Italian Cultural Garden





Italian Cultural Garden



The Italian Cultural Garden is designed on two levels in formal landscape style grandly conceived in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance.

The chief features of the upper level garden are a large circular marble fountain, a stone parapet, and, terminating the right arm of its North-South axis, a bronze bust of the poet Virgil. Mounted on a stone column taken from the ancient Roman forum, this sculpture was a gift from the Italian government.

The garden slopes by hillside terraces to the lower boulevard, where a semicircular, brick-paved court forms a parapet and retaining wall. Here is set a double shell fountain, and the wall is decorated with six medallions of carved stone representing six great Italians whose genius has enriched the world. These are Giotto (1267-1337), Florentine artist regarded as the founder of modern art Michelangelo (1475-1564), sculptor, painter, creator of the Sistine chapel murals, most famous artist of the Renaissance and perhaps of all time Petrarch (1304-1374), Italian poet, Latin scholar, and great humanist Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), composer of the most popular operas ever written Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), most typical genius of the Renaissance in his supremacy in the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, science, engineering, and natural philosophy and Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), Italian inventor, founder of commercial wireless telegraphy and of radio as we know it today.

The Italian Garden was formally opened on October 12, 1930, with the joint celebration of Columbus Day and the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the poet, Virgil, when the bust of the great poet was unveiled. Festivities began at nine o'clock in the morning of the mild October day. Three thousand members of Italian societies heard extolled the rich cultural contributions of the Latin races to American civilization. A letter of congratulation to the City of Cleveland upon this occasion from Senatore Nobile Giacomo de Martino, royal Italian ambassador in Washington, read in part: "By honoring Virgil, Cleveland honors herself. Rome, capital of Latinity and jealous custodian of Latin culture, has appreciated the noble gift of this city. In response to the generous act with which the citizens of Cleveland have offered to the Italian community as a symbol of friendship and in memory of the Latin poet, a part of her public park to be dedicated to Virgil, Rome has sent a pedestal. This column has been handed down to us through the centuries, and perhaps has been witness to the triumph of the poet."

At noon on this day, a semi-circle of American, Italian, and fraternal banners was formed around the pedestal, and to t he strains of band music, the bronze, laurel-crowned head of the gentle and beloved poet, was unveiled.




A message of congratulations from Herbert Hoover, then President of the United States, was read.

City Manager William R. Hopkins then spoke, stressing the cultural significance of these nationality gardens. Dr. John A. Barricelli delivered an address on Virgil in Italian, and Professor John Belfi a tribute in Latin. Commander Hugo Dudone, Italian war veteran of New York, compared the legacies to America of Virgil and Columbus. Count Cesare George B. Gradenigo, Italian Consul, then presented the bust, and Mayor John D. Marshall accepted it for the city. Mr. B. D. Nicola was master of ceremonies.

The executive committee in charge of a city-wide Virgil observance included Professor J. H. Hanford, Professor Clarence P. Bill, Mrs. Frances Bushea, Miss Mildred Chadsey, Miss Linda A. Eastman, Philip Garbo, Rossiter Howard, Dr. E. B. deSauze, Leo Weidenthal,

Charles J. Wolfram, and Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick. A plaque bearing a Virgil verse was presented to the garden during this celebration.

In 1932 Cleveland received from Italy a block of stone hewn from the side of Monte Grappa in northern Italy, in honor of the many northern Ohio members of the 332nd Regiment of Infantry, who fought on Italian soil in 1918. Here also is a tablet recalling the late General Balbo's flight from Rome to Chicago in 1933.

In August of 1934, the Right Reverend Monsignor Edidio Vagnozzi, Papal delegate from Rome, in Cleveland for the Holy Rosary Church celebration of the Feast of the Assumption, visited the Italian Garden.

At the Columbus Day celebration in 1935, two bronze tablets were presented to the Italian Cultural Garden Association by its president, Mr. Philip Garbo. These tablets are affixed to the massive stone piers flanking the main garden entrance on the upper boulevard level.

Count Gradenigo, Mayor Marshall, Philip Garbo

On one tablet are the names of one hundred famous Italians, the Italian coat of arms, and a raised map of Italy. On the other are two figures representing Italy offering America the fruits of her cultural achievement.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Romeo Montecchi, Italian Consul Mrs. Josephine Novario, teacher of Italian at John Hay High School and the Cleveland Institute of Music Mrs. G. A. Barricelli Dr. C. Menzalora, and Charles J. Wolfram, then president of the Cleveland Cultural Garden League. Monsignor Joseph N. Trivisino, pastor of the Holy Rosary Church, placed a wreath in honor of Christopher Columbus.

In 1936 the Cleveland spring season of the San Carlo Opera Company was sponsored by the Cultural Garden League. The Italian Cultural Garden

Upper Boulevard Entrance to the Italian Cultural Garden




Lower Terrace Wall of the Italian Cultural Garden

Association took a leading role in arranging for this festival of all-Italian operas.

On September 14, 1941, the completed Italian Cultural Garden was officially dedicated in a program honoring the garden as a symbol of the contribution of Italian culture to American democracy. Patriotic songs were sung by the assembled crowd, and Angelo Vitale's band played.

A.L. DeMaioribus, at that time president of the City Council, was principal speaker. His theme, addressed to free Americans, was "Strength Without Hatreds." In his address he pointed out that "nothing can be more disruptive of national unity than the importation of antagonisms of old Europe into our new world."

The Italian Garden was begun in 1939 and completed in 1941. The city contributed $18,061, and the Federal Government, in W.P.A. funds, $94,557, toward its total cost.

Officers through the years include Philip Garbo as president Charles Cavano, first vice president Federico Santi, second vice president Mrs. Pauline Bruno, secretary, and Philip Garbo, Mrs. G. A. Barricelli, Eugene Palermo, and Frank Sancetta, trustees. The late Frank D. Celebrezze, brother of Mayor Anthony J. Celebrezze served the Italian Cultural Garden Association for many years as treasurer.

The president executive committee of the Italian Cultural Garden consists of Philip Garbo, Judge B. D. Nicola, S. Cirelli, Anthony J. Celebrezze, A.L. DeMaioribus, F. Santi, John J. Locuoco, Folco Zugaro, Mr. and Mrs. John Garmone. Philip Garbo is president. Natale Comella is secretary.

The beautiful Italian Garden in the glorious Renaissance tradition it represents, forms a resplendent unit in the Cultural Gardens chain, and is a timeless asset to Cleveland and to America.


Previous | Table of Contents | Next