My drive to work each morning is historical. I work in University Circle named for a long gone trolley car turnaround. In Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, as elsewhere in the world, street names are indicative of the ideas, hopes, and aspirations of the residents. So each morning I get into my car and drive down Scarborough to the intersection of Scarborough and Coventry. Lifted up by notions that my neighborhood is somehow a magic reproduction of idyllic locales in the United Kingdom, I take a slight right onto Fairmount Boulevard (Fair + Mount) and head down out of the Heights towards University Circle via Cedar Hill. I cross Euclid Avenue some 75 blocks east of the now-vanished part of Euclid Avenue known as “Millionaire’s Row,” and “The Most Beautiful Street in America” and turn right onto Martin Luther King Drive (once Liberty Boulevard) for a brief span. Just a few blocks shy of work I always choose a slightly longer path turning right to drive up Jeptha Drive, past the Cleveland Museum of Art, and left onto Wade Oval Drive, and finally right onto Magnolia before turning into the parking lot for the Western Reserve Historical Society.
There are no doubt historians of American business who live on Rockefeller Parkway, or Frick Drive, or J.P. Morgan Avenue. There are no doubt authors who love the frontier novels of James Fenimore Cooper and find offices in buildings romantically called Fenimore Place, or others who chase their favorite voices from the past and set up shop in Washington Irving Manor, Louisa May Alcott Alcoves, or Emerson Gardens. Scientists and physicians are used to putting their feet up on desks in offices in wings and buildings named for icons of an earlier age: Einstein, DeBackey, Sagan. In my case the drive reminds me to contemplate one core question.
How do we tell the stories of philanthropists of the past to inspire the philanthropists of the future?
Today I’ve been thinking about Jeptha Homer Wade II. Here he is with his natty mustache.
In 1916 the Cleveland Museum of Art will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beautiful neoclassical Beaux Arts building designed by the architectural firm of Hubbell & Benes. You won’t find a Jeptha Homer Wade wing, although you will find a pillar with his name (and the names of the other “pillars of the institution) inscribed on it in the rotunda of the 1916 building. Look closely it’s way up there. Jeptha Homer Wade II wasn’t interested in having his name on things–but he was concerned that the City of Cleveland have an art museum. So here are a few things you might, or might not know about Jeptha Homer Wade II and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
- His grandfather, one of the founders of Western Union, was an itinerant portrait painter before developing an interest in telegraphy. If you are a regular visitor to the CMA you are probably already familiar with his grandfather’s work, although you are likely to think of it as “the man in the funny green glasses.”
- His grandfather Jeptha Homer Wade (1811-1890) gave the land upon which the art museum sits and the surrounding park (Wade Park) as a gift to the city of Cleveland after the death of his father, Randall Wade.
- Jeptha Homer Wade II’s father, Randall Wade (1835-1876), quite clearly trained Jeptha Homer Wade II as a collector and a connoisseur during a 15 month tour of Europe in 1870-71
- His father’s journals from the trip, along with Jeptha Homer Wade II’s letters to his grandfather back home, include rich descriptions of museums in Europe and visits to studios of American artists (many represented by works in the Cleveland Museum of Art collection)
- Jeptha Homer Wade II was instrumental in the decision to keep the museum free
- He believed galleries should be organized chronologically, or thematically, rather than centered on collections by specific donors
- He provided the seed money for the original endowment for the Cleveland Museum of Art
- He provided the seed money for the endowment for purchases
- He gifted close to 3000 works to the museum and gave the works to the museum free of any restrictions with the understanding that they could be sold off if better objects were found, or if in the future the museum had greater needs.
- Among his many gifts to the museum are key pieces including: Puvis’ “Summer,” “The Stroganoff Ivory,” and the Burgundian Table Fountain
- He collected portrait miniatures and a majority of the works in the traditional section of the recent sensational portrait miniature exhibition were gifted to museum by JH Wade or members of his family, including his daughter Helen Wade Greene and his son-in-law Edward Belden Greene
- His granddaughter, Helen Wade Perry, supported Sherman Lee in the creation of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection of Asian collection
- And if art museums aren’t your thing, but you’re a big fan of natural history museums, why just step outside of the Cleveland Museum of Art, take a stroll across Wade Oval and head into the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Jeptha Homer Wade’s gem collection forms the core of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s gem and mineral collection.
Just a few years shy of a century ago, on June 6, 1916, the Cleveland Museum of Art opened its doors to the public. Jeptha Homer Wade II was there to proclaim the institution, ‘for the benefit of all people, forever.’ You go Jeptha!
Honestly, I love my job.