Polish Neighborhoods

Many readers of the Forum are familiar with the story of Cleveland Poles. Polish immigrants came to the United States, settled in neighborhoods near others from their homeland, worked in the mills and factories, and built institutions to serve their community, many of which are still around today. But most of us today talk about living, working, and shopping in Slavic Village, not Warszawa, Poznań, Kraków, Jackowo, Kantowo, and Barbarowo, the names Poles gave the neighborhoods in Cleveland where they made their homes and started to learn about America.
Most Poles came to Cleveland during the period of peak immigration from the late nineteenth century to 1924, when the government imposed immigration quotas. Those arriving in Cleveland were attracted by the possibility of work in the mills, especially the Cleveland Rolling Mill. St. Stanislaus was built in 1881 to serve the Poles that had begun to form a community, Warszawa, around the intersection of Fleet and what is now 65th Street. The parish of St. Casimir was founded in 1893 to serve Poles from Prussian Poland who had settled elsewhere, near East 79th Street and Superior Avenue, the neighborhood known as Poznań. Poles from other areas, especially Galicia, eventually moved to this neighborhood as well. The next area to attract Poles was in Tremont and came to be known as Kantowo, after the Polish parish of St. John Cantius. There Poles lived among other Central and East Europeans, especially Ukrainians. Poles also found themselves among Rusyns and Slovaks in Lakewood, where they had migrated to work for the National Carbon Company. Two other neighborhoods closer to Warszawa also emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Kraków was located at Harvard and Ottawa near the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. Jackowo, near 65th and Francis, took its name from the parish of St. Hyacinth (Jacek in Polish), established by St. Stanislaus parishioners who desired a place of worship closer to their home and work. Polish workers living near Denison also established their own community, Barbarowo, around St. Barbara’s parish.
The names of the neighborhoods are only the most obvious link between the immigrants’ old world and the new. They reflect the geography of the immigrants’ home, work, and spiritual life and divisions within the Polish community in Europe, divisions that hindered any unified development of the Polish community in the United States. Cleveland Poles belonged to several different national organizations and socialist groups. Socialist activity was strongest among Poles in Kantowo, and socialist groups in Cleveland often split according to changes within the Polish socialist movement in the United States. Cleveland Poles also joined national ethnic organizations such as the Polish Roman Catholic Union and the Polish National Alliance (PNA). When the PNA decided to accept socialists as members of their group at their 1895 conference in Cleveland, a group of Polish leaders in Cleveland formed the Alliance of Poles of Ohio (APO). The APO eventually became a national Polish-American organization.
The most significant division in Cleveland involved Rev. Antoni Kołaszewski, the parish priest instrumental in building St. Stanislaus. Financial problems arising from the construction of the church, however, resulted in Kołaszewski’s transfer to Syracuse, New York, in 1892. When Kołaszewski returned in 1894, St. Stanislaus parishioners loyal to him broke away from their parish and founded the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish on Lansing. The split among parishioners stemmed in part from a conflict between the American bishops and Kołaszewski as a Polish Catholic leader. Kołaszewski was actually excommunicated as a result of the scandal. The conflict was later resolved, however, and Immaculate Heart became part of the Catholic diocese in Cleveland.

Future articles in the Forum will address specific aspects of Polish-American history in Cleveland. Readers wishing to learn more can turn to several sources. The Cleveland Memory Project of Cleveland State University (www.clevelandmemory.org) includes the E-book Polish Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland by Alice Boberg, John J. Grabowski, Ralph Wroblewski, and Judith Zielinski-Zak. The Polish historian Adam Walaszek has written extensively about Poles in Cleveland, and an essay of his, “Polish Americans”, proved especially helpful in writing this article. It is included in a new book published by the Western Reserve Historical Society, Identity, Conflict, and Cooperation: Central Europeans in Cleveland, 1850-1930 (edited by David C. Hammack, Diane L. Grabowski, and John J. Grabowski).

Sean Martin

Forum, 12/2003