St. John Cantius Catholic Church

In the 1880s, Polish immigrants began settling in Tremont. Many of these new arrivals found work in the booming steel mills just down the hill in Cleveland’s industrial Flats. They frequently referred to their new neighborhood as Kantowo, a village in northern Poland that, before 1945, was part of Germany. By the late 19th Century, two other heavily Polish neighborhoods also existed in Cleveland: Warszawa (now known as Slavic Village) and Poznan (the area around East 79th Street and Superior Avenue).

Tremont’s new Polish residents established St. John Cantius Catholic Church in 1898, with services held initially in a refurbished streetcar barn at Professor Street and College Avenue. The rear portion of the structure was used as a school and residence for the pastors and the sisters of Saint Joseph. New structures—a combination church and school along with a separate parish house and convent—were erected in 1913. The current church, designed by architects Gabele & Potter, in what is often called the Polish Cathedral Style, was erected on the same site in 1925. The church’s namesake is Saint John Cantius (1390–1473), a Polish priest, scholar, philosopher, physicist and theologian, who was named patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737, and canonized 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. Along with many other Cleveland churches (including Tremont’s Saint Augustine, Annunciation and Saint Michael), St. John Cantius shares a “mother church,” Saint Patrick’s, which was founded in Ohio City in 1853, six years after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was established.

By 1908, the St. John Cantius congregation had grown to 400 families. Although today’s group is somewhat smaller, the church remains vibrant, celebrating masses daily in several languages. Other landmarks of the Polish community in Tremont (e.g., the Polish Library Home and the Polish Daily News) have disappeared. However, visitors and residents still enjoy hearty Polish meals at nearby Sokolowski's University Inn, which will celebrate its centenary in 2023. Saint John Cantius Church also is the site of Tremont’s Polish Festival, held each Labor Day weekend.

Images

St. John Cantius, 1978

St. John Cantius, 1978

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

St. John Cantius School, 1958

St. John Cantius School, 1958

Sister Mary Corrine, a second grade teacher at St. John Cantius School, hula hoops. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Polish Daily News, 1937

Polish Daily News, 1937

Wiadomosci Codzienne - The Polish Daily News - was a Polish-language newspaper published in Cleveland between 1914 and 1966. Pictured are (from left) Zygmunt B. Dybowski, editor; Lucian Adamczak, assistant editor; and Paul Kurdziel, publisher and founder. The men are standing in front of the paper's headquarters at 1017 Fairfield Avenue in Tremont. This building remains standing today. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Singing Society, 1927

Singing Society, 1927

Polish immigrants in Cleveland founded the Harmonia Chopin Singing Society in 1902. The society aimed to preserve traditional Polish culture and performed across the city for both Polish and non-Polish audiences. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Polish Constitution Day, 1931

Polish Constitution Day, 1931

Polish-American schoolchildren march to Garfield Park to celebrate Polish Constitution Day on May 3, 1931. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Sokolowski's

Sokolowski's

Sokolowski's University Inn - located at 1201 University Road in Tremont - is one of Cleveland's oldest restaurants. It opened in 1923 and has since served up hearty Polish and Eastern European cuisine to many generations of Clevelanders. View File Details Page

Polish Library Home, 2009

Polish Library Home, 2009

The Polish National Alliance, a fraternal insurance organization, opened meeting halls in each of Cleveland's three major Polish neighborhoods. In Tremont, the PNA ran the Polish Library Home, which contained a collection of Polish-language reading materials in addition to spaces for social, educational, and cultural gatherings. The PNA vacated the building in 1982, but it remains standing at 1108 Kenilworth Avenue. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Audio

The Polish Library Home

Dr. John Grabowski, Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor in Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and Director of Research at The Western Reserve Historical Society, talks about the kinds of things that went on in the Polish Library Home. View File Details Page

"Kantowo"

Dr. John Grabowski, Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor in Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and Director of Research at The Western Reserve Historical Society, talks about the importance of St. John Cantius to Poles in the Tremont neighborhood. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Rotman, “St. John Cantius Catholic Church,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 29, 2016, http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/101.

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