My Old School- St. Joseph Byzantine, Cleveland, OH

My Catholic grade school suffered the same fate as many other Cleveland parochial schools and churches that closed their doors many years ago. St. Joe’s was a little ahead of the trend and closed after the school year of 1971. Let’s start out on a positive note and look back at their proud history in the inner city of Cleveland. Much of the research—including the black and white images—are from the publication of the Golden Jubilee of St. Joseph’s Byzantine Catholic Church, June 1963. (my personal collection) The images from the abandoned church are posted with the permission of the photographer Mark Satola. Thank You Mark!

Rusin immigrants (a member of the East Slavic–speaking population of the Carpathian Mountains in E Czechoslovakia, SE Poland, and W Ukraine) came to Cleveland back in 1898. St. Joseph’s Lodge No. 537 was organized in Newburgh in 1909 and by 1912 there were 95 families which was sufficient to organize a parish. The first meeting was in Jelinka Hall on Aetna Road where a decision was reached to purchase lots. It only took two months to purchase 9 lots for a total of $5,352 on Orleans Ave. which is South of Union off East 93rd street.

The church was completed for $3,000 and the first Mass was on January 7th 1913 which was Christmas day on the Julian Calendar. It only took 3 more years before the church was enlarged and with rapid growth there was talk of a new church just 9 years after the original opening. Church dues were established at $1.00 for a family and $.50 for a single individual.

Throughout the 1920’s there were meetings to discuss building a larger church and by 1929 it was finally agreed that the new church would be built on the current owned property. Due to the onset of the depression and disagreement within the church there were delays until Reverend John Krusko became Pastor and provided strong leadership over the congregation.

During Father Krusko’s tenure as Pastor from 1931 to 1950 the Parish thrived with completion of the new church, converting the old church to a recreational hall, purchasing adjacent land for a Convent, a new Altar from Italy and a fund to build a school.

Thanks to the generous contributions and fund-raising efforts of the parishioners the ground was finally broken in 1955 for a $400,000 eight-room Parochial school and rectory.

The school was originally a high school and first class was enrolled for the Fall of 1956.

The first graduation class was 1960 with 24 graduates. The following year graduated 30 students and starting in the fall of 1961 the high school students transferred to the new Byzantine Catholic High School in Parma and St. Joe’s was converted to an elementary school.

In the late 1960’s the neighborhood demographics changed with many parishioners moving out to the suburbs. The school suffered declining enrollment and closed in 1971. (I’m a proud elementary graduate, class of 1971).

The church purchased land in Brecksville in 1977 paving the way for the eventual relocation.

The church was sold to Mt. Zion Hill Baptist Church for $65,000 and the last service at St. Joe’s on Orleans was held on Easter of 1980.

St. Joe's Graduates Newspaper Article
Cleveland Plain Dealer June 10th 1960

Cleveland Plain Dealer April 5th 1980

The Church was sold several more times in the following years and was ultimately demolished in 2016.

The following images (courtesy of Mark Satola from February 2012) reflect the deterioration and vandalism.

Additional History Sources:

3 thoughts on “My Old School- St. Joseph Byzantine, Cleveland, OH”

  1. I stand corrected on the year the grade school closed- it was 1972…..I thought that was the case but I believed 3 online sources vs. someone that actually was in the class of 1972.

  2. judith goldsworth petranek

    I remember going to rummage sales at this church in the 1970s with my grandmother who lived at E. 95 and Harvard. This was such a beautiful church. So grand and monumental. The twin steeples were a landmark in thr neighborhood. And the sense of peace on the grounds was absolutely real, tangible and palpable. After the church was closed, to witness its vandalism and deterioration was like losing an old friend. Thank you for remembering this grand lady.

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