Transfiguration Church (Cleveland, Ohio)

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Transfiguration Church (historic)
Transfiguration Church (historic) is located in Ohio
Transfiguration Church (historic)
Transfiguration Church (historic)
41°27′21″N 81°38′11″W / 41.45596°N 81.63631°W / 41.45596; -81.63631Coordinates: 41°27′21″N 81°38′11″W / 41.45596°N 81.63631°W / 41.45596; -81.63631
Location Cleveland, Ohio
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Previous denomination Baptist
Former name(s) Trinity Baptist Church
Status Parish church
Dedication Transfiguration of Jesus
Functional status Demolished
Architect(s) F.S. Barnum & Co.
Architectural type Church
Style English Gothic
Completed 1901
Closed 1992
Capacity 550 (1901);
950 (after 1945)
Diocese Cleveland
Province Cincinnati

Transfiguration Church (Polish: Parafia Przemienienia Pańskiego w Cleveland), was a Catholic parish church in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States. Part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, it was located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Fullerton Avenue in a part of the South Broadway neighborhood previously known in Polish as Warszawa, also referred to today as Slavic Village. The church suffered a severe structure fire in 1990. The parish closed in 1992, and the church was demolished in early 1993.


Trinity Baptist

Trinity Baptist Church was organized in March 1873 with Rev. F. Tolhurst as the first pastor.[1] The church dedicated its first building on Fullerton Street (at the intersection with Wood Street) on February 13, 1876.[2]

In February 1892, Trinity Baptist Church purchased two lots on the corner of Broadway Avenue and Fullerton Street for $8,565 ($200,000 in 2018 dollars).[3] Fundraising to erect the new structure took eight years. In 1910, the church hired F.S. Barnum & Co., a local architectural firm, to design the new structure.[4] The church was in the English Gothic architectural style,[4][5] made of red brick with buff stone trim. The nave was designed as a bowl, with seating in pews for 550 people. The rear wall of the chancel was actually a sliding door. When opened, an additional 500 seats could be added in the social hall behind the chancel. The chancel contained a significant space for both the choir and the organ. The structure had an unfinished basement, and a two-story Sunday School classroom building was attached. The total cost of the building was $20,000 ($600,000 in 2018 dollars).[4] Construction began in July 1900,[6] and the church was dedicated on September 15, 1901.[7] The final cost of the building was $30,000 ($900,000 in 2018 dollars).[8]

A Spiritualist church purchased the old Trinity Baptist structure, which completely renovated the building. It opened as the First Spiritualist Temple (and first Spiritualist church in Cleveland) on October 1, 1905.[9]

Trinity Baptist Church incurred a mortgage of $7,500 ($200,000 in 2018 dollars) to complete its new building. The church paid off the mortgage in April 1906, which included a $2,500 ($100,000 in 2018 dollars) donation from John D. Rockefeller. The congregation raised another $3,000 ($100,000 in 2018 dollars) which it used to install an organ in June 1906.[8]

Establishment of Transfiguration Church

In the late 1930s and the early 1940s, the neighborhood around Trinity Baptist Church began to decline due to rapid industrialization and the construction of several nearby steel mills. Trinity Baptist saw a steady decline in membership, dipping to just 670 members by 1942. The church agreed to merge with Garfield Heights Baptist Church in the nearby suburb of Garfield Heights, Ohio, which had a large, new structure. In April 1943, Trinity Baptist Church sold its building to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for $35,000 ($500,000 in 2018 dollars).[10]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland erected Transfiguration Parish on July 30, 1943. The parish was divided from nearby Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus parishes. Reverend Joseph F. Zabawa was named the pastor of the new congregation, which took up residence in the Trinity Baptist Church building.[11]

Transfiguration Church served Slavic Village's Polish community,[11][5] with services conducted in Polish. In time, the church was enlarged to seat 950, and a convent was built.[12][a]

Closure of Transfiguration Church

The continuing job and population losses among blue-collar workers in the area around Slavic Village left 40 percent of the area's housing stock abandoned and demolished.[13] By 1989, housing foreclosure rates in the area reached 35 percent, causing runaway neighborhood decline.[14] Attendance at Transfiguration declined to about 700,[5] which led the diocese to close the church's elementary school in the spring of 1990.[15]

On October 19, 1990, faulty wiring in a dropped ceiling in the basement of the church[16] that broke out at 5:35 AM. The intense fire burned a hole in the roof and destroyed the basement, choir loft, organ, nave, and several stained glass windows.[5] The classroom building was untouched.[17] The chancel was largely spared, allowing the Eucharistic chalice, tabernacle, and many vestments to survive.[5]

Damage to the building was estimated at $500,000 ($1,000,000 in 2018 dollars). Although both nearby St. Stanislaus and Immaculate Heart of Mary churches provided worship space to the parishioners of Transfiguration Church, attendance at Transfiguration's masses dwindled. Transfiguration later held mass in a classroom in its closed elementary school, but attendance continued to decline and reached only 100 by 1992. The diocese determined that the cost of repairing the church would exceed the insurance payment, no priest could be found to take over at Transfiguration,[17] and the church was running a deficit of $5,000 ($0 in 2018 dollars) a month.[12] After consulting with a parish task force,[18] the diocese suppressed the parish on January 1, 1992.[19] Bishop Anthony Pilla announced the closure in October 1992.[17]

The final mass at Transfiguration was held on November 8, 1992.[18] Salvaged items from the church were dispersed to other Catholic churches and organizations, and insurance proceeds and other funds given to nearby diocesan churches.[12]


Assigned Priests
Start End Name Surname Position
22 February 1989 1 August 1989 Lawrence Jurcak Administrator[20]
30 March 1982 1989 Marian Kencik Pastor
20 July 1971 Henry Jezeski Pastor
30 September 1969 20 July 1971 Norman A. Gajdzinski Parochial Vicar[21]
Edward Gackowski Pastor
30 September 1948 19 May 1959 Leon Telesz Parochial Vicar[22]
Joseph Zabawa Pastor


The records of this church, and all churches closed after 1975, can be found in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Archives.[23] Diocesan policy is to keep all archive records closed.[24]

See also


  1. ^ There was also a rectory,[12] but it is unclear if this was built prior to the Catholic ownership or after.
  1. ^ "Thirteenth Anniversary". The Plain Dealer. March 19, 1886. p. 9.
  2. ^ "In and About the City". The Plain Dealer. February 14, 1876. p. 4; "Jennie Watkins". The Plain Dealer. June 28, 1894. p. 8.
  3. ^ "To Buy Two Lots". The Plain Dealer. February 24, 1892. p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c "New Trinity Baptist Church". The Plain Dealer. May 4, 1900. p. 10.
  5. ^ a b c d e O'Malley, Michael (October 19, 1990). "Fire Hits Catholic Church; Damage Put at $500,000". The Plain Dealer. p. B4.
  6. ^ "Building Permits". The Plain Dealer. July 20, 1900. p. 7.
  7. ^ "Church Dedication". The Plain Dealer. September 13, 1901. p. 10; "Will Dedicate Church". The Plain Dealer. September 15, 1901. p. 10.
  8. ^ a b "Debt Goes Up In Smoke". The Plain Dealer. April 3, 1906. p. 9.
  9. ^ "Temple to Be Dedicated to Spiritualism". The Plain Dealer. September 30, 1905. p. 2; "First Temple Dedicated". The Plain Dealer. October 2, 1905. p. 10.
  10. ^ "$111,000 Pledged to Baptist Fund". The Plain Dealer. April 6, 1943. p. 15.
  11. ^ a b "Lakewood Parish Will Mark 40th Year Tomorrow". The Plain Dealer. July 31, 1943. p. 8.
  12. ^ a b c d Thoma, Pauline (October 17, 1992). "Slavic Landmark Hears Last Mass". The Plain Dealer. p. C6.
  13. ^ Andrzejewski, Thomas (January 24, 1984). "Cure Aimed at Abandoned Houses". The Plain Dealer. p. A6.
  14. ^ Bier, Thomas (October 30, 1989). "Redlining Here: Yes and No". The Plain Dealer. p. B3.
  15. ^ Rutti, Ronald (January 29, 1990). "Diocesan Plan Tries to Stem Drop in School Enrollment". The Plain Dealer. pp. B1, B7.
  16. ^ "Faulty Wiring Blamed for Blaze at Church". The Plain Dealer. October 21, 1990. p. B6.
  17. ^ a b c "Final Mass Slated Nov. 8 at Transfiguration Church". The Plain Dealer. October 10, 1992. p. D9.
  18. ^ a b Holland, Darrell (November 9, 1992). "150 Parishioners Bid Farewell". The Plain Dealer. p. B2.
  19. ^ Diocese of Cleveland. Secretariat of Clergy and Religious. "Transfiguration (Cleveland)". Directory. Cleveland, OH: Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  20. ^ Diocese of Cleveland. Secretariat of Clergy and Religious. "Rev Lawrence Jurcak". Directory. Cleveland, OH: Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  21. ^ Diocese of Cleveland. Secretariat of Clergy and Religious. "Rev Norman A. Gajdzinski". Directory. Cleveland, OH: Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  22. ^ Diocese of Cleveland. Secretariat of Clergy and Religious. "Rev Msgr Leo Telesz". Directory. Cleveland, OH: Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  23. ^ Catholic Diocese of Cleveland (12 September 2012). "Closed Parishes 4/2009 - 6/2010". Cleveland, OH: Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  24. ^ Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. "Policy on Genealogical Research at the Diocese of Cleveland, Archives". Cleveland, OH: Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
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