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Broadway Avenue Historic District
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Broadway Avenue Historic District
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Janet Burke

The Broadway Avenue Historic District has historically been the commercial center of Cleveland's Czech community. With approximately 90,000 residents, Cleveland's Czech community is now second in size only to Chicago's. Eastern and Southern Europeans immigrated to the industrial cities of the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard of the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Cleveland, ethnic groups gathered around neighborhood churches, social clubs and local industry.

The 43 buildings in this commercial district were constructed between 1888 and 1930. Streetcar lines along Broadway provided a constant flow of passengers that allowed this commercial center to flourish. The core of the district is characterized by masonry commercial buildings that are two and three stories in height. Architectural features such as round arch window heads, stone trim, keystones and columns are found on the red brick, yellow brick and stone facades.

[photo] Historic postcard view of the Broadway Avenue Historic District, c. 1920
Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University Library.

The ethnic heritage of the neighborhood is evident in the name blocks in the buildings' cornice lines, such as Zverina, Bartunek and Benesch. Our Lady of Lourdes Church, built in 1891, was the city's largest Bohemian parish and is the most visible landmark in the Czech community. The church is a high Victorian Gothic building designed by Emile Ulrich and Bernard F. Van Develde. Other ethnic buildings include the Hurby Music Conservatory and the Czech Catholic Union national headquarters.

A socially and culturally important building in the neighborhood is the Bohemian National Hall, individually listed in the National Register. Built in 1897, it was the first hall in Cleveland owned by a nationality group. Fundraising was organized by the local editor of the Czech newspaper Morning Star. Thomas G. Masaryk, founder and first president of Czechoslovakia spoke in the hall in 1907 and 1918. The building served as a meeting place and in 1911 classrooms were added for the purpose of teaching Bohemian. For the past 25 years, the hall has been home to Sokol Greater Cleveland, a Czech organization that emphasizes family activity and physical fitness.

The Broadway Avenue Historic District is roughly bounded by Broadway and Hamlet aves. and E. 55th St., in Cleveland. Public buildings are open during normal business hours. For further information specifically on Bohemian National Hall, visit Sokol Greater Cleveland on the web or call (216) 883-0675.

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