Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cultural Gardens

Icicles of late March on an arch of a sidewalk entrance on the St. Clair Bridge on Liberty (now MLK) Blvd., Cleveland, O.

"Sadly, there is really nothing famously significant on the road."— from a local (north-east Ohio) college student's essay on the renamed road
A while back, Ebony magazine did a story on the US streets named, or renamed, after Martin Luther King, Junior. There is about eight hundred. The story was on Chicago, Boston and Tulsa. The article rightly began that King's message was non-violence. It also mentions that town councils have voted against naming streets after King.
The local student, quoted supra, is grandly incorrect and ignorant. In Cleveland, Liberty Boulevard was the street renamed in 1981. There was [and is] much of importance about it. The sad thing is much is forgotten, and not enough people care.
Liberty Boulevard contained Cleveland Cultural Gardens. These were the first such in the world. They were dedicated just before WWII began, and were started in the spirit of peace and against the catastrophe of WWI and its usurpation of nationalism for war. Much of the work done was by Roosevelt's WPA. After WWII it celebrated the hopes of the United Nations.
In the 1960s and 70s the area was vandalized, stripped for scrap money by thieves, and allowed to decay, and become an area of street crime, some violent. It was abandoned by many. Recently, it has rebounded. New gardens are opening.
It was aggregated in accumulation and creation. First it began with civic spirit, then cultural spirit, then ethnic spirit. Beauty and peace were the ideals. On the other side: the black community did not care, also the propaganda of the Republican party (of to-day, at least) is against the entire essence, concept and totality of the project.
What was then the outskirts of the east side of Cleveland belonged to the richest man in the world, John D Rockefeller. In 1896 he gave the city 254 acres to be used as a park. Rockefeller Park began in 1897. Charles Schweinfurth was the architect for four different stone bridges that crossed the park. He was the chief society architect in Cleveland. He designed Samuel Mather's (the iron mining magnate) mansions and those of many other millionaires on Millionaire's Row (Euclid Ave.). He also designed, or remodeled their churches, The Old Stone Church (Presb) on Public Square, Trinity (Meth) Cathedral, Harkness Chapel and others.
To-day, Rockefeller Park begins at an exit of Interstate 90, which runs from Boston to Seattle. The city has its greenhouse. Which is open to the public, and has a Garden For the Blind, solar photo-voltaic concentrators for electricity (under construction), outside and inside gardens.
Fifty acres are of the some two dozen cultural gardens. The road that runs through it was functionally named Lower Boulevard. Then came the War to End All Wars, it didn't; and it was renamed World War One [oh shit! it became a series]. Before America was involved, the first cultural garden came in 1916, the Shakespeare Garden. It was dedicated in the 300th year after his death. For some time an outdoor theatre was there, it is long gone [the new and relocated Syrian garden will be there].
After the war, came Liberty Row, from Gordon Park, through Rockefeller, into Cleveland and Shaker Heights 850 white oaks were planted. At the base of each one had a bronze plaque in cement with the name of a fallen American soldier, a doughboy from the European War. The American Legion planted trees all over the country. Cleveland planned this before the war ended. Lower Boulevard became Liberty Boulevard.
The idea of several cultural gardens came from a jewish newspaperman, Leo Weidenthal. The second garden was the Hebrew Garden in 1926. Glenville, then a separate town, bordered Cleveland at the park. That garden was a zionist park, Jewish Palestine was a british mandate territory at the time.
In 1927, City Council authorised a Cleveland Parks Poets Corner. The third park was the German Poets Park in 1929. Already by this time national and international cultural and governmental visitors stopped in Cleveland for dedications, and plantings. This would continue. Columbus Day 1930 was combined with Vergil's birthday and the opening of the Italian Garden.

Other parks were planned. With Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration (1935-43) after the beginning of the Great Depression the gardens greatly expanded, as did so many lasting civil projects in the United States. These gardens were in the support and spirit of the League of Nations (which the US did not join), and then the United Nations. The Cultural Gardens (starting in 1926) were formally dedicated,
30 July 1939, during a World Peace Rally celebrated in Cleveland. The Second World War came, none-the-less. Beginning in 1945, a Sunday in late July marked the UN's One World Day. It too was celebrated, for a time.

Few gardens were added until recently. A conspicuous failure is the African American Gardens. Most of to-day's neighboring residents are of the community. In 1977 the garden began. It was planned to have several monuments. To-day, it has as a sign and a flag.

In 1985 a Chinese Garden came, it was a gift of the capital city of Taiwan, Taipei. It is the furthest east, and nearest University Circle.

In 1991, the Jugoslav Garden split up as did Jugoslavija. The Serbian monuments went to Saint Sava, Parma. The garden reverted to the Slovenes. The Serbs have a new garden
(2008), with new monuments. The Croat Garden is planned for the old Syrian spot. Several new gardens have been dedicated, planned, expanded or rehabilitated.Until very recently, most of the gardens were on the east side of the road. The new Serbian Garden is on the west.

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