Irish Immigration

The development and growth of Cleveland can be attributed to the collective efforts of the many immigrant groups that lived, worked, socialized, played, and worshiped within the city.

The Irish were one of the first ethnic communities to settle in Cleveland; their influence on Cleveland's development can be traced back to the construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal during the late 1820's. From these early days of digging canals onward, the Irish community would continue to both shape, and be shaped by the environment around them. These immigrants and their descendants would make their mark on the city's history through the development of businesses, social groups, religious organizations, and even gangs.

While Cleveland's Irish districts have long since disappeared, its Irish heritage can be uncovered through an exploration of the immigrants' neighborhoods, churches, schools, and workplaces. These spaces speak to the traditions, daily routines, and aspirations of the individuals that made up the Irish community. Pieced together, the stories that these sites offer can provide us with a better understanding of the Irish immigrant experience in Cleveland.

Ohio and Erie Canal

It is hard to imagine Cleveland developing into the city that it did had it not been chosen to be the northern end of the Ohio & Erie Canal. George Washington discussed the possibility of building a canal to connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River…

Whiskey Island

Back when Native Americans made camp along Lake Erie, Whiskey Island was a spit of high land rising out of the marshes surrounding the original mouth of the Cuyahoga River. Lorenzo Carter - Cleveland's first permanent white settler - chose this…

The McCart Street Gang

Many Cleveland moviegoers have seen Martin Scorsese's 2002 film "Gangs of New York," a story about the vicious street gangs that populated New York's notorious Five Points District around the time of the U.S. Civil War. Few…

Saint Colman Catholic Church

St. Colman Catholic Church, located on W. 65th Street near Lorain Avenue, was founded in 1880 as a response to the rapidly growing Irish immigrant population on Cleveland's West Side. Father Eugene M. O'Callaghan, former pastor of the…

Irish Cultural Garden

The first Irish immigrants arrived in Cleveland in the early 1820s, with approximately 500 Irishmen and women residing in the city by 1826. Within two decades, the number had doubled, reaching 1,024 by the late 1840s. The passing of another twenty…

St. Augustine Church

St. Augustine Parish was formed in 1860 as part of Ohio City's St. Patrick's Parish—one of the oldest Catholic parishes in the city. Other Tremont churches formed from St. Patrick's include Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (1871)…

Kilbane Town

The Cleveland Leader dubbed the west side neighborhood near Herman Avenue and West 74th Street "Kilbane Town," in honor of world featherweight boxing champion Johnny Kilbane. In March 1912, Kilbane Town was the end point of one of the…

"Black Jack" McGinty

He wasn't called "Black Jack" when, in 1912, he married Helen Mulgrew from West 67th Street and the two newly weds moved into a house at 1377 West 69th Street. In 1912, he was Tommy McGinty, and he was one of Cleveland's best…

The House that Brass Built

The yellow pastel colored, Italianate style house on the corner of W. 73rd Street and Herman Avenue, which in recent years has been restored to its nineteenth century grandeur, was built by a member of the family that pioneered Cleveland's brass…

The Cleveland Circulation War

In a business where circulation numbers have historically counted for nearly everything, there was probably never any love lost between the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Leader. The Plain Dealer--a partisan Democrat paper, was founded in…