Filed Under Religion

Immaculate Conception Church

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese Grows Eastward

As the city's near east side neighborhoods expanded rapidly in the mid 19th century, new churches developed and flourished to serve several ethnic communities. Twentieth century growth and population transitions redefined parish roles and practices.

The mid-1800s were a busy time for the near east side Catholic residents of Cleveland along the Superior Avenue corridor. The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was dedicated upon completion in 1852 and also housed a school on its grounds. Within a year, Father John Luhr founded Saint Peter parish just nine blocks east on Superior Avenue for Cleveland's German congregation and completed construction of a church and school within two years. The demand was not finished. Further out Superior, the spiritual needs of the Irish residents required the attention of the Bishop. In 1855, Bishop Rappe chartered a mission at Superior and Lyman (East 41st) Streets to become the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The first structure of the mission was the Church of the Nativity which originally stood at the site of the Cathedral of St. John. It served as the mission church and school for a decade. Another frame building was built to serve the parishioners for the next decade until the present church structure was completed.

During the growth of the mission into the parish (1856 - 1870), the congregation fluctuated in size and support under two pastors, delaying the development and construction of its permanent home. An energetic pastor, Fr. Thomas Thorpe, mounted the effort to see the construction through and on August 17, 1873, the cornerstone of the Church of the Immaculate Conception was laid with nearly 10,000 city residents looking on. By its dedication in 1878, the early English Gothic designed church structure of Berea sandstone measured 169 by 91 feet. Two "well proportioned spires, the highest of which will be two hundred and seventy-five feet" grace the front of the church with another smaller spire at its rear. Fr. Thorpe enjoyed the support of both his parishioners and many non-parishioner neighborhood residents. Bishop Gilmour reflected upon that support in his comments during the ceremony marking "progress in the world both in intelligence and in virtue."

Rapid population growth during the next 20 years saw the development of new neighboring parishes that emerged east and south of Superior Avenue: St. Aloysius in Glenville, St. Agnes and St. Agatha on Euclid Avenue, St. Columbkille on Superior Avenue. While its school continued to thrive, Immaculate Conception hosted temperance societies, a band, and was the center of many Irish festivities and celebrations every year including the central gathering place for St. Patrick's Day parade festivities. The parish maintained its prominence in the community through the second world war, however, the postwar suburban growth and urban transition brought reduced numbers of parishioners and school enrollees. Over the past few decades, Immaculate Conception has maintained a multiethnic parish and school, while serving the whole Cleveland community with the celebration of the Tridentine Latin masses.


Immaculate Conception Church, Thomas Thorpe, Pastor The Cleveland Postcard Collection contains this image of the church, dated 1910. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1910
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Father A.R. Sidley, Pastor A photograph of the church upon completion of its exterior illustrates spires on the bell and clock towers that are not present in later photographs. The date and reason for thier removal are unavailable although the church postcard, dated 1910, shows no spires. Source: Image Courtesy of Special Collections, Maichael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University Date: circa 1898
Immaculate Conception Church, Superior Ave. and East 41st Street. Cleveland Memory's Sacred Landmarks Collection contains this image of the church noting the Gothic revival architectural style by Alexander Koehler. Source: Image courtesy of Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Date: after 1960
Immaculate Conception Parish Wulitzer Band and Boy Scouts The parish sponsored a band during its initial 80 years in the community. Source: Image courtesy of Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University. Date: circa 1945
The main Altar, Immaculate Conception Church The main altar is flanked on both sides with Munich stained glass windows. The nave and transcept are likewise adorned with Munich stained glass. Source: Image courtesy of James Lanese Date: 2016
Choir Loft and Organ Above the central entranceway stands the wooden loft and organ filling the lofty end of the nave. Source: Image courtesy of James Lanese Date: 2016
Statue of the Immaculate Conception The statue of the Immaculate Conception is mounted above the exterior entrance doors in a stone niche between the bell and clock towers. Source: Image courtesy of James Lanese Date: 2016
View to the Main Altar The nave of the church is flanked by fluted columns. Interior appointments include imported Stations. Source: Image courtesy of James Lanese Date: 2016
Illuminated Main Altar Two side altars and corner shrines complete the sanctuary of the church. The Gospel authors are represented on the walls to the left and right of the altar. Source: Image courtesy of James Lanese Date: 2016
Cleveland Street Map, 1881 This segment of Cleveland streets in 1881 shows the intersection of Superior Ave. and Lyman Street with the Immaculate Conurch, school and rectory noted on the north side of Superior. Lyman Street was renamed to East 41st Street in 1906. Source: Date: 1881


4129 Superior Ave, Cleveland, OH 44103


Jim Lanese, “Immaculate Conception Church,” Cleveland Historical, accessed December 2, 2023,