Neighborhoods They Settled In: Clark Fulton, Industrial Valley, Stockyards, Brooklyn Center, Tremont, Central.
First Immigrants 1877
Cleveland’s first Slovak immigrant is said to be Jan Roskos, who was already here when the city’s second Slovak, Jacob Gruss, arrived in 1880. Most Slovak immigrants to America were choosing to work in the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania or West Virginia. But opportunities in Cleveland gave them a chance to work aboveground.
Slovak immigrants to Cleveland came primarily from the Eastern part of what was then known as Northern Hungary, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slovak immigration began in the 1880s, reached its peak at the turn of the 20th century, and eventually tapered off with the beginning of World War I.
The usual pattern would be for men to leave Europe with the hope of making enough money so their family could live comfortably in Europe. Some actually did this. But the majority found the American dream and sent money to Europe so their wives and children or other members of their families could enjoy life here.
In Europe and when they arrived in America, these early immigrants would have been classified as Hungarians. And in America as they sought jobs, these new immigrants faced many employers who never even heard of the term Slovak and had no idea where these new immigrants were from.
Cleveland Slovaks established parishes as the anchors for their communities, and many found themselves living near some of the same people who were their neighbors in Europe. Whole families (including parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins) settled within walking distance of each other. Because of the reverence Slovaks have for their religion, the parish hall became the community center.
In Cleveland and neighboring Lakewood, they founded eight Roman Catholic parishes as well as five Lutheran, one Calvinist, and one Baptist church. Cleveland is also home to the headquarters of two major Slovak Catholic fraternal organizations: the First Catholic Slovak Union and the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association. The Slovak League of America was also founded in Cleveland, in 1907, at Grays Armory.
As World War I and the eventual breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire began, Cleveland Slovaks played an integral part in helping to win the war and to establish (for the first time in history) a homeland for the Slovaks. At the urging of Cleveland pastor Fr. Oldrich Zlamal, Cleveland Slovaks and Czechs began a campaign in 1915 to establish a unified homeland. On October 22, 1915 Slovak and Czech representatives signed the Cleveland Agreement at Cleveland’s Bohemian National Hall, which called for a unified federal state of Czechs and Slovaks. This was a prelude to the Pittsburgh Agreement, signed June 15, 1918, which affirmed more strongly the need to establish what eventually would become the country of Czechoslovakia.
Today, only one Catholic parish, St. Wendelin, continues to serve the Slovak community. However, Slovaks ranked number 6 of ethnic groups tracked in the 2000 US Census, with 93,495 claiming Slovak ancestry and a median household income of $52,349. According to the Census, of people claiming Slovak descent 84 percent own their own home.
Cleveland radio stations still have two Slovak language programs each week. And each year since 1971, a Slovak Festival held in Parma draws thousands of Slovaks or people who claim to be Slovak at least for the day.
(History above courtesy of John T. Sabol)
1885— St. Ladislas—Corwin (E. 92nd) St. and Holton Ave. (closed—1971)
1893 – St. Martin—Woodland Ave. and Chapel (E. 23rd) St. (closed 1960)
1903 – Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Aetna Road east of Woodland Hills Ave. (E. 93rd St.) (closed 1992)
1903 – St. Wendelin—Columbus Road
1903 – Ss. Cyril and Methodius—Madison and Lakewood Aves., Lakewood (now part of Transfiguration Church)
1906 – St. Andrew—E. 53rd St. and Superior Ave. (closed—2008)
1922 – Our Lady of Mercy—W. 11th St. near Kenilworth Ave. (closed 2009)
1928 – St. Benedict—Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Lamontier Ave. (closed—1993)
1890—Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church—Woodland Ave. near Harmon (E. 20th) St. (moved to Broadview Road, Parma)
1901—Ss. Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church—Thrush and Quail Aves., Lakewood (moved to 13030 Madison Ave. in 1927)—now Grace Lutheran
1910—Dr. Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran Church—2139 W. 14th St. (moved to Ridge Road, Brooklyn)
1918—Pentecost Evangelical Lutheran Church—13030 Madison Ave., Lakewood (part of merger that formed Grace Lutheran)
First Catholic Slovak Union
First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association
Slovak League of America
Slovak Choral Society of Greater Cleveland
Slovak Home Clubs
Slovak Radio Club
John Sabol and Lisa Alzo are the authors of "Cleveland Slovaks." You can find their book here: http://www.amazon.com/Cleveland-Slovaks-America-Arcadia-Publishing/dp/0738552429