Estonian Garden

1170 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Cleveland, OH 44108 - across from the Peace Plaza
Herk Visnapuu
Dedication Date:
1966 - Remodeled and rededicated: 2010
Sponsoring Organization:

Estonian Community of Cleveland

History & Design:

Designed by Oberlin graduate and prominent architect Herk Visnapuu, the Estonian Garden features an abstract sculpture, an inscribed flame, at its center. Some considered the unveiling of the flame in 1996 a bold move by Cleveland’s Estonian’s community, because it represented freedom. At the time, Estonia was still a part of the former Soviet Union. Sculptor Clarence E. VanDuzer designed the flame.

The Inventory of American Sculpture describes the piece as being “a tapered cement shaft with curved tips. The top of the shaft is cut out in the shape of a petal or a leaf. The cutout area holds flame-shaped pieces made of wood. The sculpture rests on a raised mound surrounded by trees.”

The inscription on the monument is from Kalevipoeg, an epic poem written by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, a writer and physician (1803-1882) in the 1850s but originally published in 1861.

Part of the broader awakening of nationalist sentiment in Europe, Kalevipoeg became a lightning rod for the creation of Estonian national identity, of self-confidence and pride. It reads: But the time will come when all torches will burst into flame at both ends.

September 2010 marked the completion of the remodeling of the Estonian Garden’s central area. A large, sandstone, boat-like planter surrounded by sandstone walks has replaced the original walkway.

The Baltic Sea is an important part of Estonian life and the boat suggests as much. The text incised in a paver at the boat’s stern is also from the Estonian epic poem, Kalevipoeg.

The Estonians are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Cleveland. Evidence suggests that the first Estonian settler, Geo. Tammik, arrived in Cleveland in 1903. About 35 more people were recorded as Estonian immigrants by 1945 with about 200 more arriving following World War II.

Contact Erika Puussaar for more information: