The National Catholic War Council established the Merrick House Social Settlement in 1919, in part to “Americanize” immigrants by inculcating middle-class social and cultural values as bases for citizenship. By this time, Tremont had changed a good deal from its original 1850s inception as an enclave for Cleveland’s wealthy citizens. After the Civil War, European immigrants flocked to the area, finding work in the booming factories and steel mills nearby. Rudimentary housing (generally without running water or electricity) sprang up within walking distance of the Flats. Poverty became commonplace and working/living conditions were frequently dreadful.
Reformers in England and the US had begun opening settlement houses like Merrick during the late 19th-century, in response to the struggles facing the urban poor. The first settlement house established in Cleveland was Hiram House (1896). Roughly ten such facilities were built in Cleveland and a handful (e.g., Merrick, Karamu and Alta) still survive. Merrick House, specifically, has served hundreds of neighborhood families—smoothing their adjustment to America and providing badly needed services. Merrick House also has acted as a community center, holding educational, cultural, and recreational programs for people of all ages.
As Tremont continues to change, so does the Merrick House. In the 1950s, new facilities were developed; with the arrival of Puerto Rican immigrants to the area, Merrick began offering Spanish-speaking programs. In 1979, Merrick House helped found the non-profit Tremont West Development Corporation: part of a city-wide network of community development corporations (CDCs) which have played a significant role in the revitalization of Cleveland neighborhoods.