Cleveland City Parks Engineer, William A. Stinchcomb, wrote in his 1906 report: “Through the valleys of Rocky River on the west, and Chagrin River on the east, lie some of the finest stretches of natural park lands to be found in the northern part of Ohio. While all this is now entirely outside of the city, it will be but a short time before they will be inside or very near the limits of a 'Greater Cleveland' and it seems to me that such fine stretches of natural parkway should be secured for the benefit of the entire public before private enterprise or commercial industry places them beyond reach."
William Stinchcomb used his leadership abilities, his political connections and his engineering skills to help make his vision a reality, and to guide the parks in his 36 years as Executive Director. However, he would be the first to tell you that he did not do this alone. Business leaders, educators and concerned citizens, influenced by Progressive Era reforms that addressed the problems of industrialization in the early 20th century, were calling for conservation of natural beauty and access to recreational use of those areas.
Among other things, these individuals drafted and promoted legislation to allow for the creation of the parks, served as early board members and donated land. But, they also had the good sense to hire William Stinchcomb as the first executive director of the park district, a position he held from 1921 until 1957, when ill health forced him to retire at the age of 78-years-old.
When this monument (photo above) was built in 1958, William Stinchcomb was at the twilight of his life - a long life dedicated to the community and the parks that he loved. As soon as news of his retirement was announced, a group of community residents formed a committee to create a suitable monument. Over $8,000 in donated funds helped pay for the building of the monument. Sculptor William McVey and architect Ernest Payer designed the monument originally as a bell tower. The land at the top of Hogsback Hill was some of the newest land owned by the park, but it overlooked original land donated to the park back in 1919. The design is perhaps more suited to the Atomic Age of the 1950s than the Victorian Era that produced William Stinchcomb, but it won accolades at its formal dedication in October 1959.
Stinchcomb himself did not live to see his memorial dedicated. He passed away at the age of 80 in January 1959. Among the many titles that show up in contemporary accounts of William Stinchcomb are “Mr. Metropolitan Park” and “Father of the Cleveland Metropolitan Parks.” But my favorite is from an article written while he was very much alive and engaged in the day-to-day operations of the parks - “Practical Dreamer.” That, I think, is a perfect description of his life and work
In future posts, I will be sharing more about the life, work and humor (yes, he had a great sense of humor) of William Stinchcomb. Meanwhile, next time you are in Rocky River Reservation take a trip up to his memorial, enjoy the wonderful view and say, “thank you,” to the Practical Dreamer who helped give us that view, and much more.