Merrick House

Merrick House Social Settlement was established in 1919, in part to help “Americanize” immigrants by inculcating middle-class social and cultural values as bases for citizenship. By this time, Tremont had changed a good deal from its original 1850s inception as an enclave for Cleveland’s wealthy citizens. After the Civil War, European immigrants flocked to the area, finding work in the booming factories and steel mills nearby. Rudimentary housing (often without running water or electricity) sprang up within walking distance of the Flats. Poverty became commonplace and working/living conditions were frequently dreadful.

Responding to the struggles facing the urban poor, reformers in England and the US had begun opening settlement houses like Merrick during the late 19th century. The first settlement house established in Cleveland was Hiram House (1896). Roughly ten such facilities were built in Cleveland and a handful (e.g., Merrick, Karamu and Alta) still survive. Unlike its counterparts, however, Merrick House was funded through the National Catholic War Council, using surplus funds from war relief. The original facility, named for Mary Merrick, founder of the National Christ Child Society, was located in a small storefront on Starkweather Avenue and West 11th Street. In 1949, the facility was largely rebuilt at the same location (the northwest corner of Lincoln Park).

Merrick House quickly became the neighborhood’s go-to spot for English classes, child care, recreation, cultural programs and neighborhood clubs. In the 1950s, additional facilities were developed and, with the arrival of Puerto Rican immigrants to the area, Merrick launched Spanish-speaking programs. Under long-time director Gail Long, who served from 1972 to 2006, Merrick House also promoted the peaceful desegregation of Cleveland’s public schools, helped keep Metro General Hospital a public hospital, enhanced community health by assisting with the establishment of the Tremont People’s Free Clinic and Neighborhood Family Practice, and worked to maintain affordable housing in Tremont. In 1979, Merrick House helped found the non-profit Tremont West Development Corporation (TWDC)—part of a city-wide network of community development corporations (CDCs) which have played a significant role in the revitalization of Cleveland neighborhoods.

Today, Merrick House’s core service areas include early childhood education, youth services, teen and adult education, recreation, community organizing, and outreach programming, including a “MomsFirst” program for at-risk pregnant women.

Images

Merrick Garden Program, 1940

Merrick Garden Program, 1940

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Merrick House Staff, 1960

Merrick House Staff, 1960

In 1950, the Cleveland Roman Catholic Diocese paid for the construction of a new headquarters for the Merrick House. Here, the staff at Merrick stand in front of the building in 1960. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

"Paper Bag Dramas," 1961

"Paper Bag Dramas," 1961

The girls shown here from the Merrick House and the east side's Mount Pleasant neighborhood are working together at Merrick to make "paper bag dramas." Bringing together youths of different races was one way that Merrick House tried to create a more harmonious city. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Food Drive, 1953

Food Drive, 1953

Teenagers from the Merrick Settlement House Canteen present food and gifts to the Red Feather Agency's Golden Age Club, a charitable organization staffed by the elderly. The canned goods had been donated as admission to a dance held by the youngsters earlier in the month. It was hoped that teaching youngsters to provide service to their community would build character and help make the city a better place. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Story Hour, 1942

Story Hour, 1942

Story hour at Merrick House in 1942. Merrick expanded its daycare operations during World War II to meet increasing needs at a time when war demands were causing many mothers to enter the job market, particularly in factories. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Merrick Wood Shop, 1940

Merrick Wood Shop, 1940

Peter Krehel of 2627 West 11th Street and Nick Tishko of 717 College Avenue work with instructor Louis Brun in the wood shop behind Merrick House, 1940. Learning practical skills would make it more likely for a new immigrant to find a job in Cleveland, and Merrick House held a number of these kinds of training classes. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Backyard Scene, 1939

Backyard Scene, 1939

This 1939 photograph taken in Tremont begins to give an idea of the living conditions of some working-class people at this time. Part of the mission of Merrick House was to provide aid and guidance to neighborhood residents struggling to get by. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Rotman, “Merrick House,” Cleveland Historical, accessed December 10, 2016, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/90.
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