Polish Cultural Garden

Located at the corner of St. Clair and East Boulevard, the Polish Cultural Garden was dedicated in 1934 with the planting of an elm tree from Poland. Originally designed as a sunken, hexagonal court, the Polish Garden was designed with organic material from Poland.

Poles were one of Cleveland's largest nationality groups in the 20th century. Some arrived even earlier. In 1870, the first notable U.S. Census counted 77 Poles living in the city. The earliest Polish immigrants settled within the Czech community around Croton Street. Eventually, however, the Poles created their own settlement adjacent to Tod (E.65th) St. and what became Fleet Avenue. The area soon became known as Warszawa, after the capital city of Poland. Today, the area is known simply as Slavic Village today. Immigrants continued to move to Cleveland in the 1880s, increasing the Polish population considerably. Two more settlements grew up in the late 1880s and 1890s. The Poznan neighborhood was established around E. 79th St. and Superior Ave. and Kantowo arose in the Tremont area.

Cleveland's Polish community continued to grow with the city's need for workers. The largest influx occurred between 1900-14. The U.S. Census for 1920 records 35,024 Poles with several smaller neighborhoods having been settled by WWI: Josephatowo near E. 33rd St. and St. Clair Ave., Barbarowo at Denison Avenue, and along Madison Ave with other groups including Slovaks. All immigration after WWI was inconsequential and the Cleveland Polish community peaked in 1930 with a population of 36,668 foreign-born Poles.

The movement to the suburbs began as early as 1910. By 1970, only 6,234 Poles still resided within the city limits. The U.S. Census for 1990 estimated that only 1,635 Poles remained in the city, with Slavic Village being the community's main center.

At the center of the Polish Cultural Garden stands an octagonal fountain decorated with allegorical figures that represent music, literature, science and astronomy. It has an ornamental border of jumping fish and small carved turtles along its base. The fountain was dedicated to the daughter of 16th century poet Jan Kochanowski. The little girl's death at 2 ½ years of age prompted Kochanowski to write a series of 19 elegies. Fittingly, the fountain was built largely by the help of small donations from schoolchildren. It was dedicated in 1953.

Surrounding the central fountain are seven busts showing Polish notables. All the busts were dedicated between 1947 and 1966. Among the notables are 19th century composer and pianist Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), 16th century astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), and 20th century physicist and chemist Maria Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934).

Images

Unveiling, 1947

Unveiling, 1947

Barbara Zakrzewski (left), age 9, of 1215 East 84th Street and Joan Kupniewski, age 9, of 8802 Bancroft Avenue take part in an unveiling ceremony at the Polish Cultural Garden in 1947. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Polish Garden, 1937

Polish Garden, 1937

Boys stand near the East Boulevard entrance to the Polish Cultural Garden. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Construction, Sep. 1935

Construction, Sep. 1935

Much of the funding for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, including the Polish Cultural Garden, came from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). Here, workmen lay the foundations of the garden along St. Clair and Upper East Boulevard on September 13, 1935. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Construction, March 1936

Construction, March 1936

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Marie Curie, 1949

Marie Curie, 1949

The caption for this 1949 photograph reads: "Bronze Bust of Madame Curie, famous Polish scientist, to be erected in the Cultural Gardens at St. Clair Ave. and East Blvd., will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Sunday. It was purchased by the American Polish Women's Club. Looking over the head, which represents an 11-year saving project, are, left to right, Mrs. John Toronski, 3805 E. 71st St., Mrs. Thadeus Gedgovd, 927 Ansel Rd., and Mrs. Leo F. Orlikowski, 15611 Stockbridge Dr. Shaker Heights." Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Kosciuszko Memorial, 1938

Kosciuszko Memorial, 1938

The Polish community in Cleveland often gathered at the Tadeusz Kosciuszko memorial. This particular memorial is not located in the Polish Cultural Garden but in the nearby Wade Park, just west of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Erected in 1905, it honors the Polish national hero and American Revolutionary War Colonel. This photograph shows a 1938 wreath laying ceremony. Pictured are (from left to right): S. A. Krawczyk, commander Lincoln Post No. 13 of Polish Legion of American Veterans; Z. P. Zakrzewski, commander Post No. 6, Polish Army Veterans; K. J. Zielecki, marshal of parade; and Eli Gurowich, field marshal Post No. 13, Polish Legion of American Veterans. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Audio

"They Must Be Something Special..."

In this clip from a 2005 interview, Ben Stefanski II explains how he became involved with the Polish Cultural Garden and expresses a surprising opinion about a series of thefts that had recently occurred at the gardens. View File Details Page

Frédéric Chopin

This is an excerpt from Polish French composer, Frédéric Chopin's Mazurkas in E major, Op. 6. Found at International Music Score Library Project View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Polish Cultural Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed March 27, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/134.

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