St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church sits on the corner of Buckeye Road and East 90th Street in Cleveland's Lower Buckeye neighborhood. In the late nineteenth century, the neighborhood became home to thousands of Hungarian immigrants who were drawn to the area by nearby factories and mills, especially the Cleveland Malleable Iron Company and the Eberhard Manufacturing Company, which were known to these immigrants as, respectively, the "old" factory and the "new" factory.

Hungarian immigrants initially worshiped alongside Slovak immigrants at St. Ladislas Church, located on the corner of Holton Avenue and East 92nd Street. However, when a dispute broke out between Hungarian and Slovak parishioners as to which mass should be said in which ethnic group's native language, the Hungarians were induced to leave St. Ladislas and form a parish of their own. That new parish became St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish, the first Roman Catholic Hungarian parish in the United States.

The first parish church was built in large part as a result of the efforts of Father Karolyn Boehm. Arriving in America in 1892, Fr. Boehm temporarily held masses for the parish in a nearby hall and led the efforts of the parish in constructing a small wood-framed church on the corner of Buckeye Road (then called South Woodland Avenue) and East 90th Street (then called Bismark Street).

On June 4, 1893, the cornerstone of the first St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church was laid. This first church provided seating for up to 800 Hungarian immigrants at a single mass. Within a decade, however, it was too small to accommodate the thousands of Roman Catholic Hungarian immigrants arriving in Lower Buckeye. As early as 1907, Father Szepessy, the second pastor of St. Elizabeth began to petition the Bishop of Cleveland for permission to raise money to build a new church that would hold up to 1300 parishioners. Permission was finally granted by the bishop and, in 1918, construction of the new church was begun.

The new church, designed by French-born architect Emile Uhlrich, was completed in 1922. The church is a large rectangular building with a gable roof and exterior masonry walls composed of large smooth grey blocks of stone. A prominent feature of the Church are its twin bell towers which flank the front of the building, each topped with a brass dome and an internally illuminated cross. The two exterior side walls of the Church are each graced with six large stained glass windows with semicircular arches. The Church has a front entrance way consisting of ten wide and deep stone steps that lead up to three large metal front double doors with semicircular arches above them. Each doorway is flanked by stone columns, and above the doors, arches and columns is a decorative triangular pediment. The facade of the building also features a large ornate circular window with carved stone decoration directly above the front doors.

De-industrialization and suburbanization induced the Hungarian population to begin leaving the Buckeye neighborhood in the 1960s. Today, few Hungarian-Americans live in the Buckeye neighborhood. A small group of Hungarian-Americans--most of whom live in Cleveland's suburbs, however, continue to worship at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The church now serves as a symbol and reminder of the once thriving and bustling Hungarian-American population that resided in Cleveland's Buckeye neighborhood for nearly 100 years.

Images

Audio

"They Stayed"
Robert Purgert, the president of the St. Elizabeth's finance council, discusses Hungarian immigration to Cleveland.
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First Hungarian Roman Catholic Church
Robert Purgert, the president of the St. Elizabeth's finance council, recounts the events leading to the founding of the first Hungarian Roman Catholic Church in North America.
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A Monument To Hungarian-Americans
Robert Purgert, the president of the St. Elizabeth's finance council, explains St. Elizabeth's significance to the Hungarian-American community.
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