Slovak Immigration

Like America, Cleveland developed and grew as wave after wave of different immigrant groups arrived in the city at key times in the city's history. The Slovaks were one of those immigrant groups whose arrival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had an important impact on the city's development and growth.

The Slovaks are a Slavic ethnic people who for over 1000 years--from 895 to 1918, constituted an ethnic minority in the kingdom of Hungary. For much of the twentieth century, the Slovaks were one-half of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1993, the Slovaks separated from the Czechs and, for the first time in their history, achieved their own independent democratic state-- the Slovak Republic.

In the late nineteenth century, as the result of industrialization in Hungary and the rise of nationalism among different ethnic groups living in the kingdom of Hungary, Slovaks began immigrating in large numbers to the United States. It is unknown exactly how many Slovaks emigrated to America, because until approximately 1900, they were labeled as "Hungarians" by immigration authorities. However, during the years 1899 to 1914--the peak period of Slovak immigration to the United States, nearly 500,000 Slovaks--approximately twenty-five percent of the total population of Slovaks living in Hungary in 1910, arrived in America. So many of these immigrants came to northeast Ohio that by 1920 Cleveland had become home to the largest population of Slovak immigrants in the United States. In that same year the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood counted almost 4,000 Slovak immigrants residing within its city limits--almost 10 percent of the suburb's population.

Slovak immigrants settled in a number of neighborhoods on the west and east sides of Cleveland, usually close to concentrations of factories where many of them sought unskilled work. Thus, Slovak neighborhoods developed, for example, in the Buckeye Road neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland near iron works factories; in the Tremont neighborhood on the south side of Cleveland near the steel mills; and in Bird Town, a Union Carbide company town located in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood. A number of the stories on this tour originated in these historic Slovak neighborhoods of Cleveland.

If you are driving south on East 55th Street near its intersection with Broadway Avenue, you will notice on the left at 3289 East 55th Street a beautiful art-deco style grey limestone building that seems oddly out of place with the single family houses that surround it. The building, which has…
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In 1891 the National Carbon Company (now GrafTech) occupied the corner of Madison Avenue and West 117th Street at the Cleveland-Lakewood border. It manufactured batteries and developed the carbon filtered gas mask. The company employed recent immigrants, primarily Slovaks and eastern Europeans in…
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The Lee-Scottsdale Building, located at 3756 Lee Road in Shaker Heights' Moreland neighborhood, is one of the oldest commercial buildings in that neighborhood of the city. Over the years, visitors to this four-story Romanesque and Renaissance motiffed building located near Shaker…
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Slovaks began immigrating to Cleveland in the late 1870s, settling first around E. 9th Street near the Cuyahoga River. As the community grew some members moved to the lower Buckeye Road neighborhood between E. 78th Street and Woodhill Road. Others moved to the west side, settling in Tremont and in…
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According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, when the new Our Lady of Mercy church opened in October 1949, its Slovak-American parishioners called it "The Little Cathedral on the South Side." The exterior of the small church does, in fact, bear a resemblance to St. John…
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The Slovak Institute is a library, archive and museum of Slovak books, newspapers, journals, photographs, paintings and other Slovak cultural items at St. Andrew Svorad Abbey located at 10510 Buckeye Road, on the southeast side of Cleveland. Founded in 1952, the major part of the Institute's…
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