QUERY: Ethnic and working-class use of public space

Author: Josef Barton <texbart@merle.acns.nwu.edu>

Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 09:52:40 -0600

[Dominic A. Pacyga writes:]

I am currently working on the problem of ethnic and working-class use of public space in U.S. cities between 1900 and 1940. I have done quite a bit of research on Czechs in Chicago and Pilsen Park. Does any one have any suggestions for further research on Pilsen Park or the Chicago Czechs? Any suggestions concerning semi-public ethnic spaces in Chicago or other cities, i.e. Croke Park in NYC, Warsaw Park in Detroit, Bismark Park in Chicago, etc?

Dominic A. Pacyga

Dominic A. Pacyga Liberal Education Department Columbia College

600 South Michigan Ave. Chicago, Il. 60605

e-mail address DXP000@mail.colum.edu Home telephone 312-881-0307 Office

Telephone 312-663-1600 X-531

Date: Fri, 27 Jan 1995 15:05:43 -0600

[Victor R Greene <vicgre@csd.uwm.edu> writes:]

Dominic Pacyga's request for help with information on ethnic group use of

public parks is interesting. I have no citations for him but some

information. The one that comes to mind immediately are the "Nationality

Gardens" in Cleveland, a group of park spaces with statues of ethnic

leaders. Contact John Grabowski of the Western Reserve Historical

Society. Also he is probably aware of the statues erected to ethnic

heroes-especially Kosciuszko and Pulaski. He knows of the one in

Chicago; we have one in Milwaukee, and there are others. In fact many

groups erected statues in public parks for nationality celebrations,

picnics, and the like. Remember Lafayette Park in Wash. D.C. with

its Polish, French, and German "heroes." Again I regret I have no

references; local urban historical societies should help.

Victor Greene

Date: Sat, 28 Jan 1995 07:45:41 -0600

[Christopher J. Dawson writes:]

In response to [Victor Greene's recent posting], yes, Cleveland has a Czech cultural garden, as it does for other ethnic groups. However, those were more memorial gardens than truly social parks. They lined Liberty Boulevard, which was near the various ethnic enclaves, but was not one itself. The Czechs were actually over on the West side of Cleveland. I do recommend contacting Dr. Grabowski at Western Reserve Historical Society (216-721-5722), as well as looking at THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLEVELAND HISTORY, which he edited with David Van Tassel. Another good source on Czechs in Cleveland is a pamphlet by the name of THE CZECHS IN CLEVELAND, written during World War One by Eleanor Ledbetter, a librarian at the Broadway Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, which was in the midst of the biggest ethnic enclave in the Cleveland area. She wrote it as part of the Americanization Committee of Cleveland, but it is an excellent view of the Czech community at that time. There's still a very strong Czech presence in Cleveland, so it may be worth exploring for your research.


Christopher J. Dawson

Dept. of History, Kent State University


"History repeats itself; historians repeat each other."-Philip Guedalla

Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 17:01:30 -0600

[John Radzilowski <JRadzilow@AOL.COM> writes:]

Due to lower population density and greater availibility of space, rural ethnic groups were often able to take over small hamlets and make them into ethnic havens. Such places came to consist of a church, a saloon, a school, and, perhaps, a dancehall. (Listed here in order of relative importance!) I have found examples of this occurring in German, Polish, Czech, Belgian, and Danish rural settlements.

This takeover of public space, turning it de facto into "ethnic space," raises the question of whether public space can ever be ethnic and whether ethnic space can ever be public.

Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 10:03:25 -0600

[Joe Rodriguez <joerod@CSD.UWM.EDU> writes:]

A couple of sources on parades and celebrations: Susan G. Davis, Parades and Power, Street Theatre in Nieteenth-Century Philadelphia (Temple, 1986)

Shane White, "It was a proud Day" African Americans, Festivals, and Parades in the North, 1741-1834," JAH, 81:1 June 1994, 13-50.

Joe Rodriguez,


Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 11:34:58 -0600

[Mary S. Black <msblack@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU> writes:]

Dominic Pacyga's request for help with information on ethnic group use of public parks is interesting.

See Florrie S. Dupre's (1925) master's thesis from the University of Texas at Austin for interesting info on public parks in San Antonio in 1924. For instance, there were 6 swimming pools: 4 for Anglos and Mexican Americans together, 1 for Mexican use only, and 1 for Negro use only. The segregated Mexican and Black pools were also segregrated by gender, with boys and girls using the pools at different times of day. There was also a Black only park with tennis courts, swings, and slides, supervised by a Black park manager. The name of the thesis is Play as a Factor in the Education of Children.

Mary S. Black

University of Texas at Austin

Date: Tue, 31 Jan 1995 19:04:58 -0600

[Todd M. Michney <mich0128@GOLD.TC.UMN.EDU> writes:]

Speaking of ethnics' use of public spaces, and of Cleveland's Czechs in particular, the significance of Wade Park should be mentioned.

Wade Park is in Cleveland's University Circle area, and is bounded by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Garden Center of Cleveland, and the Western Reserve Historical Society. In the early years of this century, it was home to Cleveland's zoo.

When the Czech exiled politician Thomas Masaryk came to Cleveland in 1919 in order to rally support for a Czecho-Slovak state, he spoke at Wade Park along with Cleveland's mayor, the Governor of Ohio, and the president of Western Reserve University. The _Cleveland Plain Dealer_ of June 17, 1918 states:

practically the entire Cecho-Slovak population of Cleveland [an exaggeration] turned out to welcome Prof. Masaryk. Fifteen bands and nearly 25,000 people representing ten allied nations took part in the parade. Close to 50,000 were grouped around the platform from which Prof. Masaryk and prominent Cecho-Slovaks of this city spoke in Wade Park.

The mention of "allied nations" is a reference to the Russians, Romanians, Serbs, and Poles who joined in the procession, the article later states.

I am also highly interested in the uses of public space by ethnics and their communities, particularly for the erection of monuments. As an undergraduate, I wrote a seminar paper on the nationalistic meanings of monuments erected by Cleveland's Slovak community.

Todd M. Michney

Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 09:11:28 -0600

[Joel Wurl writes:]

Re. the use of public space by immigrants, I recently came across the following passage in an unpublished autobiography at the Immigration History Research Center written by an East European Jewish immigrant in St.

Louis. The time is c.1925:

......Most Sundays we would go to Forest Park on the hill, or, as it really was called, to the Pavilion. The Pavilion was a large building that had a stand dispensing soft drinks and ice cream. There were no sides to the building. It was open to the out-of-doors, and under the roof were tables and benches.

It seemed to me that on a Sunday, the whole Jewish population of St. Louis was on the hill. My cousin gave her younger son's Bar Mitzvah party there on the Sunday after his Bar Mitzvah. It was catered. The truck with the food drove up as close as it could come to the tables. Then the caterer's men brought paper tablecloths, paper plates, and napkins. I think it was a very nice party and the whole family could come. Otherwise she would have had to rent a hall. This was much nicer. It was a sad day in the Jewish quarters when it rained on a Sunday.

......In the park, the children could toddle around, play games, and their parents were free to talk, gossip, and play cards. The road where there was traffic was too far away for the children to walk to.

No thought was given that a child will be kidnapped or some harm

befall it, and no child was ever missing from the hill.

.....Forest Park wasn't the only place where picnics were enjoyed. There was a smaller park, I don't remember the name, where these girls [friends of the author's brother] took me. All these girls had come from Poland or Latvia and weren't in the States much longer than I. Naturally, our English wasn't very clear. We talked Yiddish. It follows that we would only go where other Jewish people went. We went to that smaller park several times; it was more enticing. There was a dance floor and musicians played dance music. And there were young men just off the boat to dance with. it cost 50 cents to get in the part of the park where the dancing was.


Joel Wurl

Curator & Asst. Director

Immigration History Research Center

University of Minnesota

ph; 612/627-4208

fax: 612/627-4190