Czechs in the City: The Czech-American Experience in Cleveland

April 5, 2009
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Czech Your Public History class at the Bohemian National Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, April 2009

Czech Your Public History class at the Bohemian National Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, April 2009


About our Blog

April 5, 2009

We, the Czech Your Public History class at Ursuline College, are seeking to interpret the Czech American experience in Cleveland, Ohio, through exploration of documented heritage, material culture, and the built environment with particular interest in family, faith, education, and labor. In effect, we are creating an immersion experience for our audience that will encourage further dialogue for connecting the present to cultural memories of these unique and vibrant people. Let us move you through time and present you with the living history of the Czech Americans in Cleveland. Come on, Czech your Public History.   (ABOUT created collaboratively by Czech Your Public History students!)

Dr. Bari Oyler Stith is the Director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. She team teaches the new Czech Your Public History course with Dr. Pamela McVay, Chair of the History Department.

Posted in Introductions

Stan Hywet Symposium

September 27, 2009
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The third weekend in September provided great opportunity for Dr. Stith, Cassidy, myself and the project. We presented at the Second Annual Stan Hywet Symposium at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens ( The 2009 symposium theme, “Models of Change: Keeping the Doors Open” focused on innovative ways for house museums, institutions, and interpretive exhibits alike to remain successful in the current economic downturn and in the future. Presentations included sustainability efforts, technological advancements, and programming initiatives like ours. “Czeching It Out: A Study in Community Outreach” explained our class progress thus far and detailed the five programming events identified by the summer program management class. Audience responses and reactions were very supportive, commenting on the exceptional opportunity UC has to be able to collaborate as a whole to complete the project and how opportune it is for the students to be able to take the lead designing the project from A to Z.

Aside from attending sessions, we were treated to a 1920’s style reception complete with first person interpretation of friends of the Seiberling family (the former builders and owners of Stan Hywet),

HiP Pics 9.12.09 Cleveland Tour 049









a “Nooks and Crannies” tour of the house,

HiP Pics 9.12.09 Cleveland Tour 048










 and a ghost tour of the property. We also had the chance to play in plaster!

HiP Pics 9.12.09 Cleveland Tour 053









The symposium is not a large event, but the exchange of ideas, knowledge and connections provides great opportunity for field professionals across the board.

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Second Joint Class with the Project Management Students

August 24, 2009
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The Project Management and Keeping It In Czech classes met again to review the project portfolios, which included the draft task schedules and risk assessments for the proposed events coinciding with the 2010 public history exhibition. The class broke into groups with one Historic Preservation representative paired with two or three project management representatives to review each event. One group covered Artifact Workshop and Guest Lecture Series. The other reviewed Cultural Dinner, Fashion Show, Czech Hop.

For the artifact workshop, our group decided that a demonstration for conserving household objects and family heirlooms would be the most feasible option for offering an educational event.  In the hopes that the Inter-museum Conservation Association will help us host the event, we will be able to present different workshops that center on the conservation of objects, paper, photographs, and textiles. In addition, we designated the appropriate tasks to the student body, grad students, and faculty.  During the Guest Lecture Series discussion, we had to concentrate more on particular issues concerning audience and accommodating the speakers.  For the lecture series we also assigned tasks to the appropriate people ranging from the initial contact with the speaker to the tasks during the actual event.  This included invitees, venue, marketing, logistics, etc.  Though the speakers are not yet confirmed, we have two well known historians in the Cleveland area who are interested in these events.


I was paired with the PM students who worked out the activities and tasks relevant to the Cultural Dinner, Fashion Show, Czech Hop. Where each activity has different agendas, the tasks and processes for achieving each end result were similar. All involved identifying committees, locations, budgets, marketing, staff, decorations, etc. The exercise illustrated the importance of identifying all of the details that will facilitate the project, processing them in an orderly fashion and starting to realize the order and flow of tasks. It also stressed how communication between the different college departments and external contacts will make or break the event. Event planning also comes with the responsibility of recognizing the risks at hand and managing the effects of Murphy’s Law. Being cognizant of these risks affords a plan “B”. Our group session was productive and produced a great head start on how and where to get started.

~ Mary

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Dinner with Dr. Sebesta

June 29, 2009
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On the evening of June 9th, Dr. Stith, Mary, and I sat down to a dinner and discussion with Dr. Steve Sebesta and his wife Pat from the Bohemian National Hall. We were planning to meet at Marta’s (Cleveland’s own Czech restaurant), but it was closed so we  decided to meet at Trattoria in Cleveland’s Little Italy.

The purpose of our meeting was to gain insight into the delicate issues surrounding the naming of the public history exhibit.  With Steve and Pat Sebesta’s knowledge we were able to uncover valuable information and guidance in our approach.  The issues surrounding the name of the exhibit include being able to incorporate all the intricacies of the immigration of the Czechs into Cleveland while simultaneously keeping the exhibit within a manageable size for what resources we have.  Also, strong political and religious views have shaped the culture and values of the people and these values have been adopted throughout generations.  We want our exhibit to be inclusive of the entire Czech culture, so naming the exhibit has proven to be difficult.

Needless to say, we are very grateful for the input of Dr. Sebesta and his wife, Pat.   We look forward to learning much more from them as we continue our research.  We haven’t decided on a name for the exhibit quite yet, but we are much closer thanks to their experience and knowledge.

Getting Down to Business

June 8, 2009
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On Tuesday June 2, 2009, Dr. Stith, Cassidy and I met with the budding Business Management grad students collaborating on the Summer “Keeping It in Czech” Project Management course . By combining our knowledge and efforts, we Hipsters and Busi(wo)Mans, are hoping to make sense, organize and create a plan for all of the wonderful programming events the “Czech Your Public History” class brainstormed last semester.

In Tuesday’s session, we started a Project Portfolio Evaluation and completed a Project Assessment Matrix. The end result of the Project Portfolio Evaluation is to provide the upcoming courses with a platform and guideline as they continue planning the programming events. The Project Assessment Matrix exercise flushed out our initial goals of the public history project. Some of these include stimulating interest of Czech cultural heritage, awareness of activities in local Czech social communities, post event end results (guests reaction, entertainment level, feeling connected, etc.), budget restraints, program feasibility, and available resources. Once evaluations were defined, we weighted them on a scale of 1-5, with 1 indicating less significance in the completion of the project and 5 carrying greater significance in the completion of the project. For example, stimulating interest in Czech cultural heritage weighted a 5, budget a 3 and feasibility a 2.

The second part of the exercise was to evaluate these weighted goals against the different programming events. Hosting a cultural dinner is one of the programming events. To complete the exercise, we pondered the weighted goal (stimulating interest in Czech cultural heritage) and it’s significance on the program event (cultural dinner). We decided that this weighted goal is a very important criterion in the program event and gave it a 5. In order to get the total score for the program event, the goal weight (5) is multiplied by the program criterion score (5) for an end result of 25.

This process was continued for the remaining weighted goals against the cultural dinner, then totaled. As the other projects are weighted and rated, the matrix is completed and the program priority is established by comparing the total weighted scores. Please see the included example.



Keeping It in Czech Project Portfolio Evaluation

(Program Criterion Scores from 1 – 5, 5 being most influential in completion of project)



            Cultural Dinner
Evaluation Criteria: Weighted 1-5, 5 reflecting greater end result upon completion of program

 Program Criterion Score

Total Score = (Weighted Criteria x Criterion Score)
Stimulate Interest in Czech Cultural Heritage




Awareness of activities in Czech social community




Post Event End Results




Size of Budget (high rank is low budget)








Total Weighted Score




Program Assumptions   Sewing ladies’ periogies  
    Use students to serve  
Post Events Desired Feelings      
Awareness Raised for Czech      
Thought Provoking For other Cultures      



This exercise was very useful to get our ducks in a row by quantifying the programming events and ideas and setting a task priority. The Busi(wo)Mans gave the first “outside” view of our work so far and stimulated our thoughts by asking questions, raising concerns and providing constructive criticism. I am looking forward to our next visit in early July when we will discuss the program tasks and project dependencies.

St. Procop’s Catholic Church

May 17, 2009
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One afternoon Chrissy Hehr and I went to St. Procop’s Catholic Church for our second cultural landscape survey and to visit a sacred landmark in Cleveland. The thing that struck me most was how out of place it looked. Originally the area might have been different but St. Procop’s Catholic Church is so large and majestic, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It is a large building in a residential area filled with small homes. It is located on a busy one-way street and it seems like there is always constant action.
This church has some beautiful architecture. The building is of masonry construction. There is a pattern within the stone; it alternates between finished smooth stone and rough unfinished stone. There is a lot of character present in St. Procop. There are strikingly detailed carvings in stone all around the door. All of the details on the building add a little something special. There are different symbols present on the front façade that indicate its religious purpose. It truly reflects the spirit of the architect, who wanted to design something to be a house of God.
St. Procop’s Catholic Church’s website,, offers a variety of information regarding the church, past and present. It is a shame that the neighborhood had deteriorated over the years. It is also a shame that the building had to be altered because of funding. The original dome and towers had to be torn down because the church could not afford the up keep. This neighborhood does not really reflect its Czech heritage anymore. The only real clue left is the name of the church, which is named for a Czech saint. Overall, it is a beautiful church with wonderful architecture.

-Emily Smith

Maltz Museum

May 6, 2009
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Pete and Dylan explore the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

Pete and Dylan explore the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

This semester in our Czech History course we traveled to the Maltz Museum. The Maltz Museum is a perfect example for what Ursuline’s Czech Exhibit should be like.


The Maltz Museum expresses courage and achievements of Cleveland’s Jewish community. Stories of the past and present of individuals and families were used throughout the exhibit.

A couple weeks ago our class went to the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Library in order to make an inventory of possible information to be used for our Czech exhibit. The Historical Society had photographs of Taborville, manuscripts, cultural clothing, and so forth. Like the Maltz Exhibit, the Czech exhibit should contain inter-actives and films, oral histories, photographs and artifacts. Western Reserve Historical Society was a major contributor to the Maltz Exhibits and we hope to use their collection for our research as well.

The Maltz exhibit went through the beginning of Jewish immigration from Europe. There was a video to start off the tour, and then the artifacts were displayed. The exhibit showed the life of Jews in Cleveland. There were artifacts from different jobs that were held, such as a writer, drug store owner, soldier, metal worker, and so forth. Everything was encased behind plexiglass. There was a separate section dedicated to religion. Early Czech Clevelanders were religious and for the most part still probably are. Church life for a Czech Clevelander should be shown some where in the exhibit.

The Maltz Museum is a great example of displaying a culture. If you have never been there, I would recommend going.


May 6, 2009

Taborville is located on the outer edge of Auburn Township. Taborville is a 110 acre community of ethnic Czechs. As a whole the community is still growing. The houses at Taborville started to appear around the twenties. The community has changed, and additional buildings have been built. The community was first founded for the DTJ, Worker’s Gymnastic Union. The founders were tailors from Prague. Taborville was originally a summer camp that turned into summer houses for some of the members.

People at one time were united due to their heritage, but not anymore. During our visit at the village one of the residents of the buildings came out to question Chris and I about what we were doing. She then discussed with us how she has lived there for forty-five years and her grandchildren are the sixth generation to have lived there. She was talking to Chris and I about changes going on around there. She was telling us that the town is becoming more and more diverse and less Czechs are living within the community. When she first started living in Taborville she received a lot of grief. Her last name is not Czech, and some of the Czech members of the community did not care for that. After a period of time the villagers started to have less problems with people being of Czech descent.

The community is very close knit. It seems everyone within the village knows everyone. Like all places they have their own problems, but they will get them resolved. It is a little odd that the people who run the meeting house for a business do not live within the village. It seems there are issues possibly developing between residents. The community is united about the idea of Czech Heritage, but it does not seem they are actually united. Since the community is becoming more diverse culturally they seem to be separating. The community was built up on one idea, that is no longer part of everyone within the community. From what the women told us was that not everyone goes to the Czech dinners held at the meeting house.

Taborville: A Cultural Landscape Survey

April 30, 2009

The Community Hall at Taborville

The Community Hall at Taborville

Taborville is a rather secluded town located in Geauga County, Ohio, and known for its influence in the Czech culture of Northeast Ohio. The small village contains eight streets, which are lined sporadically by homes, the DTJ Community Center, and a playground set back off one of the streets. As a village, Taborville is very quiet, but lively; one of the two visits to Taborville resulted in a downpour of rain, yet I witnessed at least four residents biking in the streets. The residents seem to be close knit as well, not as detached from neighbors as you would find in a regular suburb. In saying this, Taborville is mostly a residential community, except for the DTJ Center.

Of the eight streets, I focused on one in particular, North Boulevard. The street isn’t more than a half of a mile and consists completely of homes. The homes all have large yards and there are also large pockets of wooded areas along the street. There were also rows and rows of large trees along the street. Upon observation it seems there is more open space compared to the built environment. Not one home looks identical, but they are mostly of the same styling and build date (1930-50), some being more recent builds. Along North Blvd., there are about twenty homes, some one-story ranches, some two-story, some well groomed, others shabby and unimpressive. All in all, there isn’t much coherence in form among the built environment.


All the streets in Taborville are narrow, while wide enough to fit one mid-size car, it would prove difficult to have two pass along side each other. The streets are paved, though bumpy, and show signs of patchwork. The entire community doesn’t have sidewalks, but the residents seem to use the roads as their walks, and bike paths, as there isn’t much vehicle traffic except for when the residents use it. The DTJ Center causes some vehicle traffic as well, but car traffic is regulated quite firmly by the large signs as one enters the village, asking vehicles to keep to a fifteen mile per hour limit to keep their residents safe.


Along North Blvd. the homes are close enough together to make a neighbor feel safe and not isolated, but also retain their privacy. There wasn’t much thought into the organization of the community, at least for the residences. It’s noticeable that it was not arranged or designed by a development company. It seems that the original owners built upon the land, adhering only to their own tastes and needs. Some of the homes were built farther back from the street; others were less than twenty feet. None of the homes were out of proportion to its surroundings. Each house was no more than a single family dwelling, which created a family-oriented character. A lot of the homes had children’s toys strewn along the front lawn, as well as basketball hoops at the end of driveways adding to this image.


The village of Taborville is a rarity today, with the countless housing developments and identical suburban housing that we as a society are so used to seeing today. This small village has been able to avoid the bombardment of commercialization and main highways, and continues to focus on the home and community. Although it seems that some of the housing has changed since Taborville was first settled, the values of the community have not.

DTJ Taborville (A little History)

April 29, 2009

DTJ Taborville is a community in Auburn Township. DTJ stands for “Delnicke Telocvicne Jednoty ”. In English that means “Workers’ Gymnastic Union” The DTJ organization decided to open a summer camp to lure and keep younger members. Joseph Martinek was the member who came up with this idea. Two 50 acre farms were bought to construct the camp on. The DTJ members worked on the camp on the weekends, until it opened in 1925. Eventually, the members of the DTJ origination decided to live there all year round instead of just in the summer. Originally only DTJ members were allowed to own land in Taborville. However, that eventually changed and the community is now filled with many different ethnicities.

Taborville Cultural Landscape Survey

April 29, 2009
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On March 15 half of out class went to Little Bohemia and half went to DTJ Taborville in Geauga County. I was a part of the group that went to Taborville. We met there at 10:00 am and walked around the community as a group discussing things that we observed. When we arrived back at the beginning we broke up into smaller groups and scattered about the park. In different areas we did our Cultural Landscape Surveys. On the way to our separate destinations, some students met community member and made contacts for future interviews.


I have connections in Taborville and was trying to arrange for us to get into the community house. I was also trying to arrange interviews with community members. Unfortunately, there were scheduling conflicts and we were not able to do either the interviews nor getting in to the community house. I will continue to try and meet with these people and arrange interviews and get into the community house.

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