Filed Under Biography

Jared Potter Kirtland

The Whippoorwill Farm

The address 14013 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio, was the site of much debate in the early 1950s. A group of activists, including C.H. Webster from the Museum of History, Dr. Bruno Gebhard, the Director of the Cleveland Health Museum, and Margaret Manor Butler, local writer and historian, was attempting to save the address from becoming a grocery store. The home at the site was part of a farm known as Whippoorwill and was originally built of stone in 1839 for Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland and his family. Later, the Kirtland home was extensively remodeled and became a part of an estate and farm that Dr. Kirtland used for his botanical studies. In the 1950s, the Kirtland home belonged to Mrs. H.E. Williard. She intended to sell the property to the Kroger's Grocery chain, and if she succeeded the home and other farm buildings would be torn down. Many citizens of the area, with the support of the Cleveland Press, wanted to preserve the farm and create a museum to honor Dr. Kirtland.

Jared Potter Kirtland was a physician, naturalist, botanist, teacher and philanthropist. He moved from Poland, Ohio, to Rockport Township (which would later become part of Lakewood) later in life to become the Chair of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Cleveland Medical College. He published papers in medical journals and conducted the first geologic survey of Ohio. He was a staunch abolitionist who had been active in the cause of assisting escaped slaves in Poland. He also served as a doctor during the Civil War, performing physicals for the Ohio Volunteer Infantry for no pay. Kirtland was also a co-founder of Western Reserve University's Medical School and his personal collection became the foundation for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. At the 40th anniversary of the Natural History Museum a new hall was debuted in his honor.

Kirtland studied and taught medicine, keeping records of his observations in nature. He was a botanist and horticulturist whose eminence led to the naming of a bird - the Kirtland Warbler. His Rockport home, Whippoorwill, began to be constructed in 1839. The gardens he kept at Whippoorwill were legendary and many scientists, naturalists, and even celebrities traveled to view them. Dr. Kirtland developed twenty-six varieties of cherry trees and six varieties of pears. Lakewood became an area with many orchards, vineyards and other crops that could be sold at market. Kirtland assisted growers with his knowledge of vegetation and helped his neighbors with their plants.

One of Kirtland's many contributions to the Cleveland area was cleaner water. He pushed for the creation of better water treatment facilities to the city. During his studies of the Mahoning River contamination, the doctor became convinced that clean water was necessary for the sake of public health. He went on to serve on a committee that fought to secure safe drinking water for Cleveland. The discoveries he made regarding a type of freshwater mollusk during this time were published in a Science journal in 1834.

Despite all his contributions to Lakewood and Cleveland, the team seeking to preserve Whippoorwill did not succeed. Re-zoning was granted and the sale went through. Kroger built their store which became a Finast supermarket. When Finast became Giant Eagle the store moved across the street. The old supermarket building was eventually demolished, making way for a gas station. Although no physical remnant stands to remind Clevelanders of his accomplishments, Kirtland's contributions to the study of nature and science endure. Kirtland is remembered by some, and a few of his possessions have been saved by the Lakewood Historical Society.

Images

Whipporwill Whippoorwill was the name of Jared Potter's home in Lakewood. Construction on the house began in 1839. The gardens Kirtland kept at Whippoorwill were legendary, and many scientists, naturalists and even celebrities traveled to view them. Mrs. H. E. Willard was the last owner of the home. In 1953, despite local protests, the home was sold to Kroger's grocery store and torn down to make way for a new facility. Image courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society.
Dr. Kirtland's Sculpture Outside the Lakewood Civic Auditorium stands a sculpture designed to honor Dr. Kirtland. It reminds those who see it to sow seeds of culture along with seeds for sustenance. Dr. Kirtland was "The Early Settler" who helped his neighbors make their gardens thrive. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland Memory Project
Kirtland's Napoleon Cherry Tree Botany was a life-long hobby for Dr. Kirtland.   He enjoyed manipulating plants and attempting to make improvements on nature.  Ultimately, Dr. Kirtland developed twenty-six varieties of cherry trees. In line with his character, he graciously shared his discoveries with the local farmers who used his innovations to improve their yields for market.   As a result, Lakewood became an area with many orchards, vineyards and other crops, providing food for the growing cities. Image courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society.
Kirtland Warbler The Kirtland Warbler has always been a rare bird. Its current conservation status is "Near Threatened," an improvement from its status 50 years ago when it was almost extinct. Kirtland discovered the migratory songbird in 1851. Source: Lakewood Historical Society
Preserving the Property When the Whippoorwill property was to be sold to Kroger's Grocery Stores in the 1950s, an effort was made to save the home and surrounding farm buildings from destruction. Margaret Manor Butler, pictured here next to a fireplace in the Kirtland home, was a writer and local historian who pushed for saving the property. In the end commerce won out and a grocery store replaced the Kirtland estate. Image courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society.
The Kirtland Legacy Before Kirtland's home was torn down, it was opened to those interested in saving pieces of the Kirtland legacy. The Kirtland family Bible was saved along with other books found in the home that had once belonged to Jared Potter Kirtland himself. Some items found their way to the Lakewood Historical Society archives and collection. Image courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society.
Dr. Kirtland's Bust The bust of Jared Potter Kirtland was created by Dr. Theodatus Garlick, a noted plastic surgeon and sculptor. Kirtland's bust was sculpted in 1853, when Potter was 60 years old. After Kirtland's death in 1877, the bust was given to his family. In 1955, it was rescued from a barn that was about to be torn down on the Whippoorwill property, by Margaret Manor Butler. Mrs. Butler moved the bust to the Lakewood Historical Society for safe keeping, along with other Kirtland artifacts. Image courtesy of Lisa Alleman.
Jared Potter Kirtland's Grave Marker Jared Potter Kirtland died on December 10, 1877 at the age of 84. He is buried in Lake View Cemetery in section 13, lot 7. He was a doctor, naturalist, botanist, author and teacher. He improved food production and led the way for better water treatment facilities. He supported education and life-long learning. Image courtesy of the Lakewood Historical Society.

Location

Metadata

Lisa Alleman, “Jared Potter Kirtland,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 13, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/379.