Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens: A Landscape of Diversity

Honoring and embodying the cultural heritages of a region through the beauty of shared outdoor spaces

From their beginnings as private farmland to their current form as monuments to cultural and ethnic diversity, the unique collection of landscaped, themed gardens that compose Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens holds a rich history. John J. Grabowski guides readers through this story, using both archival images and Lauren R. Pacini’s stunning contemporary photography. 

First erected as the Shakespeare Garden in 1916, the land bordering Doan Brook slowly began to incorporate tributes to immigrants, reflecting Cleveland’s role as a key location for eastern European immigrants. Throughout both world wars, the Cold War, and more recent events, the gardens’ composition has changed to reflect more diversity, now encompassing 33 individual gardens that honor cultures and countries with connections to Cleveland. Each garden features plants native to the corresponding culture, from German to Vietnamese and from Ethiopian to Finnish. This vast inclusivity makes Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens a forerunner in the push for greater representation of cultures and people of color in memorials and public spaces. 

The gardens also highlight a growing emphasis on collaboration and coexistence among cultures, as symbolized in the Peace Garden of the Nations and its crypt of intermingled soil from shrines around the world. This book will be of interest both locally and nationally, given its visual appeal and its discussions of culture, diversity, and inclusion. 


Praise for Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens

Perhaps ahead of its time, the city of Cleveland created a cultural space reflecting the diversity of its ethnic and cultural nationalities in a grand garden of art, sculpture, monument, and architecture. John J. Grabowski and Lauren R. Pacini have written a book that takes us on a journey of the beginnings of the Cultural Gardens up to the present time.”Samuel Black, director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center and coauthor of Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole: A Photographic History of African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio

“Grabowski and Pacini have provided us the context for the development of one of the city’s most important landmarks. Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens encapsulates much of the region’s history in an engaging, authoritative, and richly illustrated text.”Sean Martin, Western Reserve Historical Society

About the Creators

John J. Grabowski works as the Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and as the Krieger-Mueller Chief Historian at the Western Reserve Historical Society. He is the editor of the online edition of The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and The Dictionary of Cleveland Biography. He has published numerous books, including The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, The Dictionary of Cleveland Biography, and Sports in Cleveland: An Illustrated History; and, with Lauren Pacini, Cleveland A to Z: An Essential Compendium for Visitors and Residents Alike.

Lauren R. Pacini is an author and photographer specializing in black-and-white photography. Also a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Pacini focuses much of his work on Cleveland. His writing and photography have been published in numerous books, including Honoring Their Memory and Renaissance on East 9th Street.

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