Eleanor Squire Library

Members and visitors are welcome to browse, read, relax and enjoy the Eleanor Squire Library.

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Open limited hours.

  • Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sun: 1-4pm
  • Sat 10-4pm

Sit back and relax in our cozy library! Learn more about the plants you saw during your visit or find garden inspiration in our collection of books and magazines. 

Our collection focuses on ecology, urban and general gardening, sustainability, food plants, and conservation.

From the youngest explorers to the long-time gardener, everyone is welcome!

Additionally, if you have questions about the history of Cleveland Botanical Garden, this is the place to ask! We have a full organizational archive and appointments and items are available upon request.

For inquiries regarding HF&G Libraries or to make an archives appointment, please see our FAQ below or contact us through email at [email protected] or by phone at (216) 721-1600, ext. 195


Search the Holden Forests & Gardens Collection

Find books and periodicals from both the Arboretum’s Warren H. Corning Library and the Garden’s Eleanor Squire Library in the online catalog. For best results, keep the drop-down option as “All Words” and search for the simplest form of your search term. For example, search for “orchid” instead of “how to get your orchid to bloom”.

Search the Catalog

Contact Us

If you have questions about the library, or general questions about plants and trees, you can contact us by phone or email:

Library phone – (216) 721-1600, ext. 195
E-mail – [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

The libraries are primarily volunteer-staffed, so hours may not be consistent. Call ahead for most accurate hours. We endeavor to be open at the following times:

  • Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sun: 1-4pm
  • Sat 10-4pm

All current members of HF&G, as well as staff, interns, and volunteers may borrow library materials. Membership cards will be honored at either location. Items can be retrieved and sent to either location within 5 business days. Items may be returned to either library.

Library items circulate for three weeks and can be renewed by phone or through e-mail. Up to 10 items can be checked out at any given time. Historical and special collections as well as reference books are maintained for researchers and those who have a particular interest in certain botanical and horticultural books.

If a patron has overdue items they will not be able to check out additional items. While we do not have late fees, please endeavor to return your items on time.

It depends. In order to ensure our collection is as accessible and useful as possible, we choose our books as carefully as possible. Therefore, we ask that you only donate books that are less than 5 years old and in very good condition. However, if you would like to request certain topics for purchase, we do accept monetary donations to help cover the costs of books and supplies.

Our HF&G Libraries would not be possible without a dedicated team of over 30 volunteers. If you would like to help in the library, working remotely on special projects, or in providing high-quality Story Times for our guests, check out our Volunteer Page!

Whew, that’s a big question!

Creation of the Garden Center

The founding of The Cleveland Garden Center begins with library books and an abandoned boathouse. In 1916, Mrs. Andrew Squire gave her collection of 250 horticultural books to the Garden Club of Cleveland. Due to lack of space, the Museum of Art generously offered to store the books. The Garden Club of Cleveland landscaped the grounds extending from the Museum of Art to Euclid Avenue into a Fine Arts Garden.

An empty brick boathouse was nearby, and it was feared usage would distract from the Garden. On January 24, 1930, six members of The Garden Club The Garden Club of Cleveland– Mrs. Thomas P. Howell, Mrs. William G. Mather, Mrs. Walter C. White, Mrs. Charles A. Otis, Mrs. John Sherwin, and Mrs. Windsor T. White – met and came up with the idea of renovating the boathouse into a library and garden center. The Museum of Art endorsed the project and a French Street Fair held in June of 1930 raised $17,000 for the new center. On December 4, 1930, the Cleveland Garden Center opened its doors to the public, becoming what is now the oldest civic garden center in the country.

The Early Years: 1930 – 1966

The purpose of the new Garden Center was “to promote such knowledge and love of gardening as will result in a more beautiful community.” Specifically, a library was developed to include all subjects pertaining to flowers and gardens. The boathouse included a main exhibition hall and offices on the first floor and the library housing 500 books (including donations from both Museum of Art and Cleveland Public Library as well as Eleanor Squire’s intimal donation) and dressing rooms on the second floor.

In the beginning, free admission, exhibits and lectures were offered to the public. Two scholarships were established to acquire post-graduate students in botany to assist in reference questions. The Garden Center was reorganized as The Garden Center of Greater Cleveland in 1933, ending sponsorship from The Garden Club The Garden Club of Cleveland of Greater Cleveland and establishing individual memberships. By the mid-thirties the library was receiving rare books and botanical prints.

1937 represented a pivotal year in the library’s history. The Garden Club The Garden Club of Cleveland made a donation of $300.00 in memory of Eleanor Squire and the new library hence became officially known as the Eleanor Squire Memorial Library. This donation allowed the purchase of 150 new books and along with previous duplicates, portions of the library’s collection were allowed to circulate, making the library now one of the oldest circulating garden libraries in the world. Finally, a children’s corner and collection was established in 1937 as well. The building was expanded in 1939, tripling its size. The Eleanor Squire Memorial Library, much larger with knotty pine paneling and colonial furniture, was now housed downstairs in the north wing. In 1940, the Garden Center established a west side branch at the old Cudell House at 10013 Detroit Ave., complete with a reference library. By the end of its first 10 years, the library had 1800 volumes, mostly donations. During WWII, the library served as a collection agency for book gifts for the United Service Organization. Emphasis was shifted to seed catalogs and books on vegetable growing during this time. In 1950, the Western Reserve Chapter of the Herb Society of America presented its book collection to the library.

By its 25 anniversary, the library was recognized as the third largest and best in the country (behind the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and New York Botanical Garden) with a collection of nearly 7,000 books, 200 periodicals, and rare flower prints. In the early sixties, The Eleanor Squire Library received a portion of the Warren H. Corning Collection of Horticultural Classics. Corning was the first director of the Holden Arboretum and his collection at the time was considered one of the finest of rare gardening books in the country.

In 1959, a flash flood came down East Boulevard and did major damage to The Center, ruining books and washing away the outside stairs. Two more floods in the early sixties did more damage. The possibility of future floods, inadequate parking, and cramped space including overflowing in the library began the notion to move to a new location. Donations from the Hanna Fund and the Mather Foundation made it possible to start a fund raising program.

The New Center: 1966 –2003

The building site chosen for the new Garden Center was a short move northward on land occupied by the Cleveland Zoo from 1889 to 1907. The wooden Victorian Gothic building that stood in the present herb garden was the deer barn and the ravine where the present Japanese Garden stands was a bear pit. The new building was planned by William Platt of New York and was designed being compatible with its natural surroundings. Ground breaking at 11030 East Boulevard started in October, 1964 and after 14 months and $1,850,000 in funds, the new Garden Center of Greater Cleveland opened on January 12, 1966.

Memorial gifts were abundant from the beginning from individuals, garden clubs, corporations and foundations. The Garden Room, given by the Garden Club of Cleveland, overlooks both the ravine and terrace. The Main Room of the Eleanor Squire Library was funded by the Shaker Lakes Garden Club. Shelved in lovely teakwood and brass grilles for the rare books, the collection stood at 10,000 volumes and 150 periodicals on opening day. The new building began an exciting chapter in our library history as more space could offer substantial growth in the library collection. By its 60th anniversary, The Garden Center of Greater Cleveland boasted a library with nearly 15,000 volumes (encompassing both the Main Room and Garden Room) with major strengths in general gardening, landscape architecture, and flower arrangement. Prior to the computers, staff handled over 500 telephone queries a month.

During the 1970’s through the 1990’s, education continued to be a strong component of the library’s focus. After 10 years of research, librarian Richard T. Isaacson completed The Flowering Plant Index of Illustration and Information, an invaluable reference book that the Garden Center published in 1979. Stanley Johnston, the rare book historian at Holden Arboretum, published The Cleveland Herbal, Botanical, and Horticultural Collections in 1991, then again a trade copy in 1998 called Cleveland Treasures From the World of Botanical Literature. His study at the time of the rare botanical literature of three Cleveland area institutions (including the Eleanor Squire Library) was considered one of the most comprehensive and researched at the time.

The Biomes and Beyond: 2003

After an 18 month renovation, the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse was completed, featuring an 18,000 square-foot conservatory containing two biomes. Opening in July 2003, the two biomes represent the diversity of flora and fauna in contrasting ecosystems: The Spiny Desert of Madagascar and the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica. The Glasshouse was the foundation of a successful $50 million capital campaign and endowment that led to more improvements including a climate-controlled environment for the library’s rare book collection. Recognized for their historical importance and scarcity of material, the 926 titles were appraised in 2007 for over two million dollars.

2012- Present: New Library and Merger with Holden Arboretum

Renovation of the new library started in July 2012 and was completed in November. Just down the hall from its previous location, the modernized library overlooks the Japanese Garden and features a more contemporary library setting. For the first time special collections books are the focal point with a climate-controlled, glass-encased room, which features one-of-a-kind titles dating back to the early 1800’s. Those collections were protected here for a small period of time; however, the Cleveland Botanical Garden merged with Holden Arboretum in 2014 and became Holden Forest & Gardens, making the organization the 12th largest public garden in the United States. As a result of the merger, rare books from the Eleanor Squire Library were moved to the Warren Corning library at the Arboretum and are available for research and reference by appointment. Both libraries have combined their catalogs into one searchable database for convenience and circulation.

Our Historical Collection is housed in our Reading Room within the library. Subject specialties include dendrology, fruit trees, monographs on woody plants and shrubs, conifers, oaks, rhododendrons, roses, herbals and medical botany, exploration of the natural world, floras of the world, botanical art and illustration, and horticultural and botanical journals.

The Historical Collection is available to the public for browsing at the discretion of the library staff. If you would like to ensure access, please make an appointment with the Librarian.

Our Archives collects and saves all records and artifacts pertaining to the Botanical Garden having permanent organizational and/or historical value. If you have questions about this collection, please contact the Librarian.


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