Jared Potter Kirtland

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.

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