Rockefeller Park
Rockefeller Park



United States

Rockefeller Park

Established on land donated by John D. Rockefeller, this 206-acre park stretches for approximately two miles from Gordon Park, situated along the shore of Lake Erie, to University Circle. Set in a ravine carved by the Doan Brook, the park was designed by Ernest Bowditch in 1894 on behalf of the Board of Park Commissioners, who envisioned a chain of interconnected greenspaces throughout the city. 

Bowditch designed a curvilinear parkway (now Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive) flanked by pedestrian paths, asymmetrical plantings of shade trees (beeches, cottonwoods, maples, sycamores, and oaks), and lawns framed by steeply sloped sides that provide enclosure. Bowditch accommodated multiple modes of travel, while ensuring a shared choreographed experience. The meandering parkway and walks contrast with the linear, ordered grid of the surrounding neighborhoods and pass under four masonry bridges (1899-1902) designed by Charles Schweinfurth. The park is also home to more than 30 Cleveland Cultural Gardens. 

The park follows the course of the Doan Brook, whose contiguous expanses of lawn meet banks reinforced with stone walls erected between 1904 and 1941. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was integral to the project’s construction as well as the development of greenhouses and many of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. 

Bowditch’s design created picturesque passages of scenery that animated sections of the park with rocky outcroppings and a curvilinear lagoon near the southern terminus, rebuilt in the early 2000s at half its original size. Just west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, the lagoon is encircled by a pedestrian path edged by willows and features an island that echoes Bowditch’s original design. East of the Drive, tennis courts have been utilized by the Forest City Tennis Club, one of the oldest African American tennis clubs, since 1952. 

Siteworks, landscape architects prepared a park master plan in 2009, which received an ASLA Honors Award. The Rockefeller Park and Cleveland Cultural Gardens Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Location and Nearby Landscapes

Nearby Landscapes