Noble Road Presbyterian Church

In 1907, as the First United Presbyterian Church of East Cleveland celebrated its 100th birthday, it was suggested that an appropriate feature of the celebration would be the founding of a mission chapel, originally called Noble Heights Bible Chapel. The effort came just four years after Beckwith Memorial Presbyterian Church seeded the forerunner of Forest Hill Church in a rented home on the Heights.

Although the population of Cleveland Heights was just beginning its ascent and the real boom remained a decade in the future, churches were clearly eyeing future trends. Up the hill on Noble Road, a new community was growing. The mission's regular services and Sunday school classes began in the one-room Noble School. After the original Noble School building was demolished, the congregation met under a large tent erected on a newly acquired lot just north of the old school. The cornerstone for a new building, built in the Gothic style and costing $5,600, was laid on August 1, 1909, at the corner of Noble and Kirkwood Roads.

Like most congregations, the mission church (which would later become Noble Road Presbyterian Church) relied on the strength of its Ladies Aid Society, which staged innumerable events like lawn fetes and bazaars to raise money for the building fund and to purchase pianos, pews, the first reed organ, and other building improvements.

Noble Road Presbyterian Church separated from First Church in 1921. At that time, there were 93 charter members and the enrollment of the Sunday School was 224 students. As the congregation grew, a need for more space arose. In 1924, the building was raised three feet (allowing for rooms in the basement) and extended 25 feet. And for the added comfort of parishioners, they installed pews and a new heating system. Despite ongoing financial problems and a high turnover rate in the minister position, the church served the surrounding community through schools, youth groups and service work.

The postwar population boom in Cleveland Heights swelled the congregation, which reached as high as 826 in 1957. In 1950, the congregation broke ground for a $52,000 remodel of the building. The new church featured a Georgian Revival facade with pillars and a tall steeple. This exciting time in church history also presaged a major shift in mission, with the congregation working on issues of civil rights and social justice throughout the community, a passion that continues today.

Images

Audio

"Full of GE Families"
Lifelong church member Barbara Wherley remembers the 1960s, when Noble Road Presbyterian was bursting at the seams with young families.
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"We Were a Pretty Radical Church"
Barbara Wherley recounts how open housing and Vietnam split the congregation.
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"Into the Wilds of Canada"
Barbara Wherley recounts her church's youth minister, who was known for his advocacy of civil rights and for taking the church's high school kids camping in Canada during summers in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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