back to visit him to give him donations to pay for the great stone and marble church he built unwisely in 1916, the precise year that his people of wealth were beginning their exodus to the suburbs. This church, beautiful as it once was, was demolished in 1975 for want of financial support.

East and West Side Differences in the Twentieth Century

       The twentieth century saw some startling changes in the attitude of ethnic consciousness among Cleveland's Irish population. For some, newly found wealth and upward mobility had finally brought many third generation Irish to a position where they completely forgot or denied their Irish heritage. For them, the immigrant church was ended. They moved to the suburbs and gave great loyalty to their churches. However, they no longer saw themselves as Irish Americans, but simply as Americans. There are great numbers of descendants of the original East Side Irish who now live in the eastern suburbs. They often can trace their names back to the founding families of the first East Side parishes, the Cathedral, St. Bridget, Immaculate Conception, St. Edward and Holy Name. But for them, St. Patrick's Day passes unnoticed or is observed at the Cleveland Athletic Club as they vaguely recall some heritage long since forgotten. They resemble more often than not the Wasps with whom they try to compete, usually without success. A visit to the West Side Irish American Club would be for most of them unthinkable. Perhaps this is a pity.




       But for a second group, generally rooted in the near West Side parishes, acculturation and assimilation have not come so completely. St. Patrick's Day and its parade belong to them; they continue to support the West Side Irish American Club. They keep alive at least some semblance of their heritage in their dances, their radio programs, their contact with relatives in Ireland and a sense of the community their ancestors had experienced in their old parishes. Sixty years ago their ancestors actually aided the Irish Rebellion in Ireland and they poured considerable money into the process of the formation of the Irish Free State. Significantly, many of these West Side Irish who now live in Cleveland's western suburbs are related to one another and are aware of these relationships. Weddings of their children, more often than not, have a tendency to show a familial focus on the transmission of a heritage. Funerals, and the wakes that go with them, continue to be the occasion of a gathering of the clans and the remembering of past days. It still is difficult for a young person to break out of the clan, and if he should do so, he usually feels alone and suddenly rootless.

       Now what is one to make of all this? To a considerable degree, a basic and radical difference in mentality between East and West Side Irish exists to this day. Surprisingly enough, the truth of this difference has been tested by the black man. It was he who on the East Side replaced the second and third generation Irish in their strongest parishes -- at St. Agnes, .....




St. Thomas, St. Aloysius and St. Philomena. Many factors are involved in this phenomenon but perhaps a major part of it is that the East Side Irish were willing to sell their houses to the black man when they moved out. On the West Side it was clear that to sell one's home to the black man was, and still is, regarded as a betrayal of one's neighbors and of the community.

       This seems to be precisely the point of difference between East and West Side Irish today. Neighborhoods change slowly on the West Side, because they are to a far greater degree "communities" than those on the East Side. These West Side communities are rooted in church affiliation which one must see as church or parish centered.

       For example, rarely does one find the equal of the sense of community generated by the building of Saint Patrick's church on Bridge Avenue between 1877 and 1880.* When the people of Saint Patrick's found they could not afford to build the church Father Conlon envisioned for them before his death in 1875, they sought, under the leadership of Father O'Callaghan, to do the work themselves. The church, which is of momumental proportions, is built of Sandusky limestone because O'Callaghan could obtain that stone free from a quarry in Sandusky. The people organized themselves into teams in which every man who was able participated. They cut the stone themselves, and even

*This writer has noted this phenomenon in his book A Case for Due Process in the Church (Alba House, 1971).




St. Malachi's Church
75th Anniversary 1943

St. Patrick's Church with Ppaster's Residence.
West 32rd and Bridge--The largest and Central Irish Parish.



P>used the wagon of the local undertaker to transport the stone from Sandusky. The whole project took two years; each trip took one week -- over 100 trips were made. The church was under roof by late 1878; then those who had been stone cutters earlier became the carpenters, glass workers, altar builders and plasterers.

       The whole project was pretty well completed by 1880, and much of the work of the builders remains visible to this day. One notices that the stones are poorly cut and that the roof, which is really a giant A frame, covers over a set of fine clerestory windows which the builders installed but could not devise a way to roof properly -- they had no architect. Even the pillars in the church tell a story. To get wooden beams to support the roof, Father O'Callaghan sent buyers to New York to purchase the main masts of the Cunard sailing ships which were being dismantled in favor of the new transatlantic steam ships. These were the very sailing ships which had brought the original Famine Irish to this country. Once they were in place holding up Saint Patrick's roof, the people of the famine time could look at the pillars and recall their own immigrant experience, an event which they had seldom if ever allowed themselves to think about until it was made so graphic to them.

       Thus their church, which they had built by hand, and their past were all symbolically visible as they worshiped. Both had generated a remarkable sense of community and of recall. The building itself held the people to the neighborhood for years: .....




no East Side church built by contract could achieve this sense of neighborhood and community of service, no matter how expensive or ornate its style. In spite of its classic beauty and design, and its cost, the great stone church at St. Agnes held very few of its original people to the neighborhood. In fact, it was demolished in 1975 by the Diocese of Cleveland because it, as with St. Thomas church, had become a useless financial burden to the Diocese.

       On the East Side upward mobility was predominant in the minds of both priests and people; churches, no matter what their wealth, were in the long run irrelevant. This was not true on the West Side where selling one's home to move to the suburbs seemed to have been an abandonment of one's heritage as well as onels peers., It may well be that all of this is changing today. Yet still the West Side Irish who have moved out from their immigrant parishes seek the same sense of community in their new parishes in Lakewood, Rocky River and West Park, Fairview, North Olmsted, and Bay Village much more so than do the Irish of the East Side.

       By contrast, the East Side Irish are today generally invisible as ethnics as they blend with their equally invisible fellow ethnics in Cleveland's East and Southeast suburbs. These Irish people, who more often than not can trace their roots back to the parishes of the Cathedral, St. Bridget and Immaculate Conception, have little or no sense of their ethnic background. They continue to seek an ongoing upward mobility. Their parishes are large .....




and usually impersonal and they often fit perfectly the description given by sociologists to the modern suburban Wasps who also have forgotten their roots -- the "rootless Americans."

       Somehow the pattern on the East Side for the Irish in the long run seems to resemble that of the native Americans on the East Side, probably by imitation. If so, then one must conclude that the Wasps have unconsciously achieved the thing their ancestors could never achieve in three centuries in England with regard to the Irish, the total eradication of Irish nationalism and ethnic consciousness. If this is so, one also must conclude that the Wasps achieved this incredible result at the price of the loss of their own ethnic consciousness. The Wasps have been forced into the role of the paradigmatic group by countless social, political and religious pressures as they live in the presence of the vast diversity of ethnic groups, all of whom have come to Cleveland since the time of the Connecticut Land Company. For this reason, the Wasps of today fail to lead the city politically in spite of their long-standing wealth in the community. Occasionally one of them will venture into Cleveland politics as did Seth Taft in a mayoralty election, only to be badly defeated by a black man like Carl Stokes, or a man whose origin lies in the non-English speaking community like Ralph Perk.

       Because the Irish and the Wasps on the East Side are so similar and so locked in competition with each other, they seem unable to form any kind of political coalition. The West Side Irish, who to this day are more united in their ethnicity and .....




their Politics, are still not numerous enough to win with a candidate of their own the office of Mayor of Cleveland. They can produce Congressmen like Jim Stanton and Michael Feighan to represent them in Washington, but they have produced no mayor of Cleveland.

       Thus we see that the contrast in vision regarding acculturation begun by Bishop Rappo on the East Side and Father James Conlon on the West Side over a century ago have contributed profoundly to the fundamental difference which remains to this day between the East and the West Side of Cleveland.

       However, the East Side Irish today cannot claim any real success in their competition with the Wasps. Many East Side Irish have achieved considerable personal wealth. That wealth does not really match proportionally the wealth of the descendants of the original Western Reserve families. For the most part the East Side Irish have always disdained politics; the Wasps have not. But they are seldom elected. If social acceptability is what the wealthy East Side Irish seek, they have failed in this also. One searches in vain for any significant number of Irish names in the membership lists of the clubs of prestige on the East Side. Very few families of Irish origin belong to the Union Club or to the Country Club, both of which require new members to pass a board of review.




St. Ignatius College
on West 30th and
Carrol in 1880's

St. Joseph's Church
in 1880's.



       The issue is more than one hundred and twenty years old. The Wasps will not socialize with the people whom they never accepted, the Irish. The East Side Irish have no club to receive them as peers among peers, and for them to join the West Side Irish American Club would be an unthinkable step backward. Indeed, they have lost their heritage and they cannot relocate it at the precise time when, at least socially, every other ethnic group in Cleveland is rediscovering its heritage and exploiting it.

       None of this is presented to extoll either the West Side Irish or the East Side Irish. It is simply a set of observations about both groups and an effort to raise the question as to whether either was right. This writer suspects that each was right in the course they pursued insofar as each had at least achieved the goals they (or their clergy) set for themselves a century ago. It is the sense of identity for the future, about which we shall speak later, that causes one to wonder.