I met with Glenn at the Red Chimney Restaurant (Fleet Avenue) yesterday. He is passionate about his neighborhood and loves to tell stories. Thus, he compliments nicely Tony Zajac’s more organized listing of potential sites for CH stories.
We talked for about 2 hours. I mentioned several of the sites on Zajac’s recommended list, but I soon decided it was better just to let him talk about the stories about the neighborhood he loves best.
Here’s a listing of them (I took notes which are a little more detailed):
1. Isaac Reid: Irish immigrant who bought farm land in Newburgh Township in the 19th century. Around 1880 Cleveland annexed a part of the township. Residents complained about the impact of nearby industry on the township cemetery. Cleveland bought some of Reid’s land to create Harvard Grove cemetery and transferred all the bodies from the township cemetery to this more bucolic location. Reid himself is buried there and 10-15 years ago a large number of his descendants returned to the cemetery to celebrate his life.
2. Waterways of Slavic Village: There are 2 primary waterways–Burke’s Run and Morgan’s Run. Both are for the most part culverted and underground today, but there are places in the neighborhood where you can see parts of them. The “jog” in Harvard Avenue was created in order to get around one of these waterways. There are many other stories of how the waterways were used and why they are important to the history of the neighborhood.
3. Forest City Park and the Humphrey family. Glen speculates that the reason the park eventually failed was because, after the Humphrey family bought the park and banned alcohol, the Polish population would no longer support it, especially when by this time (I gather it’s in the 1920s) cars were available to take neighborhood residents to parks more to their suiting.
4. Hruby Conservatory: Later known as Broadway School of Music and Arts. Produced a large band which played at Forest City Park. May be more stories about the Conservatory.
5. Olympia Theater: Had a great pipe organ from the days of vaudeville when the acts were more important than the movies. Theater closed a long time ago and marquee was taken down, but in around 2000 in the filming of “Welcome to Collinwood,” the building was used and a new marquee put up, which is still there today.
6. 1909 tornado: What it did to the neighborhood, especially to St. Stan’s where several were killed when the steeple toppled. (While we were sitting at our table, another resident stopped by and showed Glen a large photo depicting the damage done to one side of the church. I think the photo belongs to the St. Stan parish.)
7. Father Kolaszewski’s shenanigans: 19th century pastor of St. Stan’s engaged in unorthodox methods of fundraising for church projects. May have been even a little corrupt. Bishop transferred him to a parish in Syracuse. His parishioners missed him and persuaded him to come back to Cleveland, where they started a new parish–Immaculate Heart of Mary. Bishop excommunicated the parish and for a time the church was an independent Polish Catholic church.
8. Oliver Mead Stafford: 19th century power-broker in the neighborhood. He was the founder of Broadway Savings and Loan; also a director of the Worsted Mills; and a close confidante–perhaps partner of Father Kolaszewski, in a number of questionable financial dealings. (His house on Broadway is still standing. The original bank building is still there too–now it’s the site of Hubcap Heaven. In the basement the safety deposit room still exists.)
9. Leon Czolgosz: The family of McKinley’s assassin lived for a while on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village. Glen’s grandmother used to point out the house to Glen and mutter something derogatory in Polish.
10. Kniola Travel: Michael Kniola operated a travel agency in the neighborhood, recruiting immigrants from Poland for work at the nearby steel mills. His papers are preserved at the WRHS Library.
I have 5 or 6 other subjects, but the above gives a flavor of the sort of stories Glenn Sobola has. He would be an excellent source for CH stories. By the way, he mentioned the Neighborhood Connections project. I sense that he showed up for the meeting at East Cleveland Township cemetery and then wasn’t thereafter, for whatever reason, involved in that project.