Slovak Cultural Garden

Slovaks began immigrating to Cleveland in the late 1870s, settling first around E. 9th Street near the Cuyahoga River. As the community grew some members moved to the lower Buckeye Road neighborhood between E. 78th Street and Woodhill Road. Others moved to the west side, settling in Tremont and in Lakewood's "Birdtown."

Because the Slovak state existed for only a brief time during WWII and only became a modern state in 1993, the Slovak community does not consider the recorded population data of Slovaks in Cleveland to be accurate. Many Slovak immigrants were identified by their country, which was Austria-Hungary before WWI and Czechoslovakia after WWI, rather than by their ethnicity. It is estimated that 35,000 Slovak immigrants were living in Cleveland by 1918. This number grew to an estimated total of 48,000 living in the Greater Cleveland area by 1970. By 1980, most Slovaks had moved to the suburbs, many to Parma. With the creation of The Slovak Republic on January 1, 1993, Cleveland Slovaks engaged in a series of cultural contacts with their now-independent homeland, including tours and trade missions. This activity reflects the Cleveland Slovak community's interest in preserving cultural traditions and ethnic identity.

The Slovak Cultural Garden is comprised of three acres, spanning two levels, from East Boulevard to Martin Luther King Boulevard. At its heart is a sandstone terrace that opens onto an oval-shaped lawn that sits between busts of famous Slovakian community leaders Stefan Furdek and Jan Kollar. Initially dedicated in 1932, the Slovak Garden was rededicated in 1934, and again in 1939.

In the Slovak Cultural Garden the busts of Furdek and Kollar reflect the complexity of the story of Slovakian identity. A Catholic priest and a Lutheran minister, respectively, Furdek and Kollar embody both of Slovakia's primary religious traditions. Furdek served as priest in Cleveland's Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, where he ministered for 32 years until his death in 1915. He organized the First Catholic Slovak Union and the First Slovak Ladies Union in 1889. He was also a prolific author, writing an important reader that was used widely in Slovakian schools. Born in the 18th century, Kollar was a Lutheran minister who defended the language rights of both Lutheran and Catholic Slovaks against the encroachment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His poetry predicted Slovakian independence.

Images

General Stefanik Memorial, 1934 General Milan R. Stefanik helped fight for Czechoslovak independence in World War I, serving as both a General of the French Army and Czechoslovak Minister of War. After his sudden death in a plane crash in 1919, Cleveland's Slovak community raised funds to commission a memorial to him. The memorial was erected in Wade Park near East 105th Street in the mid-1920s, just south of the space that would later become the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Today, the statue sits in the traffic circle at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Jeptha Drive. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Dancers visit Gardens Slovak folk dancers dressed in traditional village clothing pay a visit to the Slovak Cultural Garden in August 1951. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Photograph Collection
Jan Kollar Thieves stole the busts of Rev. Jan Kollar and Fr. Stefan Furdek in 2007, but they were eventually found and returned to the garden in 2010. Image courtesy of Bill Jones
Unveiling of Statues The Slovak Cultural Garden was officially dedicated on October 28, 1934, the 16th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia following the end of World War I. Czechoslovakia was created by the victorious Allies to provide the Czech and Slovak peoples with their own country and to stabilize central Europe. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
Slovak Garden, March 1936 The busts of Stefan Furdek and Jan Kollar sit across from one another and are separated by a sandstone terrace that opens onto an oval shaped lawn. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
The Slovak Republic Slovakia is a small country of five million people located in Central Europe. The country was created in 1993 when Czechoslovakia, a country that had been created out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I, amicably split into two new countries--the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
Mayor Perk Pitches In, 1971 Cleveland Mayor Ralph Perk (of Slovak descent) trims weeds in the Slovak Cultural Garden. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Location

Parkgate Ave between East Blvd and MLK Jr Dr (across Parkgate from Italian Garden)

Metadata

Bill Jones and Jim Dubelko, “Slovak Cultural Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 15, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/108.