History

History | The Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation. Click here for the Frequently Asked Questions

The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are one of the City of Cleveland’s many parks. This two hundred fifty four acre tranquil ravine like setting that spans two miles between University Circle, Cleveland’s renowned cultural center, and Lake Erie is known as Rockefeller Park. As suggested by the name, the land was donated to the City by John D. Rockefeller in 1896 as a part of the celebration of the City’s first centennial. The Park was designed by prominent landscape architect Ernest W. Bowditch.

The Gardens evolved during the early 1900s. The Shakespeare Garden was the first to be built in 1916. Ten years later, Leo Weidenthal, editor and publisher of the Jewish Independent, conceived the idea of a garden chain that would represent the many cultures of the world and stand as a symbol of brotherhood. Under the leadership of Weidenthal and President Charles Wolfram, the Federation was formed and the Gardens entered a long period of growth. The Hebrew Garden became the first garden to be established. The Shakespeare Garden eventually became the British Garden, and many more followed. The Gardens were developed as a joint effort between Cleveland’s ethnic communities, the City of Cleveland and the Federal Government – namely the Work Progress Administration. This is one of the aspects that sets this park aside as a historically significant place; it is a living memorial to the role WPA played in the recent US history and to the notion of multi nationalism that was surfacing at the time. This cultural diversity has been the foundation of Cleveland and of this Country. Therein lies the significance of the theme of the Gardens “Peace through mutual understanding” as stated by Clara Lederer in her book about the Gardens “Their Paths are Peace”, published in 1954.

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History | The Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation

Over sixty busts and statues are located in the Gardens, depicting significant personalities in our collective history. Astronomer Copernicus who defined the composition of the solar system, Madame Curie who identified radiation and developed the medical use of x-ray, Tesla who developed AC current and thus “lit the world” with ability to transmit electricity over long distances are some of the examples. Many notable musicians are depicted including Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, Chopin, Liszt and more are honored throughout the Gardens. And of course writers and philosophers ranging from Shakespeare to Gandhi, Goethe and Schiller. Many of the art pieces were the product of Cleveland born artist of Czech descent Frank Jirouch.See our sister website culturalgardens.org operated by Cleveland State University History Department for more historical information.