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Saint Patrick Catholic Church of West Park

Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Cleveland's West Park is one of the oldest parishes in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. The parish was established in 1848 by Reverend Amadeus Rappe, the first bishop of Cleveland and the founder of St. Vincent Charity Hospital. The original parish included about thirty families, most of whom were of Irish descent but also included some German families. The first church was built in 1854 on the site of what is now the cemetery at the northeast corner of Rocky River Drive and Puritas Avenue. The first mass was celebrated in the current church on Christmas Day 1898. The original portion of the church, which still stands today, was expanded in 1953 to accommodate the growing parish.

One of the unique components of the parish property – which includes the church, rectory, community center, gymnasium, and school buildings – is the cemetery. The cemetery, with a total of 211 plots, is the burial site of many early Rockport Township pioneers, the first being buried in 1861. At several times throughout the history of the cemetery, the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Catholic Diocese have tried to have all or portions of the cemetery relocated. For instance, in 1949 the diocese wanted to move the cemetery to its own section of the new Holy Cross Cemetery on Brookpark Road, but parishioners insisted it stay on church grounds. Fortunately, this urban cemetery remains intact to this day.

Throughout the years St. Patrick Church, which ultimately grew to over 1,100 families, served not only its parishioners, but also the entire West Park community. Outreach included sports programs open to all, fundraisers for police and fire fighter funds, and a space for Alcoholics Anonymous and other community meetings. The church also operated a hunger center for over 30 years which fed about 130 families a month and more around holidays.

In May 2009, St. Patrick Church was ordered to close by Bishop Richard Lennon, and the parish was to merge with those of Ascension and Annunciation as part of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese downsizing. After several unsuccessful appeals to the diocese and the Vatican, the church ultimately closed. But, in the summer of 2011, hope for the future of the church was revived when the Vatican panel considering appeals – and investigating the conduct of the Cleveland Diocese – extended St. Patrick's appeal to March 2012. This final appeal was a success. St. Patrick once again opened their doors to the West Park community in July of 2012.


The Oldest Parish
The Oldest Parish Many written accounts claim that St. Patrick Catholic Church in West Park is the oldest parish in Cuyahoga County. Others claim that the honor goes to St. Mary's on the Flats. The first masses of St. Patrick parish were celebrated in the home of Reverend Rappe, as well as other parishioners' homes, until the first church was built in 1854. In addition to the first church, a one room school house was located on the site of what is now the cemetery. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
St. Patrick's School
St. Patrick's School St. Patrick Catholic Church first established a one room school in 1864 to serve parishioners on the site of what is now the cemetery. The school closed in 1894. A new 4 room school was built in 1916. The school was expanded in the 1930s (pictured), and a second building was added in the 1950s. Despite the closing of the church, the school remains open after having merged with the Ascension School in 2008. It is now known as West Park Catholic Academy. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: ca. 1930s
Church Expansion
Church Expansion The original portion of the current church, which still stands today, was built in 1898 by parishioners who hauled sandstone from the Berea quarries by horse and wagon. The same sandstone was used when the church was expanded from a capacity of 400 to 900 in 1953, when many new stained glass windows were added. Source: Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. Date: ca. 1953
The Church's Dedication Cornerstone
The Church's Dedication Cornerstone The original portion of the church was designed by Henry J. Harks, who was also the architect for many other buildings in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, including St. Vincent Charity Hospital. Even though all written accounts say the St. Patrick's opened in 1898, the cornerstone reads that it was dedicated in 1896, perhaps the date when construction began. Creator: Tim Knapp Date: 2011
St. Patrick Cemetery
St. Patrick Cemetery The cemetery on the grounds of St. Patrick is one of few urban cemeteries in Cleveland. Many of Rockport Township's early pioneers and founding members of the parish are buried here. The first was Elizabeth Adams in 1861. The last burial took place in 2004. One plot remains unoccupied. Creator: Tim Knapp Date: 2011
Saving the Cemetery
Saving the Cemetery The cemetery at St. Patrick has been threatened with being moved several times through the years. In 1927, the city wanted to acquire 10 feet of the cemetery to widen Puritas Avenue. When the families of the deceased were contacted for permission, one woman refused and therefore saved the cemetery. Creator: Tim Knapp Date: 2011


4427 Rocky River Dr, Cleveland, OH 44135


Tim Knapp, “Saint Patrick Catholic Church of West Park,” Cleveland Historical, accessed April 13, 2024,