During the industrialization in the 1880s and early 1900s, Cleveland acquired such a diversity of immigrants of different racial and national backgrounds that the city eventually seemed to represent the whole world in size. There was a lot of tension between the different minorities which eventually sparked the idea of a peace garden. John D. Rockefeller had donated a vast park area to his home city and so the Cleveland Cultural Gardens were situated in the Rockefeller Park that spans from Lake Erie to University Circle along East and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Today there are 24 different gardens in the park.
The Finnish Cultural Garden was established on September 14, 1958, with the unveiling of a granite monument inscribed with noted philosopher Aleksis Kivi’s immortal words, “A strong will carries a man even through grey granite.” Bronze busts of world renowned composers Jean Sibelius and Elias Lönnrot, who compiled Finland’s National Epic “Kalevala,” were unveiled on September 17, 1961. The busts of Statesman Johan Vilhelm Snellman and National Poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg completed the garden on August 23, 1964.
In the 1970s, the Finnish garden fell victim to vandalism and the bronze busts were stolen from their bases. Volunteers, however, have recently restored the busts Sibelius, Lönnrot, Snellman and Runeberg, returning the garden’s beauty for new generations to enjoy.