St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church

St. Joseph Church is a former Byzantine Catholic church in the Union-Miles Park neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. It featured Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. The church closed in 1980 because of a declining congregation and was repurposed for another church before becoming abandoned in 2002. The building was removed in 2016.


During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to convert Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an area around today’s Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, and part of Poland. Resisting this, the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church, also referred to as Greek Catholic, was founded that retained much of the Eastern Orthodox traditions while acknowledging the leadership of the Pope. Masses were held on Old Slavonic rather than traditional Catholic Latin, and the Julian calendar was observed, rather than the Gregorian. A three-bar cross was also used in place of a Catholic cross, and clergymen were permitted to get married.

By 1898, a significant Carpatho-Russian Orthodox population migrated to Cleveland, concentrating on the eastern fringes of the city. 1 But the allowance of marriage by the clergy caused a stir with Roman Catholics and a decree in 1907 permitted only celebrate priests to be admitted into the United States. Thousands of Byzantine Rite Catholics defected to the Russian Orthodox Church, and as a result, the majority of Cleveland’s Russian Orthodox churches were constructed by former Byzantine Rite Catholics.

Musings for a church specific to the Rusyn population began in 1909, 5 but it was not until June 9, 1912, that the first general meeting was held in Jelinka Hall on Aetna Road to organize a parish. 1 A decision was made to buy several lots on Orleans Avenue in the Union-Miles Park neighborhood for a church and school on June 16. Within two months, the first church was erected for $3,000, and the first Divine Liturgy was offered on January 7, 1913.

In 1924, married priests were once again allowed to enter the United States, but married men could not be ordained as Byzantine Rite clergy. It was also the year that the nation enacted a national quota system for immigrants that affected those from eastern and southern Europe. 3 Between 1920 and 1938, only 7,500 Carpatho-Rusyns left for the United States. By the 1930s, more than 30,000 Carpatho-Rusyns had settled in Cleveland.

Due to an increasing Rusyn population, a larger church was necessary. After saving funds for a larger facility, a motion was passed on September 17, 1928, that a new church is built on the site. A Byzantine Revival architectural style building, with Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles interspersed throughout, was designed by Polish-American architect Joseph E. Fronczak. 11 The exterior was marked with semi-circular fenestrations, a low-pitched clay tile roof, and two copper domes atop towers. A general contract for construction was let for $60,000 in 1933. 13 After the new church was completed, the old facility was renovated into a recreational hall. 11

The ground was broken on October 23, 1955, for a $400,000 eight-room school and parish rectory, with Reverend Vladimir Firzcak turning the first spade of dirt during the ceremonies. 4 The project also included remodeling the convent 4 and the razing of the original 1913 church. 5 The old parish rectory, a wood-framed building, was moved to an adjoining lot and enlarged to serve as a convent for the Sisters of St. Basil the Great. A cornerstone was installed on June 10, 1956, and the school – the third for Byzantine Catholics, was completed that fall. 7

Bishop Nicholas T. Elko of the Pittsburgh Apostolic Exarchate spoke on August 25, 1957, of the new high school for St. Joseph. 6 12 The high school consisted of four temporary classrooms in the 1955 school building. A formal high school wing was constructed in 1958.

In the fall of 1961, the new St. John Byzantine Central Catholic High School opened in suburban Parma, which featured 16 classrooms, laboratories, and workshops. 8 Originally planned as an elementary school, the facility was built at the Byzantine Catholic Center. The center was constructed from 1959-60 and opened at the cost of $500,000. As a result of the school’s opening, St. Joseph’s high school, with 124 students, was closed, and the rooms reused for elementary students.


The Union-Miles Park began to a slow population and demographic decline starting in the 1970s, and with the Easter service in 1980, St. Joseph, which had dwindled to 100 active members, closed. 10 The building had been sold to the Greater Zion Hill Baptist Church for $65,000. Members of both churches joined for a combined service on April 13 at 4 p.m., which marked the time when the building was officially turned over to the Baptist congregation.

The parish constructed a new 35-acre suburban facility in Brecksville. Until the new church opened on June 30, 1985, services were held at the Brecksville Junior High School. 1

After Zion Baptist struggled with the maintenance of the church, it was sold to the House of Glory on November 1, 2002, where it was transferred in a quitclaim deed to the Tiger Financial Corporation and sold to the Greater Tabernacle Church for $50,000 on July 14, 2010. In February 2016, the long-abandoned St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church was demolished.



  1. “History.” St. Joseph Church 2008. Web. 1 Jan. 2013. Article.
  2. “Real Property Information.” Cuyahoga County Sical Officer 2012. Site.
  3. Tassel, David Dirck Van. Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Print.
  4. “Byzantine Rite Church to Break Project Ground.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 22 Oct. 1955: 13. Print.
  5. “Bishop Elko to Lead Mass at Church Fete.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 1 June 1963: 11. Print.
  6. “Ruthenians Opening New High School.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 26 Aug. 1957: 17. Print.
  7. “School Cornerstone Laid at Byzantine Church Here.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 11 June 1956: 35. Print.
  8. McCarthy, Sara. “Parma Byzantine Center to Have Coed High School.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 19 June 1961: 9. Print.
  9. “Ready for Opening.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 29 June 1985: 2B. Print.
  10. Holland, Darrell. “Byzantine church to follow members to suburbs.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 5 Apr. 1980: 1. Print.
  11. “Greater Zion Hill Baptist Church.” Cleveland Memory 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2013. Item.
  12. “Exarch Here to Bless St. Joseph’s School.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 24 Aug. 1956: 9. Print.
  13. “Builders Look to Future of Codes.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 17 Sept. 1933: 3C. Print.


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I attended this church from infancy to 19 years old….on November 24 of this year 2016, my husband and I were married 60 years this church….I made my first communion there….also attended. what we called Russian School in the summer….guess it was Rusynk school…I am a Lutheran now, and I love it too, but I will never forget my roots and my first church..we lived right up the street on 103rd street , and if you walked straight up on Orleans Ave…you would run right , smack into my house…..

Where do you think the church records are held? I’m looking for a marriage and wedding ban posting for June 5, 1913 for grandparents who were married there?

God left his Citizens of his Kingdom to restore back to his Brides&Widow’s.Lets roll up our sleeves and get back to the basics.Mother Love and Father honour teaching our children how admit to mistake’s and forgive 7 time 7.Leave a inheirtance to our children the next place to worship to laugh to cry to wedd to bury to grow to smile to start over to rebuild to get it right until.Lets stop throwing stones and start building the lives and bring back the love joy peace hope back to this bride.We need your Help from all that walk this Earth be encourage.WWJD Rev.Roosevelt K.JenkinsII 123 watermoss drive cleveland ,nc 27013

Seems ashame to have such a structrually sound building on the outside and some beautiful old frescoes just decaying and no one is doing anything about it. Is there any way that it could be put on a National Hertiage list to save it or something like that?

It was on Orleans off of East 93rd Street in Cleveland (not too far from East 93rd and Harvard Ave.)

I was wondering if you could tell me what street this is on in Cleveland or a nearby address as this building is abandoned and doesn’t have a searchable address. Thank you.

I went to school at St. Joseph’s from 1971 to 1973 (third and fourth grade). Thanks for the memories.

This is my old neighborhood…..have you photographed anything else in the area! I can’t believe the pictures!

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