The Collinwood School Fire
#OTD Today, in 1938, the St. Cloud Times ran a story about Miss Louise Klein Miller.
Miller, at the age of 84, was retiring as supervisor of Cleveland's Memorial Gardens - after supervising them for over a quarter of a century.
The first woman to attend Cornell University's school of forestry, Miller became the landscape architect for Cleveland schools; she was the only female landscape architect working in an extensive city school system.
Collinwood is a neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. On Ash Wednesday, March 4, 1908, the Collinwood school fire became one of the country's biggest tragedies.
The school had only two exits. The construction created a chimney effect; the school became a fire trap. Almost half of the children in the building died.
In 1910, Louise Klein Miller planned the Memorial Gardens to honor the 172 children, two teachers, and one rescuer who died in the blaze.
The year before, in 1909, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that, "a memorial should stand in perpetuity to honor those who lost their lives in this school fire tragedy.”
The memorial is comprised of a large square planting bed is rimmed 3.5-foot walls made of concrete that is tiled — the plantable area of the memorial measures roughly 20’ x 40’. There's also a deep bench around the perimeter, and the walls are slanted to make seating more comfortable. The downside is that the bench and the scale of the raised bed make access to the planting area is sometimes very challenging.
During Miller's era, students grew flowers in a school greenhouse for the Memorial.
Over 70 years, the garden fell into neglect. 2018 was the 110th Anniversary of the Collinwood School Fire; there have been a few attempts to make sure that the garden continues to be a meaningful memorial. The struggle to maintain the Memorial continues.
In July of 1910, there was an article in the Santa Cruz newspaper that described the new memorial garden - which at the time included a large lily pond:
"There was a poet who said he sometimes thought that never blows so red the rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every hyacinth the garden wears, drops in her lap from some once lovely head.
Then there will never be lilies so fair as those that will bloom in the lily pond that is to be on the site of the Collinwood school."