Drawn more by economic opportunity than oppression, Arabs from numerous countries in western Asia and northern Africa began arriving in Cleveland in the late 19th Century. And although much of the Arab world is Muslim, these early immigrants tended to be Christian—having learned about the United States from Protestant missionaries. The new residents settled primarily in Tremont (South Side) and the Haymarket district (south of what is now Tower City Center). In 1911, they established a congregation that would later become St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church (the principality of Antioch was created during the First Crusade, 1096–1099, and included parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria).
Many of these new arrivals–a majority of whom were actually from Lebanon (which was part of Greater Syria at the time)–frequented St. Elias Byzantine Catholic Church on Webster Avenue near Carnegie Avenue between East 9th and 14th Streets. Members of St. George used St. Elias because St. George’s only priest had been transferred to another city. In 1926, however, St. George was reestablished by a group of believers. A new pastor arrived in 1927 and held services at a variety of locales, including the billiards room at Gray's Armory.
The congregation purchased the old Lincoln Park Methodist Episcopal Church (built in 1892) on West 14th Street and Starkweather Avenue in 1928. Soon after, fire destroyed nearly all of this building, and church members raised more than $40,000 to rebuild. The rebuilt St. George's was dedicated in 1935. The congregation rebuilt it in the Byzantine style with cupolas on the steeple and an ornate altar screen hand-crafted by Damascus-native Dawood Deeb. Details such as a wide front gable, rounded arches above the window openings, and a relatively short, squared-off tower with a conical roof also suggest a Richardsonian Romanesque style. However, the onion-shaped finials at the top of the bell tower are more indicative of the congregation’s unique cultural and religious heritage.