Nearly two dozen churches are hallowed evidence of Tremont’s deep ethnic roots. The area was settled by New England Puritans who founded Pilgrim Congregational Church. Soon after came the Irish, who founded Saint Augustine Parish, and Germans, who built Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and Zion United Church of Christ. In the early 20th century, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and the Middle East built many more houses of worship. Later in the century, older structures were repurposed to serve growing populations such as African-American and Hispanic.
This tour covers most of “Historic Tremont” and nine of its churches—a fair amount of walking to be sure; but also a degree of ecclesiastical density that may be unparalleled in the United States. Moreover, there are many additional churches in Tremont—particularly along Scranton Road—that are not on the tour. To learn about these, please visit clevelandhistorical.org and click the Tours button near the top.
Your starting point for this trek is the northeast corner of Fairfield Avenue and West 14th Street—right by the new freeway entrance in front of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. There is ample parking behind the church. We hope you enjoy this installment of Cleveland Walks.
When Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church opened in 1919, Tremont—then known as South Side—had one foot in an elitist past and another in a rapidly growing blue collar present. In fact, the very site upon which Annunciation stands was formerly occupied by two ostentatious mansions built by the founders of the Lamson & Sessions Company. Most of the area, however, was working-class: people who toiled in the nearby flats, including the only significant Greek population on Cleveland’s west side.
Polish immigrants established St. John Cantius Catholic Church in 1898—holding services in a streetcar barn on this site. By 1913, a combination church and school, along with a separate parish house and convent—were erected. The church you see before you replaced the older structure in 1925. The church’s namesake is Saint John Cantius, a 15th Century Polish priest, scholar, philosopher, physicist and theologian.
Modeled after the Church of our Savior Jesus Christ in Moscow, St. Theodosius is Tremont’s most cherished ecclesiastical icon. Its 13 onion-shaped domes—actually one onion dome and 12 cupolas—represent Jesus and the 12 apostles. St. Theodosious’ history is particularly varied: It is believed that Russia’s Czar Nicholas II contributed to the church’s construction in 1913. In 1978, St. Theodosius played host to Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep for filming of “The Deer Hunter.”
Tremont’s Arab community—many hailing from Lebanon—purchased the old Lincoln Park Methodist Episcopal Church on West 14th Street and Starkweather Avenue in 1933. Soon after, fire destroyed nearly all of the building and church members raised more than $40,000 to rebuild. The largely new, Byzantine style building you see before you was dedicated in 1935.
This magnificent Richardsonian Romanesque facility originally catered to the Tremont community’s Protestant elite. The building features Tiffany-style stained glass windows and a magnificent ceiling dome. It was designed to seat 3,000 worshippers while providing space for educational and recreational activities: a sanctuary, kitchen, library, art museum and gymnasium all residing under one roof! Pilgrim also is believed to be the first building on Cleveland’s west side to have electricity.
This handsome yellow-brick structure is gothic in nature, with highlights that include large pointed windows with hood moldings and corbel stops (that is, “decorative supports”) on the front and sides. Originally known as Emmanuel Evangelical, it served German residents until the middle of the 20th Century. The church was sold in 1968 to the Cleveland Baptist Temple. Since 1994 it has served the Puerto Rican community as Iglesia Pentecostal El Calvario (“Calvary Pentecostal Church”).
This beautiful structure looks almost new, but it’s among the oldest in Tremont—built in 1864. Throughout its life, the church has served several congregations, including the Tremont community’s early Protestant elite as well as Roman Irish Catholic.
Now referred to as the Byzantine Cultural Center, Holy Ghost was built in 1910 to serve Rusin immigrants from Central Europe. Rusins should not be confused with Russians. Rusins are a Slavic ethnic group with a distinct language and culture. Above the church’s three domes are Byzantine crosses, also known as Orthodox, Russian, or Suppedaneum (“suhp-i-dey-nee-um”) crosses. Suppedaneum means “a shelf affixed to a cross for supporting the feet of the crucified.”
Reformers in England and the US began opening settlement houses like Merrick in the late 19th century. Roughly ten such facilities were built in Cleveland and some—such as Karamu, Alta and Merrick—still survive. Merrick House’s original facility, named for Mary Merrick, founder of the National Christ Child Society, was located in a small storefront at this location. In 1949, that facility was replaced by the one you see here.