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

Little Bohemia | March 27, 2009

On March 15, half of the class went to Little Bohemia to experience a Czech neighborhood and complete a cultural landscape survey.   Little Bohemia is located around Broadway stretching from East 37th Street to Union Avenue near the Bohemian National Hall.  It is obvious that Broadway Avenue used to be a prominent and popular area but much has changed over time.  One of the first noticeable areas happen to be empty.  Two lots are bare from recent demolition.  Despite the demolitions, however, there are still a lot of places to go on Broadway.   A restaurant, social gathering, medical center, furniture shop, grocery store, physic, and churches of different religions can all be found in one small area.  However none of them really represent Czech culture.  The Broadway Free Library built in 1904, is still in very good shape and continues to be used for the general public. Our Lady of Lourdes, founded for the Czech community and displaying a stunning interior with pictures, statues, and writings in Czech, is now a church intended for a different group, offering masses in English and Spanish.

At the Bohemian National Hall, Czech heritage is highly valued and still in use.  I was able to see the gymnasts of all ages come together here to participate in Sokol, one of the important Czech experiences in America.  Classes teaching students how to speak the Czech language, as well as having sewing clubs and gymnastic organizations, this building offers many cultural experiences.  In addition to what happens inside the building, the building itself is notable.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places, noted for its Romanesque and Second Renaissance Revival styles and also for the historic events that took place there.  Looking around the neighborhood, it is obvious that this building has persevered through the bad times and is one of the remaining aspects representing Czech culture today.

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2 Comments »

  1. Thanks, Jessica, for writing up this vignette; you’ve discovered some neat details. My daughter found your article and referred it to me because of my interest and heritage. I took Czech classes in Bohemian National Hall in the 1990s. That Hall provided “local color” for a lengthy scene in my own 2006 screenplay feature about a terrorist plot in Cleveland. Also Karlin Hall has an interesting place in history. Best wishes for your career.

    Comment by Steve Horning — January 8, 2010 @ 5:06 am

  2. Dear Jessica,

    We grew up in Cleveland and are very familiar with these historic sights. My husbands’ father is Bohemian and his mother is Slovak. Then they were both under one regeim. We have been to both the Bohemian Hall and Carlin Hall. Carlin Hall has some very outstanding dinners.

    Thanks for the write-up. My daughter is a virtual reading coach for children that are home schooled and this was a site she visited for home schooling field trips.

    Thanks again

    Comment by Eleanor Vystrcil — March 20, 2010 @ 11:17 am


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