University Circle: A Cultural Necklace

Tour curated by: The Cleveland Historical Team

This tour explores a number of world-famous cultural institutions that surround Wade Park in Cleveland's University Circle neighborhood.

University Circle, which originated as a trolley turnaround, had its start as Cleveland's cultural center in the 1880s when Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology (two institutions which later merged to form Case Western Reserve University) moved to the area, and when Jeptha Wade, one of the founders of Western Union Telegram Company, donated to Cleveland a large tract of land adjacent to the college campuses to be used as a park.

In this era, University Circle was also the residential neighborhood of many of Cleveland's most wealthy citizens. These citizens supported the founding, or in some instances the relocation, of a number of cultural institutions to the Circle during a period which stretched from 1898 to 1961.

Western Reserve Historical Society moved to the Circle in 1898, and to its present location on the Circle in 1938-1941. The Cleveland Museum of Art was built on the Circle in 1916. In 1930-31, three important institutions were added--Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Severance Hall, and University Hospitals. In the 1961 the "cultural necklace" at Wade Park was rendered complete with the arrival of the Natural History Museum and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Since 1957, when a master plan began to coordinate future development, University Circle has been a centerpiece of Cleveland's attempts to encourage economic development. Pitched in the 1960s as an important asset for industrial firms contemplating relocation to Greater Cleveland, University Circle reflected efforts to craft a suburban oasis in the city. Today the Circle is a bona fide tourist destination and bustling urban district, thanks to a transformation in institutional planning in the past decade.

Locations for Tour

Parklike University Circle is the cultural, medical, and educational center of Cleveland's east side. Named after a streetcar turnaround on Euclid Avenue just east of East 107th Street, University Circle attracted Western Reserve University from…

University Hospitals of Cleveland is a world-class, not-for-profit medical institution with close ties to Case Western Reserve University. Its roots go back to 1866, with the formation of the Cleveland City Hospital Association, a charitable society…

Case Western Reserve University traces its roots to Western Reserve College, founded in Hudson, Ohio in 1826. Industrialist Amasa Stone financed the college's move to Cleveland's University Circle in 1880 - the same year that the Case…

Severance Hall, the permanent home of the Cleveland Orchestra, was built between 1929 and 1931. Its completion represents over $7 million in donations from both the Cleveland public and heavy weight philanthropists, as well as a land grant from the…

The Cleveland Botanical Garden was founded as the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland in 1930, and was originally located in a boathouse at Wade Park Lagoon. Various horticultural exhibits of plants from all over the world are provided in the gardens.…

The Cleveland Institute of Music was founded in 1920 by a small group of backers who each contributed $1,000 to get the institute off the ground. Initially the school focused on student performance. Classes were first taught in the Statler Hotel,…

Founded in 1867, Western Reserve Historical Society is the oldest cultural institution in Northeast Ohio, the region's largest American history research center, and one of the leading genealogical research centers in the nation. Additionally,…

The Ark was a small, two-room frame house located on the northeast side of Public Square. It housed taxidermy ranging from birds to reptiles and mammals, which led to its being called the Ark in reference to the biblical story of saving the…

The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the foremost art museums in the world, having outstanding collections of Pre-Columbian, medieval European, and Asian art. It opened to the public in 1916 on Jeptha H. Wade's Wade Park property in University…
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