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

Contemporary State: Scranton Road Church | March 24, 2009

Busy intersections meet—Clark at Scranton. The near west side buzzes with urban sounds, scents of exhaust, the collection of grim on stone facades… ah, this is Cleveland.

In comparison to its towering neighbor, Saint Michael Archangel, this late Victorian church stands in modest virtue. Its stairs show signs of weathering and salt corrosion, which is just one example of the church’s ailing condition.

It is in dire need of a preservation plan that would initiate restoration. Even though it does not serve as interesting an example of architecture as other nearby churches, it does hold importance as a former Czech congregation.

There is certainly an unspoken dignity to the Scranton Road structure. This red brick building, plastic panes in place of its original stain glass, distinguishes itself without the boastfulness of the decadent stone working on San Miguel. Built as contemporaries, these two churches certainly represent dynamically different congregations. Scranton Road sings sweetly like a gentle breeze, while the other screams out a gaudy show tune.

What unify Scranton Road Church to its community are its longevity and battle wounds. Clevelanders often boast about their durability. With the church’s cornerstone reading 1898, the amazing reality of Scranton Road Church’s hundred plus existence emerges in striking Cleveland hardy style. Bricks laid more than a hundred years ago are located on a busy intersection, in an economically challenged area with an unfavorable weather climate, remain in rather good condition. It is remarkable that a congregation, which has changed ethnic identity throughout its history, still uses this structure for its intended purpose. Whereas the world surrounding the church slowly tumbles away from religion in order to remain politically correct, the durability of the red brick holds a sacred space for the faithful. Currently, a cross shaped sign that reads “Jesus Saves” above the front entrance. Although the modern addition serves as a distraction to the historic integrity of this structure, the sign’s “Las Vegasesque” style conflicts with the subtly of the red brick, there is a feeling of appropriateness for the time.

Advertisements abound, even churches need to plaster their slogan in order to remain relevant to all other media. What is lost in translation is the built environment already speaks the intent of the building. Innately we all know the usual shape of a church, the bell tower, tall windows, large welcoming doors, and steep stone steps… do we really need signage? Shouldn’t commercialism be left for the gas station across the street from the church, but not from the church itself?

The only criticism that can be truly placed is on a congregation that would feel the need to market itself when its building speaks to the simplicity of faith… providing all the needed advirtisement.

        

 

 

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About author

Jessica R. Wobig is currently a graduate student at Ursuline College in Historic Preservation. Her undergraduate studies was in Film and Video from the University of Toledo. She spent time in Russia, and finds great interest in the culture of western and eastern Europe.

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