Rockefeller Park is the largest park entirely inside Cleveland’s city limits. The park connects a string of parkland that extends from the suburb of Shaker Heights to the shore of Lake Erie. To celebrate Cleveland's Centennial in 1896, oil tycoon John D.Rockefeller and his wife, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, pledged to deed the city 270 acres of land and donate hundreds of thousands more for the park's beautification and upkeep—a total of $550 k in turn-of-the-century dollars! The announcement drew cheers from the Centennial celebration's crowd, and in gratitude, the park was named in their honor.
The plans to build a greenhouse on a portion of the park began in 1902, and the first building opened in 1905. Initially, the purpose of the greenhouse was solely to grow plants that could be transferred to other parks and gardens to beautify the city. Over time, the greenhouse grew to be a botanical destination on its own.
Today Rockefeller Park Greenhouse is a small, four-acre botanical garden with a wonderful assortment of specialty plants, seasonal floral displays, and themed gardens. Are you looking to explore firsthand some beautiful botanical finds? Come indoors to see the greenhouse's cacti and orchids, an indoor water garden, a fern showhouse, and more.
In December, the gardens and greenhouse are converted into an elaborate holiday display, filled with poinsettias.
There are also six outdoor gardens. The Iris Garden is a delight in springtime. During the summer, the Latin American Garden displays succulents, flowering plants, and tropical fruits found in Central and South America. The Japanese Garden evokes a soothing, tranquil feeling through its materials, plants, and traditional Japanese design. The Mall is a manicured formal garden with statues that symbolize the four seasons, and a Peace Garden leads you through an old-fashioned gazebo to perennial, herb, and rose gardens. A highlight for all visitors, including the visually-impaired, is the Betty Ott Talking Garden. Here plants have been selected for their appeal to all the senses and are planted in raised beds that allow you to get up close to see, touch, and smell them. Descriptions are given in audio, and garden signage is both in English and Braille. As for the park, the outdoor space is filled with arching trees native to Ohio.
There is something in bloom at Rockefeller Greenhouse all year round. Admission is free, and it's open from 10 to 4 every day, even on holidays. Its small size makes it easy to explore, and it's often less crowded here than in some of the other parks, making it a hidden gem. Visitors enjoy escaping from cold, winter weather and getting a taste of the desert or tropics in the warm, indoor greenhouses.
Points of interest at Rockefeller Park include the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, four architecturally historic stone bridges, and Doan Brook. The Cultural Gardens and the stone bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places. The park also offers a lagoon, picnic areas, tennis courts, playgrounds, and walks.
[Cover photo credit: Erik Drost under CC BY-NC 2.0]