Hungarian Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

A Place in History

Cleveland Press, MAR 21 1979

Late in the 19th Century there was a colony of Hungarians in Cleveland, but no Catholic priest of their nationality. For a long time, the Magyars attended different churches in the Woodland Ave.-Buckeye Rd. area and finally, Bishop Ignatius F. Horstmann summoned a priest from the old country, Father Charles Boehm. He arrived in 1892 and a year later bought property at Buckeye and Bismarck St., now E. 90th St.

A small frame school was built and the cornerstone was laid for the first Hungarian Catholic church in the United States-St. Elizabeth. A red brick church was built but, by the end of World War I, it had proven to be too small and was razed for this beautiful Romanesque baroque-styled structure which was completed in 1922 at a cost of $300,000. Father Julius Szepessy was the pastor during the construction because Fr. Boehm had gone west to establish 18 other Hungarian churches. Until a year ago, when he retired, Father Julius E. Zahorsky was the pastor of the church. Fr. Zahorsky armed himself with a 38-caliber revolver because the lower Buckeye area had become a high-crime neighborhood.

Fr. Zahorsky's successor is Father John J. Nyeste who told the Weekly the crime situation has lessened and that he does not arm himself. Nevertheless silver-colored bolts with locks and bars disfigure the inside of the front doors of what was declared a historic landmark by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission in 1975. The church will seat 1,200 people. There are approximately 400 members, according to Fr. Nyeste, about 35 to 40 of them form the immediate area. The remainder live as far away as western suburbs and Lake County.

A highlight of the interior of the church is a statue of St. Elizabeth of Hungary as the Central reredos- partitioning screen-behind the altar. There is a choir now. There are both English and Hungarian masses. There is one daily and two on Sundays. Fr. Nyeste, the church's fifth pastor, said the church is active with the Buckeye-Woodland Community Congress. His part-time, assistant pastor is Father Richard Orley.