Cleveland's Catholic schoolchildren began attending parochial schools in their neighborhoods during the 1850s, opting to avoid the public school system which many saw as being anti-Catholic. These first Catholic schools were merely grammar schools, however, and did not offer advanced education. Cleveland's Catholic population continued to grow in the last quarter of the 19th-century with an influx of Catholic immigrants from southern and eastern Europe joining the Irish and Germans already in town. Recognizing the growing need for better and more extensive Catholic education in the city, Bishop Richard Gilmour invited a group of Jesuits priests from Buffalo to start a Catholic college on the city's near west side.
St. Ignatius College opened with 76 students in 1886 in a wood-framed building at West 30th Street and Carroll Avenue. Its five-story brick main building (which remains standing today) did not open until 1890. Initially, St. Ignatius offered a seven year course of study which ended with the granting of a Bachelor of Arts degree. A 1905 book on education in Cleveland explained that a student at the college could expect to take courses on "Christian doctrine, the Latin, Greek, and English languages; rhetoric, poetry, elocution, and English literature; mathematics, physics, and chemistry; history and geography; bookkeeping and penmanship." The seventh year of instruction was dedicated exclusively to the study of philosophy.
In 1902, the high school and college became separate entities, resulting in a more modern arrangement. In 1935 the college, which switched its name to John Carroll University in 1923, moved to its own campus in suburban University Heights. St. Ignatius High School remained in Ohio City and has since expanded outward from its original building, with its campus now clustered along both sides of Lorain Avenue between West 28th and West 32nd Streets. It is known for its excellent academics, championship-winning sports teams, and community service within Ohio City.