History of the  West Park
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Some Religious Institutions


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    In April 1954, a handful of Jewish families on the west side of Cleveland, isolated from the center of Jewish community life east of the city, took the first steps toward the formation of a Reform Congregation.  After much planning they organized Beth Israel West Temple, affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregation.

    Services were first held at the First Universalist Church in North Olmsted and, later, at the North Olmsted Community Cabin.  In October 1957, Bern Israel and Bhai Israel, the conservative West Side Jewish Center, merged.  A new temple was built at 14308 Triskett Road and dedicated in May of 1958.  The combined congregations consisted of 130 families.  The first Student Rabbi was Daniel Litt.

    On Jan. 25, 1955, the first session of the Beth Israel Religious School was held.  It was designed to impart to the children knowledge of and pride in their Jewish past and a commitment to its future.  A complete religious school from Kindergarten through high school was established.

    The Jewish Library, the only center of Judaica in western part of Cleveland, is used by the school and the community.  The library consists of over 5,000 volumes, many tapes and records, making it one of the largest in this part of the country.

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    There was no English Lutheran Church on the west side until 1902.  However, the first attempt to start a mission Sunday Church School was in a building at 8516 Lorain Avenue in the fall of 1896.  The struggle continued until April of 1897 and then abandoned for five years.  The parish house of Mathews Episcopal Church at dark Avenue and West 84th Street was rented for a church.  The first Pastor was Rev. William Blake and the first service was held in May 1902.  On July 6, 1902, the church was organized by 23 people, and the name chosen was Bethany English Lutheran Church.

    The first church built was at the southwest corner of Willard Avenue and West. 89th Street.  Ground was broken on Nov. 15, 1903, and dedicated on April 19, 1904.  This building was used until 1929, when a new building was erected at Rockport Avenue and Triskett Road.  Several additions were made in later years.

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    Seven Old Rockport Township families met with Rev. C. H. Heitmeir in March 1863 and founded the Rockport Methodist Church, near 4600 West 130 Street.  In 1893, the church merged with the Bethany Church of Cleveland keeping the Bethany name.

    In 1909, the West Park Methodist church was organized.  A new church building was built in 1927 at West 137 Street and Fairwood Drive.

    In 1939, the Bethany and West Park churches merged to form the Christ Methodist Church meeting in the West Park edifice. Rev. I. Partner was the minister. Christ United Methodist Church is located at 3625 West 138th Street.

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    Eighteen-year-old Clare Offreduccio was deeply moved when she heard St. Francis preach his doctrine on gospel poverty, on Palm Sunday 1212.  She placed herself entirely under his guidance and permanently left her wealthy father's home to fight for her beliefs of strict poverty and no revenue of any kind.  On August 9, 1253, she was on her death bed when she heard that the Pope had officially sanctioned the Poor Clares Community.  She died the next day at San Damiano.

    The Poor Clares were invited to come to the United States and build a community.  Three sisters sailed for Charleston, South Carolina, from Le Havre, France on Nov. 4, 1792.  But the effort was unsuccessful and, by 1806, the Poor Clares were no longer in America.

    In 1875, Mother Magdalena and Mother Constance came from France to America and established a community in New Orleans.  When they became disenchanted with New Orleans, they accepted an invitation to come to Cleveland, Ohio.

    They arrived on Aug. 9, 1877, and settled in a house on the corner of McBride Avenue and Broadway.  Mother Magdalena became the first Abbess.  She returned to France in 1875 and Sister Veronica von Elmendorff was named Abbess.

    On Dec. 1, 1880, the Poor Clares moved to a new convent on Perry Street (East 22nd Street and Woodland Avenue).  Mother Veronica retired in 1887 and Mother Joseph became the Abbess.  She retired in 1918.

    In 1905, the Poor Clares moved to Old Rockport Township on Rocky River Drive.  The new monastery was dedicated on June 14, 1906.  The original Chalice and Ciborium brought to the United States by the first sisters had been at the St. Mary Franciscan Seminary in Baltimore.  They were sent to Cleveland in 1975 and given a place of honor in the Colletine Poor Clare Chapel.

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By Gary Swilik


Photograph provided by Gary Swilik.   The Franciscan Village of Our Lady of Angels, at 3646-48 Rocky River Drive, is home to many of our senior citizens. For many years, however, it was the home of young Franciscan brothers studying for the priesthood.

    The Franciscan Fathers bought land on a high bluff overlooking the Rocky River in about 1900. By 1907 they had established St. Mary of the Angels monastery in what was soon to become West Park. Novices began their studies at the Franciscan order in Teutopolis, Illinois, before coming to the monastery in West Park where they spent as long as three years and earned their minor orders. They then went on to the Franciscan school of higher studies in St. Louis before their final ordination to the priesthood.

    The massive monastery had an open court in the center, surrounded by three high walls on the north, south, and east. The western side of the court, facing Rocky River cliff, was mostly open, consisting of a row of graceful brick arches. The interior courtyard, walkway, and arches provided a pleasing medieval appearance, exactly as one might expect of a monastery.

    In keeping with the rules of St. Francis the monks who studied there did not surround themselves with comforts but lived in a fashion more common to the middle ages. A student's room was furnished with an iron bed, washstand, desk and chair. Their day began at 4 a.m. and was spent in meditating, studying, chanting, recitation, and, during summer months, cultivating a large garden on the hill side. By 9 p.m. they retired for the night.

    Their garments consisted of a coarse, brown gown and cowl, with sandals for footwear.

    As Rev. Father Jasper Thonnessen, guardian of the monastery in 1909, explained, "Our fare is simple and the life is not easy."

    The monastery apparently continued to serve the Franciscans, in one form or another, right up until the 1960's.

    Today, a large addition stands at the rear of the building to the north, the garden is gone, foliage obscures the view of Rocky River from the bluff, and a row of trees adds an artificial fourth wall covering the open stone arches during the summer. Nonetheless, from the west the building is still quite recognizably the same elegant monastery it was in 1909.

Monks' walk

  1909 photo of the friars on the covered walkway.              2006 view.


(Black & White photographs provided by Gary Swilik.  The color photographs was taken by Gary Swilik.)

See Also  Franciscan Monastery in Articles section

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    Our Lady of Angels Roman Catholic Church originated with the Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  They purchased property on Rocky River Drive, a few blocks north of Kamm's corners, where they established a monastery.  The St. Joseph Sisters had purchased land there in 1898 and the Poor Clare Nuns, in 1905.

    The monastery contained a small frame chapel was known as the Church of the Stigmata of St. Francis that served the local Catholic Community.  On July 13, 1906. the church was dedicated and the name changed to Our Lady of Angels.

    Our Lady of Angels Seminary opened in 1907 serving as the house of philosophy and theology for he clerics studying for the priesthood.  Father Linus Koenemond was appointed the superior of the seminary and friary, more commonly known as "The Monastery."

    Originally a part of the Saint Patrick's parish, Our Lady of Angels Parish was officially established on November 26, 1922, by Bishop Joseph Schrembs.  The first pastor was Father Columban Valentin.  In July 1923, ground was broken for Our Lady of Angels School Building.

    On March 24, 1941, ground was broken for a Romanesque-style gray brick church building, with limestone trim.  A new gallery organ, built by Walter Holtkamp, was installed in 1943.  The seventy feet tall bell tower contains bells installed in December 1955.  They originally hung in the tower of Old St. Peters in Chicago, Illinois.

    The Seminary moved to Quincy, Illinois in 1964.  Part of the Old Monastery was converted into rectory offices.

    Linus Hall was built in 1955.  It contains the gymnasium, cafeteria, auditorium and meeting rooms.

     The old Mueller-Gregg Home, convent quarters for the nuns, was converted into a special school for retarded children in 1963.  The Hildebrandt was converted into a convent for the sisters.

    The Franciscan Village for the Aged occupies part of the Old Monastery.

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    The Congregation of St. Joseph "Little Design" was formed on Oct. 15, 1650 at Le Puy, France.  St. Francis De Sales first envisioned a community of chosen souls devoted to the Love of God and the service of their neighbor.

    At the request of Bishop Gilmour, three sisters came from Painesville to Cleveland on Aug. 7, 1875.  They came to a mission convent near Old Annunciation Church, now St. Emeries on West 22nd Street.  They conducted a small private boarding school teaching French, art and music to girls until June 15, 1877.

    In July 1905, work was begun on the Motherhouse, and on Aug. 5, 1907, Bishop Hortsmann dedicated the new Motherhouse and Academy.  On Sept. 1, 1929 the new Academy Building was dedicated by Bishop Schrembs.

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    Benjamin Mastic, Asel Abels, and Andrew Kyle drafted articles of faith and by-laws for the Congregational Church of Rockport.  Organized in 1859 with J. P. Allen, as pastor, the society became a corporate group in January 1862.  A church building was soon raised just north of Kamm's corners.  The names Triskett and Nichols are among those associated with the construction.

    A new church building, in the English Gothic style, was erected on the same site as the original in 1905 at 3909 Rocky River Drive.  A new parish house was constructed in 1928.  In 1955, a new church was built on the southern half of the site to house a new sanctuary and offices.  The older building was used for educational activities hand houses a chapel.

    Although the church has maintained basically the same religious beliefs, it has undergone several name changes.  The church was related to the Cleveland Presbytery until 1869, when it joined the Congregational Conference.  In 1904, during the pastorate of Rev. J. P. Rieding, the name was changed to West Park Congregational Church.  It became the West Park United Church of Christ in 1968 with the merger of the Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed churches in the 1950s.

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Links to other churches:

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church

St Mel Parish

St. Patrick's Catholic Parish, West Park

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Updated 6 March 2017