Bohemian National Hall

In the early 1880s, an idea arose in the Lodge Bratri v Kruhu of the Czech Slovak Benevolent Association that people of Bohemian nationality needed a community building dedicated to their societies and culture. In August 1887, Bohemian representatives met to discuss the possibility of creating such a space.

The cornerstone for Bohemian National Hall was laid on December 20, 1896, and was dedicated the following September. During the dedication ceremonies, all local Bohemian communities and societies were invited to participate, but every other ethnic group was excluded to make this a distinctly Bohemian celebration. Bohemians attended the celebrations from Chicago, Detroit, Pennsylvania, Toledo, and even New York. The hall served as a meeting place for over 40 lodges, societies, and clubs. In 1911, classrooms were added to teach language skills.

In the late summer of 1900, the Bohemian National Turners Association held their annual convention in Cleveland. A number of tournaments took place at area locations such as Forest City Park and Central Armory with about 400 members in Cleveland alone and 800 visiting delegates. On August 23, the award banquet for the convention was held in the Bohemian National Hall.

The hall also brought large crowds for its annual celebration of Jan Hus Day. Hus was a Bohemian reformer burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, for heresy and is considered a national hero. The Bohemians would have large celebrations including plays and various performances. In 1915, events at Gordon Park brought 20,000 Bohemians to the area with many attending later events at the hall.

Also in 1915, representatives for the Czech and Slovak people met in the hall to discuss the need for a common sovereign state. This meeting, now known as the Cleveland Agreement, sparked the idea of creating what would come to be Czechoslovakia. On May 10, 1945, celebrations were held for the liberation of Czechoslovakia from German occupation with speeches by Louis Krch, president of the Slovak National Alliance and Joseph Novy, of the Czechoslovakian Consul. The celebration called for unity among Czechs and their European neighbors--Poland, Hungary, and Austria. Cleveland area Czechs also began a collection drive of clothing and household goods that would be dropped off at the hall and later sent to war torn Czechoslovakia.

In May 1975, Bohemian National Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The next month, the hall was sold to the American Sokol Inc. Sokol is a program dedicated to the idea of a strong mind and body, emphasizing the importance of physical fitness. After the sale, the hall continued to host Sokol meetings, gymnastic events, lodge functions, Czech classes, and other Czech-oriented cultural events. A major renovation and restoration project in the early 2000s added an athletic facility and museum, now used as the Czech Cultural Center.

Today, the hall still teaches classes, holds events and meetings, and serves as a source of information and pride for the Cleveland Czech population.

Images

Bohemian National Hall Built in 1896 as a community hall for Cleveland's Bohemian population the hall currently features a ballroom, upper dining room and kitchen, upper bar, and lower dining room and kitchen. The adjoining Czech Cultural Center is the location of various classrooms, a gymnasium, and library. By 1910, Cleveland had the fourth largest Czech population in the world behind Prague, Vienna, and Chicago. At the time of the hall's construction, there were approximately 40,000 Bohemians living in Cleveland alone. Today, Ohio is home to the seventh largest Czech population in the country. Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project.
Postcard of the Bohemian National Hall The Bohemian National Hall was home to a number of meetings and organizations that drew crowds. On October 22, 1915 representatives for the Czech's and Slovak's met to discuss the needs of a sovereign state. This meeting, now called the Cleveland Agreement, sparked the creation of Czechoslovakia. - In August 1900, the Bohemian National Turners Association held their annual convention in Cleveland with the awards ceremony and entertainment being hosted at the hall. Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project.
Tomas G. Masaryk Tomas Masaryk was the first president of the Czech Republic. He came to Cleveland on a speaking tour in 1907, 1911, and 1918. On the two latter occasions, he spoke at the Bohemian National Hall. Source: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Aerial view of Ballroom In the early 2000's, the Hall underwent a major restoration and renovation that added an athletics complex and restored the ballroom. As funds were not able to cover the entirety of the work, volunteers donated over 3,500 hours of labor. Once restoration of the ballroom was complete, Cleveland Civic Orchestra gave an all Czech symphony concert in celebration. Source: Cleveland State University. Special Collections. Cleveland Memory Project.
Display of Bohemian Clothing This display features examples of traditional Bohemian dress, the likes of which would most likely have been worn at various parades and celebrations such as The National Turner Association convention. Creator: Jim Dubelko
Statue of Tomas Masaryk This statue of Masaryk stands in the lobby of the renovated Bohemian National Hall. Since 1975,Bohemian National Hall has been owned by Sokol Greater Cleveland, a Czech founded organization that focuses on physical fitness as a means of creating moral values. Sokol believes in “a sound mind in a sound body” and promotes physical, mental, and cultural well being of its members. Creator: Jim Dubelko

Location

4939 Broadway Ave, Cleveland, OH 44127

Metadata

Danielle Rose, “Bohemian National Hall,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 23, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/739.