Art & Sculpture



Academic Essays



“Service-Learning: Doan Brook, Liberty Row, and the Cultural Gardens”

Robert M. Swaggard

Cleveland Heights High School P.R.I.D.E.

10th Grade U.S. History, 9th Grade World History


Background Essay:

            Throughout history, civilizations have always settled around one key component; Water!  The Tigris and Euphrates, the Nile, the Yangtze, even the Cuyahoga River can be seen as a life line to the community and people who rely on that river to sustain life.  In this unit, I hope to help teachers understand another water-source that was and is a vital component of the development of many prominent East side Cleveland neighborhoods.  This lifeline is Doan Brook, “an oasis in the heart of the city.” [1]

“Doan Brook arises in Shaker Heights and flows west and northwest through Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, University Circle, and Cleveland.  The brook reaches Lake Erie near the eastern edge of Gordon Park in Cleveland.  The stream is the center of the Shaker Lakes parks, Ambler Park, Rockefeller Park, and the Cultural Gardens.  The length of Doan Brook is about 8.4 miles long.” [2]   Little did Nathaniel Doan know that his property could help bring about such an important part of Cleveland’s history.

On the banks of Doan Brook, settlers to Cleveland were able to create new opportunities for themselves.  People who settled near Doan Brook created a village that began to flourish as Cleveland and her eastern suburbs began to grow. 

“Through the early part of the twentieth century, the various attractions of Doan’s corners brought a weekend crowd of shoppers and museum and theatre-goers to what had become Cleveland’s ‘second downtown’.  The parks along the lower Doan Brook drew city dwellers seeking a break from noise, dust, and smoke of increasingly industrial Cleveland.  At the same time, the urban center at Doan’s Corners drew citizens from rural areas to the east who were in search of city amenities.  The importance of the Doan’s Corners/University Circle area as a weekend haven for east-siders seeking shopping and entertainment continued through the 1950’s.” [3]

Doan Brook continued to be a source of life and culture into the early 20th century.  “One of the striking features of Doan Brook is an almost continuous line of parkland that surrounds the stream from its mouth to Horseshoe Lake…The nearly unbroken ribbon of green leads us to wonder how such an interconnected system of parks came about.” [4]

In order to help students understand the cultural gardens, students will need to see the gardens, either in person or through the TAH website that was created in the summer of 2005 by project participants.  In addition to seeing the gardens, students need to be exposed to some of the history of the garden.  This material can be found in several different ways.  Newspaper articles can be found through the Cleveland Press Collection, or at the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Much of the information from these two sources has been compiled to create the web page for the 2005 Summer Teaching American History program at CSU.  Please use the following link to be directed to a wealth of information and knowledge of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.  This website was created with the help of local teachers who researched and created unit plans describing ways to bring this information to your students. Please use this website when teaching your students about the Cultural Gardens.

            “In 1919 Liberty Row was dedicated to honor Cleveland-area soldiers who had died during WWI.” [5]   The path of Liberty Row followed Doan Brook through the Cultural Gardens and added a common theme to the gardens.  In the midst of different cultural identities and heritages, a unifying symbol of American pride emerged to honor the fallen American veterans of WWI.  This memorial consisted of a series of white oak trees that were planted from Gordon Park on Lake Erie into Shaker Heights.  In addition to planting a tree, a round, bronze plaque bearing the name of  the fallen servicemen was constructed.  Even today if you are to take a drive down North Park Boulevard, you can still see that these monuments are still cared for.  Every Memorial Day, the memory of these fallen soldiers is honored by placing an American flag next to the bronze marker. 

            By looking at the history of Doan Brook, the creation of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and the dedication of Liberty Row, students will learn the history of their local communities.  Students will identify ways to become actively engaged through their service-learning projects.  This involvement will help to create a sense of legacy for our students in their community and potentially bring the gardens back to life.

            More information about Liberty Row, including pictures can be found at the above-mentioned website in power point format.  The service-learning components were summarized from a book that is a necessity if you are trying to do service-learning projects with your students.

Kaye, Cathryn Berger, M.A. “The Complete Guide to Service-Learning. Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis MN, 2004.


[1] Gooch, Laura C. The Doan Brook Handbook: A guide to the Shaker Lakes, Rockefeller Park, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and Points Between., The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, 2600 South Park Blvd. Cleveland, OH 44120-1699.  2001

[2] Gooch p. 20

[3] Gooch p. 13

[4] Gooch p. 14

[5] Encyclopedia of Cleveland History