St. Patrick Church, Bridge Avenue, was founded July 2, 1853, the year before Ohio City (a separate community on the West Side of the Cuyahoga River) merged with the City of Cleveland. Parishioners began building a brick Church on Whitman Avenue. By September, students were enrolled in the school, the Ursuline Community’s first parish foundation. The Ursuline presence continues today at the parish with Urban Community School, born of the merger in August of 1968 of St. Patrick and St. Malachi Schools. Mass was offered for the first time in the Church on Christmas Day, 1853.
The first church was soon too small for the growing congregation. A site for the new structure was purchased on Bridge Avenue. The architect was Alfred Green and the style was Gothic Revival. The material was Sandusky blue limestone. In the fall of 1870, ground was broken and the corner stone was set in place on August 21, 1871. A friend of the parish who owned a quarry in Sandusky offered the stone to the community if they could cut it and haul it to Cleveland themselves. Parishioners were divided into teams. One group would leave after Mass on Sunday, staying overnight at an inn in Lorain. They would continue to Sandusky, quarrying stone till the weekend. Saturday morning they would return to the parish and unload the wagon. Meanwhile, another group would cut and place the stone. The trips to Sandusky were repeated weekly for a two year period. The church was occupied on May 1, 1873. The stone tower was completed in 1903. A chime of eleven bells, the largest collection on the west side, was installed in 1899. Interestingly, the church roof is 93 feet above the floor.
Records show that initially worship took place in an unfinished structure. The interior was completed fully in 1881. Improvements were added, including steam heating, installation of clear glazed windows, pews, confessionals, statues, and gas light fixtures. By January 1, 1889, the church was completed and debt free. In 1893, more improvements were made and the sanctuary was remodeled. In 1897, a new set of decorative stained glass windows were purchased, and a water powered organ. In 1901-1902, the stone tower was finished, and the church was lighted by electrical fixtures. Before 1913, the church was eight bays long and a flat wall terminated the sanctuary. Enlargement of the church in that year consisted in the extending of the nave by an additional bay and the addition of a polygonal apse surrounding the main altar. The apse was flanked by shed roof additions covering the side altars and a one story ambulatory-like enclosure for the sacristies. On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1932, St. Patrick’s Church, Bridge Avenue, was consecrated.
The church is the symbol of the faith of a people, and the beautiful story of St. Patrick’s Parish. Our community predates the Civil War, lived through the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean and Vietnam war of this century. In 1941, St. Mary Church was closed and the parishioners from St. Mary’s became part of the St. Patrick Community. Some four years later, the spiritual care of St. Patrick’s was entrusted to the priests of the Society of Jesus who would direct its growth until 1980.
In the 1980’s, the Parish undertook the task of restoration and preservation of St. Patrick Church. Among the projects completed are: replacement of the roof, repair of the stained glass windows and placing protective covering over them, re-plastering and repainting of the interior, restoration of the pipe organ restored, renovation of the choir loft, electrifying of the church bells and lighting of the tower. This labor of love is still in the process as we continue into our third century.
Today, the Community of St. Patrick is as living and vibrant as it was at the time of its founding. Following a tradition which began in 1853, when St. Patrick’s was the first parish granted a charter for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, work with the needy has been a characteristic of the Community. Our Church today is a parish of 700 households. St. Patrick’s hosts and supports the Near West Side Food and Family Service/Outreach. This program helps around seven hundred families a month with an emergency three day food supply. As part of the Meals Network, a hot dinner meal is served to four to five hundred people twice weekly at the parish. The St. Vincent de Paul Society does an additional $25,000 plus a year in aid as representative of the Diocese’s Outreach to the Poor. We host two AA Groups, one NA Group, a Community Theater which conducts three productions a year with workshops in the arts as well. The Marianist Volunteer Service Corps and the Jesuit Volunteers (5 to 7 college grads in each group, giving a year of their lives in service to the community) also are part of the Near West Side area served by St. Patrick’s. Parishioners are part of many social action and social advocacy programs as well as programs of assistance for the needy, including providing affordable housing for stable families of the area and thereby working towards preservation of the diverse character of the community.
St. Patrick Church, Mother Church of the Irish Catholic Community of Cleveland, is the site where the United Irish Societies of Cleveland installed a plaque commemorating the contribution of the Irish Immigrant to the building of our city and nation. This was done on the occasion of our Nation’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. We are a grand old parish, proud of our faith, of our heritage, of our work for others, and of the community of which we have so long been a part.