The Cleveland Public Library’s main branch was erected in 1925 and designed by Walker and Weeks to assimilate with the 1903 Group Plan. In 1937 librarian Linda Eastman created a “reading garden” in an adjacent, undeveloped 0.3-acre lot, enlivening a linear paved walkway with lawn borders, canopy trees, and alcoves with benches and moveable book carts.
In 1959, the library acquired a second building opposite the reading garden. Following renovations, landscape architect George Creed paved the park with concrete and flanked the space with carpets of low ground cover and flowering trees. Ornamental iron fencing and entry gates were added at Rockwell and Superior Avenues. Lawn panels with trees border each gate, screening the park. Creed added two central, rectangular beds, each planted with one tree, and furnished the space with moveable chairs, tables, shade umbrellas, figurative sculpture, and a sun dial. The garden reopened as the Eastman Reading Garden in 1960.
In 1998, landscape architecture firm Hanna/Olin reconceived the space in tandem with the library’s rehabilitation. Shade trees remain at each street entrance, and the central space, repaved in a pattern of white, red, and gray stone, retains its linear form. Along the east and west perimeter, understory flowering trees shade beds of perennials, some raised and rimmed by stone benches. In the southwest corner, a pyramidal lightwell illuminates the space below.
Two permanent sculptures were installed in 1998. Small, playful bronze figures by Tom Otterness adorn the entrance gates and benches. Maya Lin’s L-shaped black granite fountain, titled Reading a Garden and inscribed by a Tan Lin poem of the same name, frames a recessed seating area shaded by a grove of honey locusts at the park’s center. Since 2009, an initiative by the library and LAND Studio has also displayed rotating works of public art.