• Donald S. Yarab

Herman N. Matzen's Edgewater Connection

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

One of the well-known gems of the neighborhood is the Richard Wagner statue located in Edgewater Park. It was commissioned in 1911 by the Goethe-Schiller Society, which selected the accomplished sculptor Herman N. Matzen to create the monument.

Mr. Matzen was born in Denmark on July 15, 1861. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin before permanently immigrating to the United States where, in 1884, he married Emma Hale.

In 1885, he began teaching design and sculpture at the Cleveland School of Art. After his wife Emma died, he married Blanche Dissette in 1908. He was a teacher at the Cleveland School of Art and head of the Department of Sculpture for decades, retiring in 1926. His students included such prominent figures as Max Kalish, Frank Wilcox, and Norman Bel Geddes. He died on April 22, 1938, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery. The Edgewater community is fortunate to have one of his works in our midst.

Donald Rosenberg, writing for The Plain Dealer on August 19, 2012, in an article entitled, "Wagner statue in Edgewater Park Shows Cleveland’s devotion to titanic German composer," described the statue as depicting the composer standing in long coat and beret, his left hand holding gloves and a document, which could be a score or one of his polemical writings.

In the article, Rosenberg shared that “[a]mong the prominent figures who have visited the statue is Siegfried Wagner, the composer's son, who was in town with his wife, Winifred, in February 1924 to conduct a touring orchestra in a program titled ‘Music of Three Generations.’ Siegfried made the short pilgrimage to Edgewater Park, traipsing through snow to stand in front of his father's monument and have his photo taken.”

Aside from the Wagner monument, some of the best known of Mr. Matzen’s works are the statue of Mayor Tom Johnson in Public Square (1916), the Thomas White memorial, the Moses and Pope Gregory IX statues on the exterior of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse, the Cain and Abel statues on the Painesville County Courthouse, and the Haserot memorial in Lake View Cemetery.

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