Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Proud Steeples Bite Dust for Progress' Sake

"Proud Steeples Bite Dust for Progress' Sake, " was the headline appearing on an article in The Cleveland Press on January 1, 1961 describing the demolition of St. Martin's Catholic Church in Cleveland. At its dedication, St. Martin's Church (black and white photos, shown above, from the Western Reserve Historical Society) was described as the "most beautiful Slovak church in America." It was constructed at a cost of $100,000 (or approximately $2,800,000. today) when dedicated in December 2007.

More from the 1961 article from The Cleveland Press:

"With a roaring rumble and clouds of choking dust, the twin steeples of St. Martin Catholic Church crashed to the ground yesterday. 

The 52-year-old church at 2495 East 23rd Street is being torn down by the George Elie Wrecking Co. to make way for redevelopment of the area. In the early afternoon the first of the 110-foot steeples fell under the pounding of the wrecking ball. It took about an hour and a half to weaken the heavy brick corners. The rubble landed just where the crew of half a dozen meant it to fall. The second steeple was more stubborn. The ball pounded at it for two hours, and then the 3,700-pound ball was buried under the debris. Police blocked traffic along the street and kept the 100 or so spectators out of the way, but there was little danger, as the steeples toppled neatly toward the back of the area."

Apparently, St. Martin's had fallen victim to eminent domain to make way for a freeway. Progress? Really? 

Prior to St. Martin's demolition, as is the case with most religious architecture, its valuable articles are removed ... altars, windows, etc. ... and stored. In some instances, other existing churches, or new religious structures, can inherit some of these items. Such is the case with the large-round-rose window that once appeared on the front of St. Martin's Church. This amazing window can now be seen in the chapel at John Carroll University in University Heights, OH. 

I am truly grateful that I can still see this wonderful window today. But, I can't help but be saddened that I can never see this window in its original context/design. Here is a line that appears in a building description by a book published by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland in 1942 ... "A great arched choir window rises over the entrance and points to a niche holding a statue of St. Martin."

Across the United States, we are in danger of losing many of our historic church buildings to a wrecking ball. Our once tangible inspiration will be reduced to a photograph and a line of text.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Change of Heart

I had prepared the above photos (from the Cleveland Memory Project) for a much different post. A post that focused on the loss to the City of Cleveland's church architecture with the closing of St. Colman's Church. ... Well, all has changed.

It has been announced that Bishop Lennon has decided to reverse his decision on the closing of St. Colman's Church and St. Ignatius of Antioch Church ! More on his decision can be read here. The report also contains a letter from Bishop Lennon explaining his change of mind as well as his expectations for the parishes now that he has decided not to close them.

I am thankful for the change of heart by Bishop Lennon ... if only we could have saved a few more.