Dedicated on October 5, 2008, the Serbian Cultural Garden features a central plaza with a marble cube and circular concrete seating. The plaza also contatins the garden’s message: “Only Unity Saves The Serbs”. A pebble mosaic surrounds the cube. It is a reproduction of mosaics found at the Hilandar Monastery (Greece) and at the Patriarchate of Pec and Zica Monasteries (Serbia). A trail meanders southwards from the plaza. After a pleasant stroll parallel to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the path ends at another plaza. This part of the garden is dedicated to inventor, engineer and genius Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).
The garden also holds a number of busts featuring other famous people. One of them is King Peter I, founding father of Yugoslavia (1844-1921). Another is poet Petar II Petrovic-Njegos, an Orthodox Prince-Bishop and ruler of Montenegro (1813-1851).
Originally, the republics of Serbia and Croatia were joined with Slovenia in the 1932 Yugoslav Garden. After the 1991 breakup of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav Garden was re-dedicated to Slovenia. The bust of Njegos, which had been in the original garden, was consequently moved to the newly dedicated Serbian Garden.
Cleveland’s first Serb is considered to be Lazar Krivokapic from Montenegro who settled here in 1893. Most Serbs did not immigrate to Cleveland until after the turn of the century though. The ones who came were part of the enormous migration from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The largest group of Serbs came from Lika (a mountainous region in what is now Croatia), while others came from Banija (currently Banovina in central Croatia), Kordun (north of Lika in what is now central Croatia), Backa (currently divided between Serbia and Hungary) and Banat (whose area currently lies in western Romania, northeastern Serbia and southeastern Hungary). There were also a significant number of Serbs from Dalmatia (a region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea which today lies mostly in Croatia but has smaller areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) and Montenegro (before it became part of Yugoslavia).
Most Serbian immigrants to Cleveland lived in an area from E. 20th St. to the E. 40s north of Superior Avenue. Hamilton and St. Clair Avenues were particularly dense Serbian neighborhoods. At the time of World War I it is estimated that 1,000 Serbs lived in Cleveland. Another 700 Serbs came to Cleveland between 1949-52, with many settling in the E. 55th and Broadway area. Today, a reduced settlement remains in that area. Most Serbs, however, have long moved to the southwestern suburbs of Cleveland. Between the 1960s and the mid-1980s, a large number of Serbs emigrated from the former Yugoslavia. Although the Serbs make up a fairly small part of the area’s population, the Serbian language is still widely spoken, and cultural organizations and lodges remain active.