Our Lady of Mercy Church

"The Little Cathedral"

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 Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. Designed in the Romanesque style, Our Lady of Mercy is constructed with crab orchard stone— similar to what was used in the 1946-1948 reconstruction of St. John's Cathedral. Our Lady of Mercy was designed during that same time period by the same architectural firm—Stickle, Kelly and Stickle—that oversaw reconstruction of St. John Cathedral.

The history of Our Lady of Mercy parish tracks to the early twentieth century. At that time, the Tremont neighborhood, then called South Side, was home to myriad immigrants from Eastern Europe, including Poles, Ukrainians, Rusins, and Slovaks. By 1915, neighborhood Poles, Ukrainians and Rusins could worship at a neighborhood church, but Catholic Slovaks had to travel to St. Wendelin Church on Columbus Road. The trip was lengthy and potentially dangerous, especially for children, who had to cross three streetcar lines and either cross the railroad tracks or negotiate the Abbey Avenue bridge to reach St. Wendelin.

In 1915, Catholic Slovaks living in Tremont petitioned the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese to grant them a parish of their own in Tremont. Their petition was denied, leading to a brief schism within the Diocese. In 1917, a small wood-frame church was built on West 11th Street which, from 1917 to 1922 was known as St. John the Baptist. In 1922, the rift between Tremont's Slovak Catholics and the Diocese was mended, and permission was granted to worship at the small church whose name was changed to Our Lady of Mercy.

Over the next quarter century, a number of improvements—including enlargement of the sisters' house and construction of a new school building, were made by Rev. John Krispinsky, the parish's long-serving second pastor. During this era, Father Krispinsky also became active in the Tremont neighborhood—assisting at the Merrick Settlement House and supporting the 1939 Valleyview Homes public housing project. Building on the church grounds was completed in 1949 with the dedication of the "The Little Cathedral on the South Side."

In 2010, Our Lady of Mercy Church was closed as part of Bishop Lennon's parish-reorganization plan. Only a few years later, however, the three-building complex became a textbook example of adaptive reuse. Following a $5 million renovation, Our Lady of Mercy is now home to Hermes Cleveland (a sports- and events-management firm) and MCM Company (historic renovation specialists), which together purchased the three-building property from the Diocese of Cleveland. A third tenant, The Historic Preservation Group, has also signed on and others are expected soon.

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