"The Early Settler"
A drawing of “The Early Settler”, the terra cotta decoration on the façade of the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium, is the logo of the Lakewood Public Schools, and has been printed thousands of times during the past 30 years (1954 to 1984) on Lakewood Board of Education publications, curriculum materials, and stationery.
It is well known that the “Early Settler” is really “Johnny Appleseed” the folk hero (John Chapman) who roamed Ohio in the early 19th Century spreading his Swedenborg philosophy and planting apples. How “Johnny Appleseed” became Lakewood’s “Early Settler” is an interesting story. How the terra cotta decoration on the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium came to be also is interesting.
Hays and Ruth, of Cleveland, were the architects employed in the early 1950’s by the Lakewood Board of Education to design the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium. In vogue at the time was the incorporation of terra cotta decorations on architecture. Victor Schreckengost, the renowned Cleveland painter and sculptor, was commissioned by Hays and Ruth to decorate the auditorium façade. Schreckengost, exercising his creative prerogatives, designed the terra cotta as “Johnny Appleseed.”
Members of the Lakewood Board of Education accepted the concept of terra cotta decoration, but did not accept “Johnny Appleseed” (John Chapman) as a folk hero. They considered him too eccentric to hold a place of honor on the front of Lakewood High School.
A committee was formed to recommend an alternative to “Johnny.” Fortuitously, Lakewood had a resident, genuine folk hero of unquestioned stature. Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland, an internationally known doctor, naturalist, teacher, writer, judge, legislator, geologist, and horticulturist owned and lived for 40 years on the land between Detroit Road and Madison Avenue and west of Bunts (then called Kirtland’s Lane) on which Lakewood High School stands. It was determined the terra cotta would be named the “Early Settler” to honor Dr. Kirtland who truly was an early settler. He built his home on Detroit Road near Bunts in the mid-1800’s where a supermarket now stands and established a veritable “garden of eden” visited by naturalists from around the world.
Carved in the east wall of the lobby entrance to the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium is this inscription:
On this site a century ago
Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland
Lakewood’s noted naturalist
through ingenuity and courage
successfully sowed seeds
of agriculture of science –
the glory of the Ohio settler
In this building
Lakewood Civic Auditorium
Let us sow seeds of culture –
of speech – of drama –
of song – that all who enter will
reap a harvest from ideas
which are planted here
The “Early Settler” has been the logo of the Lakewood Schools since it was created on the façade of the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium in 1954.
Online editor's note: The artist's initials on the "Early Settler" drawing, lower right, are "J.W."