Collection 3700. On the Cultural Gardens, see Clara Lederer, Their Paths Are Peace (Cleveland, Oh.: Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation, 1954); also, this essay has a debt to John Bodnar’s discussion of the Cultural Gardens, even when my conclusions differ in emphasis; John Bodnar, Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, Nj.: Princeton University Press, 1992), especially 97-104.  On Cleveland more broadly, see the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, <> (January 1, 2007); Robert Wheeler and Carol Poh Miller, Cleveland: The History of a City (Bloomington, In.: University of Indiana Press, 1995); David Hammack, et. al., editors, Identity, Conflict, & Cooperation: Central Europeans in Cleveland, 1850-1930 (Cleveland, Oh.: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1999);

[2]           Robert Musil, “Monuments,” in Posthumous Papers of a Living Author (Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books, 2006; English Translation, 1987, Peter Wortsmann), 64-651.

[3]           Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (New York, 1938) 434; quoted in John Dixon Hunt, p. 24

[4]           Quoted in Kirk Savage, “The Life of Memorials,” Harvard Design Magazine Number 9 (Fall 1999): 1; How do we plant monuments “in the heart rather than graven in stone.”

[5]           For an excellent overview of the scholarly literature in the study of memory and monuments, see Kirk Savage’s online essay for the National Park Service’s research division, Kirk Savage, “History, Memory, and Monuments:  An Overview of the Scholarly Literature on Commemoration,” (June 1, 2007); There is an expansive literature on public arts and historical approaches to them; for examples of the various types, see: Michele H. Bogart’s fine essay “The Ordinary Hero Monument in Greater New York: Samuel J. Tilden’s Memorial and the Politics of Place,” Journal of Urban History Volume 28, No. 3 (March 2002), 267-299; Penny Balkin Balch, Public Art in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 1992); Harriet F. Senie, Contemporary Public Sculpture: Tradition, Transformation, and Controversy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Harriet F. Senie and Sallie Webster, Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992). Michele H. Bogart, Public Sculpture and the Civic Ideal in New York City, 1890-1930 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997); Michele H. Bogart, The Politics of Urban Beauty: New York and Its Art Commission (Chicago, Il.: University of Chicago Press, 2006); Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (1997); Edward T. Linenthal, Sacred Ground: Americans and their Battlefields (1991); Martha Norkunas, Monuments and Memory: History and Representation in Lowell, Massachusetts (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002); John Bodnar, Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, Nj.: Princeton University Press, 1992); Melissa Dabakis, Monuments Of Manliness : Visualizing Labor In American Sculpture, 1880-1935 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998); Terence Young, Building San Francisco’s Parks, 1850-1930 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

[6]           See, for example, Scott Sandage, “A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963,” Journal of American History, vol. 80, no. 1 (June 1993), pp. 135-167; Kirk Savage, “The Life of Memorials,” Harvard Design Magazine Number 9 (Fall 1999); James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 1993).

[7]           For an introduction, see John Dixon Hunt, “’Come into the Garden, Maud”: Garden Art as a Privileged Mode of Commemoration and Identity,” in Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, editor, Places of Commemoration: Search for Identity and Landscape Design (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2001), 20-21.

[8]          On the history of Doan Brook, see Laura Gooch, The Doan Brook Handbook (Cleveland, Oh.: Shaker Lakes Nature Center, 2001); “Memorandum to the City Plan Commission Regarding Plans for the Jugoslav Garden,” March 24, 1933, Folder 8, Correspondence, 1929-1938, Container 1, Cleveland Cultural Gardens Collection, Manuscript Collection 3700, Western Reserve Historical Society; hereafter cited as CCG Collection.

[9]           and on Olmstead’s rural cemeteries, see for example, David Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 37-56; on the City Beautiful movement and Progressive Era planning, see for example, Jon A. Peterson, The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840-1917 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); on parks and park planning, see Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park (Cornell University Press, 1998); Galen Cranz, The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (The MIT Press, 1982);  Young, Building San Francisco’s Parks, 1850-1930 (2004); on Burnham in Cleveland, see Kenneth Kolson, Big Plans: The Allure and Folly of Urban Design (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 49-64.

[10]         Werner Habicht, “Shakespeare Celebrations in Times of War,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 441-455; Copellia Kahn, “Remembering Shakespeare Imperially: The 1916 Tercentenary,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 456-478.

[11]         Ronald Quinault, “The Cult of the Centenary, 1784-1914, Historical Research Vol. 71, No. 176 (October 1998), 3030-323.

[12]         See, for example, Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, The Plant-Lore & Garden-Craft of Shakespeare (London: W. Satchell & Co., 1884); Walt Crane, Flowers from Shakespeare’s Gardens (London: Cassell, 1906)

[13]        Lederer, 39-43, F. Leslie Speir, Cleveland: Our Community and Its Government (Cleveland, Oh.: The John C. Winston Company, 1941), 107-108; Percival Chubb, “What the Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration Might Mean for the Schools,” The English Journal Vol. 5, No. 4 (April 1916): 237; Weidenthal, From Dis’s Waggon: A Sentimental Survey of a Poet’s Corner; The Shakespeare Garden in Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio: The Weidenthal Company, 1926); Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 28, 1966; The Folger Shakespeare Library stands as perhaps the most remarkable American shrine to Shakespeare.

[14]         Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, “Liberty Row,” <> (June 1, 2007).

[15]         On this point, I am indebted to John Grabowski, editor of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, for insights and thoughts about the various members of the Cultural Gardens League, listed in the Cultural Gardens Collection at WRHS; on ethnic elites, see also Bodnar, Remaking America, 94-109; Articles of Incorporation, ca. 1926, Folder 1, Container 1, CCG Collection.

[16]         Articles of Incorporation, ca. 1926, Folder 1, Container 1, CCG Collection.

[17]        Lederer, 9, 19-20; “Whatever Became of the Cultural Gardens?,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, January 16, 1978; Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 1942, July 11, 1951;

[18]         Israel Zangwill, The Melting Pot: A Drama in Four Acts (New York: Macmillan, 1909); on the National Origins Act, see David J. Goldberg, Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 140-167; for a discussion of Zangwill and Shakespeare, see Copellia Kahn, “Remembering Shakespeare Imperially: The 1916 Tercentenary,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 456-478; for the Slovak statement see Scrapbook, Slovak Garden, Folder 2, Container 6, CCG Collection.

[19]         See, for example, December 7, 1938, “Letter from H. E. Varga to F. E. Bubna, Executive Assistant in Charge of Federal Relations,” Container 1, folder 8, Correspondence, 1929-1938, CCG Collection; The American Colonial Garden Plan, August 17, 1937, Folder 1 Container XX, The American Colonial Gardens, CCG Collection; “Memorandum to the City Plan Commission Regarding Plans for the Jugoslav Garden,” March 24, 1933, Folder 8, Correspondence, 1929-1938, Container 1, CCG Collection; A Perspective of the Proposed Plan, The Slovak Cultural Garden, n.d., Oversize Folder, CCG Collection; The Preliminary Plan, The Slovak Cultural Garden, n.d.,, Oversize Folder, CCG Collection.

[20]         Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 1942, July 11, 1951; NARA, WPA State Records, Ohio Projects: Slovenian, 65-42-1952; Polish, 65-42-492; Greek, 165-42-3099; Czech, 165-42-3111 and 65-42-17175; Hungarian, 165-42-17156 and 165-42-3175; Jugoslav, 65-42-6594 and 65-42-3038; Hebrew, 65-42-3088; Lithuanian, 65-42-2255; Slovak, 165-42-3207; multiple garden projects joined by the City Parks Department, superseding earlier requests, 165-42-3207 and 465-42-2-109; replacing trees along Liberty Row, 65-42-9674; repairs, paths, channelization of Doan Brook, and other projects in Rockefeller Park, 65-42-11423.

[21]        Hammack, 12-44; also, Howard Green, and United States., Population characteristics by census tracts, Cleveland, Ohio, 1930 (Clevland  Ohio: Plain Dealer Pub. Co., 1931); United States., Sixteenth census of the United States, 1940  Housing, analytical maps, block statistics [for cities of a population of 100,000 or more] ([Washington  D.C.: , 1941); United States., 1960 Census of Population and Housing – census tracts: Cleveland, Ohio. (Washington  D.C.: 1960); United States., 1980 census of population and housing. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Commerce  Bureau of the Census, 1983).

[22]        The City Record, September 3, 1930; The City Record, May 9, 1927, Cleveland Cultural Gardens—Authorization Ordinances, CCG Collection; Speir, 108; Lederer, 22;

[23]        Lederer, 22; also, for examples, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 9, 1936, September 14, 1937, April 8, 1938, July 11, 1938, July 16, 1938, July 6, 1938, January 23, 1939; March 17, 1936, April 23, 1936, September 12, 1941, Minutes, 1932-1952, Folder 3, Container 1, CCG Collection; April 27, 1950, Folder 4, Minutes, 1949-1963, Folder 4, Container 1, CCG Collection. Also, the project is documented in WPA records at the National Archives, see National Archives and Record Administration, Works Progress Administration State Records, Ohio (on microfilm), Project Numbers: Slovenian, 65-42-1952; Polish, 65-42-492; Greek, 165-42-3099; Czech, 165-42-3111 and 65-42-17175; Hungarian, 165-42-17156 and 165-42-3175; Jugoslav, 65-42-6594 and 65-42-3038; Hebrew, 65-42-3088; Lithuanian, 65-42-2255; Slovak, 165-42-3207; multiple garden projects joined by the City Parks Department, superseding earlier requests, 165-42-3207 and 465-42-2-109; replacing trees along Liberty Row, 65-42-9674; repairs, paths, channelization of Doan Brook, and other projects in Rockefeller Park, 65-42-11423.

[24]        Lederer, 55-61; Speir, 107ff; Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 1942, July 11, 1951.

[25]        See, for example, John Mihal, “Flow of Roman Culture Will Theme Garden,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, September 15, 1937; “Arts of Hungary,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 1, 1938; “Garden is Dedicated to City’s Hungarians,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 1938; “Let’s Build it Now!”, Folder 2, CCG Collection.

[26]        John Mihal, “Flow of Roman Culture Will Theme Garden,” September 15, 1937, Cleveland Plain-Dealer; “Arts of Hungary,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 1, 1938; “Garden is Dedicated to City’s Hungarians,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 1938; WRHS, CCGF, MS3700, Folder 2, “Let’s Build it Now!”; Papp, 552. On Cleveland arts and artists, see for example, William H. Robinson, editor, Transformations in Cleveland Art, 1796-1946: Community and Diversity in Early Modern America (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1996).

[27]        Artists who worked in the gardens, such as sculptor Max Kalish, also engaged the city’s burgeoning and renowned fine arts community by participating regularly in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s influential May Show, which from its inception in 1919 served as a vehicle to prominence for artists nationwide. On Cleveland arts and artists, see for example, William H. Robinson, editor, Transformations in Cleveland Art, 1796-1946: Community and Diversity in Early Modern America (Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1996). Lederer, entire; Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, entries: Jirouch:; Kalish:; Lister:; (January 1, 2007).

[28]        For a description of these statues and their significance, I triangulated references in Lederer, entire, Speir, 106-113, Cleveland Plain-Dealer stories from the newspaper morgue, and Wikipedia entries. See also, Alfred Erich Senn, Lithuania Awakening  (Berkeley, Ca.:  University of California Press, 1990), 35; online at <> (January 1, 2007); Mikulas Teich, “Review: The Meaning of History: Czechs and Slovaks,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No. 2 (June 1996), 553-562; Davic Aberbach, “The Poetry of Nationalism,” Nations and Nationalism, Volume 9, number 2 (2003), 255-275.

[29]         On this design in New Deal art and in the Gardens, see Phoebe Cutler, The Public Landscape of the New Deal (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 29-30. Albert Davis Taylor, President of the American Society of Landscape Architects between 1935 and 1941, worked much of his life in Cleveland and is credited with brining many such design principles to the United States. On Taylor, see (June 1, 2007).

[30]        Lederer, entire; Speir, 114-116.

[31]         See aerial photographs, for instance, in Cleveland Memory, Cleveland Cultural Gardens Collecton, <> (June 1, 2007).

[32]         “Unification Plan for the Cultural Gardens,” A Radio Talk given over WGAR January 30, 1937, Harold E. Atkinson, Folder 8, Correspondence, 1929-1938, Container 1, CCG Collection; Unification Plan for Cultural Gardens, Jos. S. Kreinberg, excerpts from City Plan Minutes of January 5, 1937, Folder 8, Correspondence, 1929-1938, Container 1, CCG Collection; Harold E. Atkinson, The Cultural Gardens of Cleveland, 1937.

[33]        Hammack, et. al., 64, 331-332; Cleveland Plain-Dealer, September 16, 1937, May 16, 1938; General Minutes, 1932-1952, CCG Collection.

[34]        “Just Plain Soil Welds People of 28 Nations,” unidentified newspaper, July 31, 1939, Cleveland Plain-Dealer Newspaper Morgue. The crypt was opened once again a decade later, in honor of the creation of the state of Israel, soil from the grave of Zionist leader Theodore Herzl (brought from Israel by Judge Drueher) was added to the soil in the crypt; see October 21, 1949, General Minutes, 1932-1952, CCG Collection.

[35]         See for example, Ira Bach and Mary Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture (Chicago, Il.: University of Chicago Press, 1983);  Michele H. Bogart, Public Sculpture and the Civic Ideal in New York City, 1890-1930 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997); Meredith Arms Bzdak and Douglas Petersen, editors, Public Sculpture in New Jersey: Monuments to Collective Identity (Camden, Nj.: Rutgers University Press, 1999); Bogart, The Politics of Urban Beauty (2006); Norkunas, Monuments and Memory (2002).

[36]        Census Data from year 1940, for Cuyahoga County, (June 1, 2007); Norbert Yassanye, “Garden Dedicated by Yugoslav Group,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 16, 1938; James D. Hartshorne, “Co-Op Effort Called Way to Avoid War: Speech at Gardens Viewed as Bid for Presidential Support for Campaign,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 31, 1939; “Ten-Year Dream Comes True As Irish Dedicate Garden Plot,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 30, 1939; Margaret Suhr Reed, “26 Nationalities Celebrate Cultural Gardens’ Birthday,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 6, 1951; for radio broadcasts, see Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 6, 1938.

[37]         Scrapbook, Slovak Garden, Folder 2, Container 6, CCG Collection.

[38]        “League Emissary Plants Tree Here,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, April 3, 1935; “Cultural Gardens Draw League Eye,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, April 7, 1935; “Tour Cleveland’s Famous Cultural Gardens,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 2, 1935.

[39]        “Just Plain Soil Welds People of 28 Nations,” unidentified newspaper, July 31, 1939, Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper Morgue. The crypt was opened once again a decade later, in honor of the creation of the state of Israel, soil from the grave of Zionist leader Theodore Herzl (brought from Israel by Judge Drueher) was added to the soil in the crypt; on this see October 21, 1949, General Minutes, 1932-1952, CCG Collection; James D. Hartshorne, “Co-Op Effort Called Way to Avoid War: Speech at Gardens Viewed as Bid for Presidential Support for Campaign,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, July 31, 1939.

[40]         Letter from Charles Wolfram to Samuel Newman, May 6, 1940, Folder 9, Correspondence, 1939-1948, Container 1, CCG Collection; Letter from Charles Wolfram to member of the Cultural Garden League, March 21, 1942, Folder 9, Correspondence, 1939-1948, Container 1, CCG Collection; December 1941, March 24, 1944, Minutes Cultural Gardens League, Box 1, CCG Collection; July 31, 1939; “Czech History to be Carved on Garden Wall: Stone Tablet to Record Text Compiled by Local Committed,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Sept. 26, 1938.

[41]        July 1946, Minutes, Cultural Garden League, Box 1, CCG Collection; “Marine General To Unveil Statue: Bust of Washington To Be Dedicated in Garden,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, June 30, 1943; Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 4, 1952; “Fusion of Six Cultures Hails One World Day,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 1957.

[42]         Lederer, 17; Frank Durham, Government in Greater Cleveland (Cleveland, Oh.: Howard Allen, Incorporated, 1963), 45.

[43]         United States Census; Andrew Fedynsky, interviewed by Mark Tebeau, June 2003.

[44]         See, for census data and explanations, Todd Michael Michney, Changing Neighborhoods: Race and Upward Mobility in Southeast Cleveland, 1930-1980 (University of Minnesota, Dept. of History, June 2004); Howard Whipple Green, Census Facts and Trends by Tracts, Special 1954 Report (Cleveland: Real Property Inventory of Metropolitan Cleveland, 1954); Howard Whipple Green, Population, Family, and Housing Data by Blocks, Cuyahoga County, Special 1941 Report, Real Property Inventory of Metropolitan Cleveland (Volume 1, 1941), 284-286; Howard Whipple Green, Population, Family, and Housing Data by Blocks, Cuyahoga County, Special 1941 Report, Real Property Inventory of Metropolitan Cleveland (Volume 2, 1941), 168-169, 174-175; William A. Behnke Associates, Rockefeller Park: The Future of Rockefeller Park—A Positive Statement (1981), 9.

[45]         On vandalism during this period see, for example, Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection, Cleveland—Parks—Rockefeller—Cultural Gardens: Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 27, 1965; Cleveland Plain-Dealer, January 27, 1965.

[46]        May 31, 1962, October 26, 1963, Folder 4, Minutes, 1949-1963, Container 1, CCG Collection; “Council OK’s Garden Plan of Jackson,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, December 12, 1961; “New Glenville Apartment Project Likely to Stir Fight,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, April 7, 1961; “Negro Culture Garden Blocked,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, June 26, 1962.

[47]        The Culture Gardens Federation responded with surprising aplomb, removing the graffiti and offering a measured response. The city, meanwhile, located and prosecuted five young African American men who had been drinking, although the men were eventually acquitted of the charges in 1968 after being vigorously defended by future Congressman Louis Stokes (and brother of Mayor Carl Stokes, the African American elected to lead a major Northern Industrial City.)  “Undivided World Grows in Gardens, Says Vail,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, September 12, 1966. Note that Vail calls for an end to racial unrest, not racial injustice; “Cultural Gardens Vandals Hit,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, September 9, 1966.

[48]        “Jackson Wants Negroes to Build King Memorial,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, April 1968 (exact date garbled); “African Envoys Dedicate Garden for Black Culture,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 24, 1977; “Cultural Gardens Reflect City’s Illnesses,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 28, 1983; Madeline Drexler, “Pride and Prejudice,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 11, 1985.

[49]         Letter from Ralph Veverka to Richard S. Marous, May 3, 1982, Minutes, Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation, Kay Wood Collection, Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation Collection, unprocessed manuscript collection, CSU (hereafter Wood Collection); “City’s neglect, Decay, Spoil Rockefeller Park,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, March 9, 1982; “Save Rockefeller Park,” Cleveland Plain-Dealer, March 11, 1982.

[50]         May 13, 1981, January 26, 1988, February 4, 1988, March 8, 1988, March 23, 1988, April 12, 1988, May 17, 1988, June 21, 1988, drawing February 1989, February 14, 1989, Minutes, CCGF, Wood Collection.

[51]         Letter from Alex Mark to the CCGF, November 2, 1984, Minutes, CCGF, Wood Collection; “About the Chinese Cultural Park in Cleveland,” Nov. 1981, Wood Collection; “Cultural Garden Gift Withers in Storage,” January 13, 1985, Cleveland Plain-Dealer.



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