Filed Under Agriculture

Miles Standish School Garden

Cleveland Public Schools began its horticulture education program for students, the first such program in the United States, in 1904, around the same time as the height of success of the Glenville Race Track, located between East 88th and East 101st streets. When Glenville Mayor Fredrick Goff closed the track in 1908, only the abandoned lot remained until the Miles Standish Elementary School was constructed in 1921. Other parcels of land also provided space for the construction of nearby Empire Junior High School. In 1960 a three-acre tract was allotted for Miles Standish Elementary School's horticulture program, under the direction of Dr. Edward T. Johnson. The garden was one of seven sponsored by the board of education. The Miles Standish school garden served pupils in the 4th-10th grades. The crops grown included corn, tomatoes, peppers, beets, cabbage, corn, and eggplants. Flowers were also raised in another part of the garden. The garden also had a high tunnel hoop house and its own water supply with a built-in irrigation system.

In order to participate in the school garden, students paid an annual fee of $1.25 (or $10 in modern value) for a plot. If the plot was successful, it could yield $25-$30 ($200-$240) in fruits and vegetables. Produce from the garden was also donated to the Eliza Bryant Jennings senior living home. In addition to working twice a week in the garden, where such duties include sowing, caring for, and harvesting fruits and vegetables from their plot, students also attended horticulture classes. Students learned how to prevent insects from eating their crops, as well as basics related to crop cultivation. Miles Standish Elementary School also held an annual Open House, with various themes each year. Some of the themes included "Garden City U.S.A.," "The Enchanted Forest," and "MSG Round-Up," the latter featuring a stagecoach and gardeners sporting cowboy costumes. The Open House also ran a competitive exhibition in which students could receive ribbons for their standout vegetables.

By 1979, many of Cleveland Public Schools' gardens were in decline due to financial strain and budget cuts. This led to the demise of the Miles Standish garden for a few years, until around the mid 1980s, when several community members brought the garden back as a community garden not so much for students, but for older Glenville citizens. As of now, the Miles Standish Community Garden still stands (next to what is now called Michael R. White Elementary School), cultivating not only crops, but a connection between the community's older generations and younger generations.


Big Side, Little Side Lilian Pyles explains the appearance of Miles Standish Elementary School, which was separated into the "big side" and "little side." The field, or "farmer's yard," was where the community garden was located. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Tomato Sandwiches Clara Nelson describes what made the tomatoes from her elementary school's garden superior to other produce. She explained the tomatoes were so juicy, she would make "tomato sandwiches" out of them. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection


Student Gardener Harvesting Eggplants Here a student checks the condition of his eggplants on his plot at the school garden. Students were able to tend to their plots twice a week, whether for working the soil or checking on plants. The gardens were sponsored by the Cleveland Public Schools Board of Education under their horticulture program. At this time in the 1960s, there were several school gardens for pupils to get a hands-on experience with agriculture. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Glenville Race Track, 1903 The Miles Standish Elementary School, as well as community garden, stands on the former land of Glenville Race Track. The 87-acre racetrack and Roadside Club were built in 1870, holding horse, bicycle, foot, harness, and, later, auto races. Even though the track was certainly a popular attraction on the east side, by 1908 the Mayor of Glenville, Fredrick Goff, determined the race track to be "illegal." Afterwards, Miles Standish Elementary School and Empire Junior High were constructed in its place. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photographic Collection
Miles Standish Elementary School, ca. 1920s Miles Standish Elementary School, constructed in 1921, was the subject of this 1920s postcard. Note the "Cleveland, Fifth City" logo, which represented the fact that Cleveland ranked number five nationally by population in the 1920 census. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Identifying Schoolyard Trees, 1942 The Miles Standish Elementary School Horticulture Program predated the opening of the school's tract gardens by at least two decades. According to the photo verso, during World War II, nature-oriented activities such as identifying trees on the school's grounds provided an effective means of counteracting "war nerves." Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Miles Standish Tract Gardens, 1965 Each gardener at the Miles Standish Elementary School garden paid $1.25 for a plot of land from the tract, which lasted a year. On a successful year, a student could easily save money from the amount of fruits and vegetables they would bring home. The garden had its own irrigation system, with pipes ran throughout the ground, for easy watering. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
High Tunnel Hoop House, 1965 The high tunnel hoop house of Miles Standish Elementary School garden was used for extending the crop growing season for students. The unheated greenhouse would protect the plants from weather conditions that would be typically seen in Ohio - frost, wind, and storms. Other precautions taken to decrease the likelihood of crop failure included classes pertaining to the correct use of insect pesticide. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Miles Standish School Garden Fair, 1965 Every year, the Miles Standish Elementary School garden would hold annual open houses, also known as fairs, for the Glenville community. Contests would judged based on the appearance of the crop, but some competitions such as the one above, would be based upon students' creativity to craft different creatures made from the garden's crop. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections



Julie A. Gabb, “Miles Standish School Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed February 1, 2023,