Greeks form a small but cohesive ethnic group in Cleveland. Panagiotis Koutalianos, a fabled "strong man," is said to have been the first Greek to settle in Cleveland in the 1880s. Between 1890 and 1925, another 5,000 Greeks settled in Cleveland. Many settled in "Greek Town"; an area around Bradley Ct. off Bolivar Rd. between Erie (E. 9th) St. and Ontario St. A second Greek community evolved along Woodland Ave. and E 79th St. The only Greek settlement on the west side was located in the Tremont neighborhood (bounded by W. 14th St., Fairfield Ave., W. 11th St. and Clark Ave.). This community was not formed primarily by recent arrivals from Europe though. Instead, it consisted largely of Greeks who moved to Tremont from "Greek Town". By the 1920s Cleveland's Greek population was around 5-6,000. Following WWII the population doubled, reaching approximately 10,000.
From the beginning, the Greek Orthodox Church was the cultural, social and educational center of the Greek community. Five schools were established alongside the churches. In the 1920s and 30s, classes were held after public school for 3 hours a day. Children learned language, history, literature, religious catechism, and performed in plays, presented songs, participated in dances and recited lengthy poems and dialogues - all in Greek. Today, Annunciation Greek Orthodox School's graduates' credits are accepted without examination by the public schools of Greece.
Laid out in the shape of a cross, the Greek Cultural Garden was formally dedicated on June 2, 1940. Dignitaries leading the ceremony included the Greek Minister to the United States, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas, Mayor Harold Burton and future Cleveland Mayor and United States Senator Frank Lausche.
Two Doric columns frame the garden's entrance, opening into a plaza containing a reflecting pool that offers a perspective on a wall and pylons which symbolize the wall of the Parthenon. Stone tablets on the wall and on pylons are inscribed with the names of prominent Greek artists, philosophers, writers, and scientists: Aristophanes, Pericles, Euripides, Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Pindar, Archimedes, Herodotus, Euclid, Hippocrates, Ptolemy and Pythagoras, to name but a few. Framing the symbolic wall are two paths that encircle it, leading to sandstone terraces that are lavishly planted with ilex, coloneastus, myrtle, and sweetbay. Cedars and Lombardy poplars giving the impression of cypresses provide an additional presence and atmosphere to the garden.
Maurice Cornell was the Garden's architect.