The Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center adds a critical missing piece to the cultural offerings of University Circle and is integrally connected to the ongoing community education efforts of UCI and our partners.
The interior of the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center features exhibits in three distinct spaces, each with its own story and purpose: the Gund Foundation West Wing, Cleveland Foundation East Wing, and the KeyBank Community Room. The West Wing exhibits set both the national and local context for slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War. The East Wing highlights stories of local anti-slavery activists and freedom seekers, such as Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson, a Cleveland resident who escaped slavery only to be returned to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Act. The KeyBank Community Room connects past to present with programming that outlines how the impacts of slavery are still seen in today’s social issues through an exploration of the 13th,14th, and 15thamendments developed by Case Western Reserve University’s Social Justice Institute.
The preserved front lawn of the Cozad-Bates House is a new cultural greenspace for University Circle, featuring an interpretive walkway that combines art and landscape to further highlight the people and places of the Underground Railroad network in Cleveland. Thoughtful features include educational signage shaped like the arched windows of the home itself. That signage is also indigo-colored, a reference to one of the staple crops of the exploitive slave economy. Many of the plants used in the landscaping are edible or carry medicinal properties that evoke the hope that the land itself might offer support to freedom seekers on their long and dangerous journey. Some plants are gnarled or spiky, reflecting a difficult history. The space will also host future community events, including the annual Restore Cleveland Hope Freedom Festival, which features inspiring theatre, dance, music and spoken word performances.