British Cultural Garden

Originally inaugurated by Leo Weidenthal, Shakespeare Garden (now British Garden) was the seed that eventually led to the formation of the Cultural Gardens. Dedicated in 1916, the Shakespeare bust and the Shakespeare Garden originated as part of a celebration that stretched across the world. Cities and nations located within Britain's sphere of colonial influence erected monuments, planted gardens, and held celebrations commemorating the bard's death. A Shakespeare Garden might have included reproductions of Elizabethan architecture and have cultivated plants mentioned in Shakespeare's work such as daisy, flax, rosemary, lavender, oak tree, olive, rose, etc. In the 1930s, after Weidenthal's collaboration with Jennie Zwick (executive secretary of Cultural Gardens) and Charles Wolfram (25 year president of Cultural Gardens), Shakespeare Garden and Poet's Corner took on a new identity as part of the Cultural Gardens and was renamed the British Garden.

Writing in "The Paths are Peace", Clara Lederer describes the Garden in the following way: "At the entrance are gateposts of English design and the garden boundaries are defined with hedges. The central flagstone walk is lined with multi-hued border plantings, and, together with other hue-bordered paths, converge on a bust of Shakespeare flanked by trees. A mulberry tree grows here from a cutting sent by the late Sir Sidney Lee, famed Shakespearean critic, from the mulberry Shakespeare himself planted at New Place, in Stratford. In addition to elms planted by E. H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe, the garden is adorned with oaks planted by the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, and by Phyllis Neilson Terry, niece of (Dame) Ellen Terry"... "The Byzantine sundial was presented by the distinguished actor, Robert Mantell. Also formerly included were jars planted with ivy and flowers by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Rabindranath Tagore--the "Shakespeare of India"-- and Sarah Bernhardt."

"The garden plot was laid out under the direction of City Forester John Boddy, and was copiously planted with hawthorn, daffodils, violets, fleurs-delis, daisies, pansies, and columbine--the flowers given immortality in the poetry of Shakespeare."

Audio

The Past & the Future Mary Hamlin gives a brief history of the British Cultural Garden and discusses possible plans for its 100th anniversary. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Cleveland Police Cancel Castle Plans Mary Hamlin explains why enclosed structures are not allowed in the Cultural Gardens. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Shakespeare Bust, 1936 Dedicated in 1916, the Shakespeare bust and the Shakespeare Garden were dedicated as part of a celebration that stretched across the world. Cities and nations located within Britain's sphere of colonial influence, including its former colonies, erected monuments, planted gardens, and held celebrations commemorating the bard's death. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Tree Planting Ceremony, 1926 City Manager William Hopkins and actress Ethel Barrymore lead a crowd into the Shakespeare Garden in 1926 for a tree planting ceremony. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Hollywood Star Plants a Tree, 1926 City Manager William Hopkins watches actress Ethel Barrymore plant a tree at the Shakespeare Garden in 1926. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
British Cultural Garden, 1950 In "Their Paths Are Peace," Clara Lederer describes the flora in the Shakespeare (later British) Garden as follows: "The garden plot was laid out under the direction of City Forester John Boddy, and was copiously planted with hawthorn, daffodils, violets, fleurs-delis, daisies, pansies, and columbine--the flowers given immortality in the poetry of Shakespeare." Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
David Belasco, ca. 1920s American theatrical producer and playwright David Belasco (with shovel) plants a tree at the Shakespeare Garden, circa 1920s. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Location

1131 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44108 | The garden is located on the east side of East Blvd just south of Shakespeare Pkwy.

Metadata

Mark Tebeau, “British Cultural Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed December 8, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/111.