Cleveland Museum of Art Celebrates the Big One-Oh-Oh

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A hundred years-ago this week, the Cleveland Museum of Art first opened its doors to the public. 

It was the heart of the Progressive Era, when civic leaders brought a number of cultural and social institutions to a working class town. 

That grand opening may have happened on June 6th 1916, but Jeptha Homer Wade II had the museum on his mind at least 27 years earlier.  Historian Holy Witchey says Wade's personal papers include a reference to a proposed museum as early as 1889.

"Jeptha Homer Wade II was someone who was passionately interested in art and art museums," she says, "so I think he was looking for something to be his gig."

The Wade family contributed the land that the new musem would sit on, and a group of like-minded wealthy Clevelanders helped make the dream come true.  Money from John Huntington and Horace Kelley paid for the building, and the estate of Hinman Hurlbut helped build the art collection.  In addition to helping get the museum started, Holley Witchey says J.H. Wade also looked to the future.

"He started the endowment for purchases, he started the endowment for operations, and he gave over 2800 of his own works to the Cleveland Museum of Art, before his death in 1926."

The museum will have a series of centennial celebrations this week, including the 2016 annual Parade the Circle event, this weekend.

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