Hungarian Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

Next to Budapest, city had most Hungarians

By Eleanor Prech - Nationalities Writer
The Cleveland Press, SEP 14 1976

Since large-scale Hungarian immigration to this county began more than 40 years ago, Cleveland has been a focal point for thousands of Magyar newcomers.

The influx of Hungarians was so great at times that Cleveland was considered the city with the second largest Hungarian population, after Budapest.

The Hungarians who came to Cleveland hailed from all parts of their native country. Some of these parts were attached in 1920 to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia, by the Treaty of Trianon.

Cleveland has also been a cultural center of Magyar life. Two world known heroes came here to attest to the city's importance. Louis Kossuth, leader of a revolt against the Hapsburgs in 1848, was here in 1852, and Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, fighter against communism, was here in 1974.

Though it has changed much in recent years, the Buckeye Rd. neighborhood is still the focus of Hungarian life here. At one time the neighborhood was large both in terms of geography and in numbers of persons of Hungarians heritage.

Upper Buckeye Rd., built by Hungarians, still has import shops, butcher and bakery shops and a few Hungarian restaurants which serve traditional dishes such as chicken paprikash and stuffed cabbage.

And on Buckeye Rd. are the first Hungarian churches established in the United States. They include:

FIRST HUNGARIAN Reformed Church, founded in 1891, and today located at East Blvd. and Buckeye Rd.

ST. ELIZABETH Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1892, at 9016 Buckeye Rd. Msgr. Charles Boehm, first pastor, wore boots to get to homes of parishioners off buckeye Rd.

ST. JOHN the Baptist, first Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, built at 9510 Buckeye Rd., founded in 1893.

FIRST HUNGARIAN Lutheran Church, founded in 1906, now at Buckeye Rd. and East Blvd.

FIRST HUNGARIAN Presbyterian Church, now at 12604 Buckeye Rd., founded in 1914, fist in Ohio of this denomination.

Jewish Hungarians founded the Temple B'nai Jeshurum in 1866. the Morris Blacks, Hungarian Jews who left Hungary after the 1848 revolution, were said to be the first Hungarian family to come to Cleveland, in 1853, a son, Louis, was one of the founders of the Bailey Co.

In 1863 Morris Black established the Hungarian Aid Society. In 1881 it was reorganized as the Hungarian Benevolent and Social Union, still in existence.

Aside from their public clubs and churches, the Hungarians along Buckeye Rd. were great believers in home ownership and their houses were known city-wide as being among the best-kept residences. Much credit for settling Buckeye Rd. goes to John Weizer, the first Hungarian real estate operator, who bought in 1888 the site of an office at 8937 Buckeye Rd.

Hungarians settled on the West Side to be near the largest factory founded by a Hungarian. The Theodor Kundtz Co., located near the viaduct at the city center, employed hundreds of Hungarians.

Kundtz was an expert cabinet maker. He established social and cultural clubs on the West Side. His company made church and school furniture as well as sewing machine woodwork for the White Sewing machine Co. which eventually bought our the Kundtz Co.

It followed that large numbers of Hungarians formed churches such as St. Emeric's Church at 1860 W. 22d St., the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church which is now at Puritas Ave. and W. 153d St., and the West Side Hungarian Lutheran Church, 3245 W. 98th St.

Cleveland Hungarians, prompted by Editor Tihamer Kohanyi of the Szabadsag in 1903, started the movement to erect a statue of George Washington in Budapest. It is the only statue of Washington in a Community county.

Formation of Cleveland United Hungarian Societies in 1902 provided leadership, as it does today, for many Hungarian enterprises.

The oldest and largest Hungarian Catholic fraternal organization in the country is the American Hungarian Catholic Society based here. Other big fraternals are the Hungarian Reformed Federation and the William Penn Assn.

The Magyar Club for professionals of Hungarian background, the Old American Hungarian Family Assn., the Cleveland Hungarian Athletic Club, the Hungarian Business and Tradesmen's Club, the Magyar Society for Self Culture, East Side American Ladies Aid Society, Cleveland Hungarian Ladies Charities Committee-these are but a few pf the many Hungarian organizations here.

A number of newer organizations came into being after World War II when several thousand refugees and displaced persons arrived in Cleveland from Hungary.

Among these were the American-Hungarian Friends of Scouting, the World Federation of Hungarian Veterans Assn., the Hungarian Assn., the Hungarian Students' Assn., and others.

Following the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fighters uprising, about 3000 young persons came to Cleveland. Some moved to other states but most stayed and were helped in getting settled here. The Hungarians Freedom Fighters' Federation was formed. Cleveland was the only U.S. city which sent clothing, a plane load valued at $100,000, to the Austrian refugee camps filled with Hungarians who made their bid for freedom. The venture was sponsored by the Press under direction of Theodore Andrica, former nationalities writer.

This is another in a series of Press Bicentennial salutes to the many who came here from other lands and made contributions to life in Cleveland