Spiritual beauty: Tremont History Project to host Historic Church Tour series

The Tremont History Project (THP), a group of amateur historians and volunteers—many of whom grew up in the south side neighborhood—has for years been collecting and documenting Tremont history.

Starting this weekend, THP will host its regular Historic Church Tour series, featuring four historic churches throughout October and early November.

The series kicks off this Saturday, Oct. 14 with St. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral, followed by Zion United Church of Christ on Saturday, Oct. 21, Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ on Saturday, Oct. 28, and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday, Nov. 4.

These four churches were constructed between 1867 and 1910 and are just a sampling of the 23 churches of the approximately 25 churches that have stood in the neighborhood.

It’s the many churches that make Tremont so full of historical beauty, says Ronaldo Rodriguez Jr., who oversees the organization’s community outreach.

St. Theodosius Orthodox CathedralSt. Theodosius Orthodox Cathedral“The bars are okay; the restaurants are cool, [and] I enjoy the art galleries the most,” he says. “But it’s the skyline of spires and stacks that makes this my neighborhood of choice. At roughly three square miles, we are home to about two dozen church buildings.”

St. Theodosius was first built in 1896 on Literary Road and West 6th Street as the first wave of Eastern European immigrants were settling in the area. It was the first Orthodox Community in Cleveland and served the needs of the various ethnic Orthodox Christian groups.

The cathedral was later built in the early 1900s at 733 Starkweather Ave., designed by local architect Frederick C. Baird and modeled after a church in Moscow.

Zion United Church of Christ was built in 1885 with a 175-foot steeple, ornate stained-glass windows, and a history steeped in the German immigrants who settled in Tremont in the 1800s.

In 2020, the church was transformed into San Sofia Luxury Apartments with the church continuing operations out of the adjoining school building.

Pilgrim UCC was founded in 1859 with its first church being completed in 1870 at the corner of Howard and today’s West 14th Street. In 1893, the first cornerstone was laid for the current church at 2592 W. 14th St. The church was made of pinkish sandstone—the same stone used to build Cleveland’s first skyscraper, the 1890 Society for Savings building.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox was completed in 1919 at 2187 W. 14th St. and is today known for its golden domes and annual Greek Orthodox Festival.

“I appreciate how each reflects the history of the United States and the world,” says THP’s Rodriguez. “On any given Sunday, worship can be attended in German, Polish, Spanish, Korean, and Sign Language. There is something for everyone here, including a church family.”

Other Tremont churches that have been converted to new uses include Holy Ghost Byzantine, which has been converted to The Elliot event space, St. Vladimir’s Church, which became the new home of Olympic Forest Products in 2018, and Our Lady of Mercy Church was purchased in 2014 by MCM Company and Hermes Sports & Events of Cleveland for commercial redevelopment. Saint Matthew’s Church is currently vacant.

All four upcoming church tours are free and open to the public. Registration is recommended but not required. Visit THP’s church tours page for more information and details, email THP, or call (216) 272-5046.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.