The CLEVELAND BOTANICAL GARDEN, formerly known as the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland, is the country's oldest civic garden center. Established on 4 Dec. 1930, it was originally located in a formerly abandoned boathouse at WADE PARK Lagoon. The Center was founded by members of the Garden Club of Greater Cleveland, who stated their purpose as "providing a place or places where knowledge and appreciation of gardening and horticulture are promoted." To raise money for the center, the Garden Club held a French St. Fair in front of the Art Museum on 12-14 June 1930, raising $17,000. Margaret Asborn, graduate of Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, was the center's first director. The new center issued a newsletter and, by the end of its first year, gave 47 lectures/demonstrations and welcomed 20,000 visitors. Reorganized in 1933, the center became the Garden Ctr. of Greater Cleveland, ending its sponsorship by the Garden Club.
The Garden Ctr. incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1937, and in 1939 it enlarged the lagoon-front building with 2 wings. In 1995, mostly due to parking problems and flooding issues, Garden Ctr. trustees opted to build a new facility at 11030 East Blvd.—the former site of the Wade Park Zoo, Cleveland’s first zoo (1889 to 1907).
The Garden Center changed its name to the Cleveland Botanical Garden in 1994. In 2003, the organization remodeled the East Blvd. building, expanded its outdoor gardens, added a parking garage underneath Wade Oval, installed a climate-controlled environment for the its rare-book collection and built the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse—two giant “biodomes” replicating Madagascar's Spiny Desert and a Costa Rican Cloud Forest.
In 2014, Cleveland Botanical Garden joined forces with The Holden Arboretum to become Holden Forests and Gardens. Members may now patronize both locations: University Circle and Holden’s main location in Kirtland OH. In addition to permanent and temporary displays and events, CBG continues to do community outreach, green renovation, environmental research and urban farming.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Knowles, Margaret. Fifty Years of Growing and Serving, 1930-1980: The Garden Center of Greater Cleveland