Czech Genealogy & History: The world’s only Czech Cultural Garden
North, south, east, and west. Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Look high, look low, look everywhere and anywhere you want. Guess what? There is only one place you will find a Czech Cultural Garden and you will find it in a large, United States city, which while it had a huge Czech immigrant community, is rarely recognized for it. Yes the world’s only Czech Cultural Garden is in Cleveland, Ohio.
What is a Cultural Garden?
Actually, the Czech Cultural Garden is one of a chain of cultural gardens located in Rockefeller (yes, that Rockefeller) Park. The overall Gardens got their start in 1916 with a Shakespeare Garden, which was dedicated on the 300th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. It didn’t take long after that dedication for the idea of a group of gardens, celebrating the diverse base of Cleveland citizenry to take shape. It was a newspaperman, Leo Weidenthal, who had the initial vision of a garden chain and with his leadership and the combined work of the Civic Progress League (destined to become the Cleveland Cultural Federation), the City of Cleveland, and even the Federal government, this garden vision became reality. On June 19, 1927 the City of Cleveland passed an ordinance setting the lands aside for the Gardens.
Shortly after, the Hebrew Garden was established to accompany the Shakespeare Garden, and then in short succession came the Italian, German, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Lithuanian, Jugoslav, Rusin, Irish, American Legion Peace Garden, American, Ukrainian and Greek Gardens. The Cultural Gardens were an immediate hit with the community! At the present time there are 29 active gardens in the chain and 9 more under construction. It is an amazing and wonderful spot.
Here come the Bohemians (Czechs)
If you have read our stories on the Early Czech Settlers of Cleveland posted here at Onward To Our Past® you might well recognize the above surname of Weidenthal. You see one of the very earliest Czech settlers in Cleveland was Bernard Weidenthal so it is little surprise the Czechs would want to be included in these Gardens as they began to form.
In 1935, the Czech Cultural Garden itself was dedicated to much fanfare. After years of fundraising (much of it through card parties) the garden was constructed and dedicated. It holds a circular lawn bordered by hedges, rose beds, and was designed by two noted landscape architects, B. Ashburton Tripp and Maurice Cornell.
There is sculpture and a monumental frieze, which runs across the top of the wall that frames the garden. All the sculptures and the frieze were created by the Czech-American sculptor, Frank L. Jirouch. The sculptures are wonderful and feature some of the best known Czechs of the world and as I said each of them are special in their own right, but the frieze is the crowning work, in my estimation.
This frieze depicts the discovery Bohemia and the American migration of the Bohemian peoples. It is fabulous!
The Czech Garden has a wonderful and meaningful dedication which reads as follows:
“Czech Cultural Garden. Bohemian, Moravia, Silesia. Homeland of teachers, statesmen, martyrs, musicians, and artists. This garden is dedicated to our beloved Czech parents, who by their teachings and by precept and example have established for us a high ideal of American citizenship.”
Be with us tomorrow as we go further into the Czech Cultural Gardens and bring you details regarding the individuals these Czech-Americans felt worthy of being memorialized and the incredible frieze in this beautiful garden setting for generations to come.
Onward To Our Past®