Last year, we lost one of Cleveland’s more striking locations with neither warning nor fanfare. St. Joseph Byzantine Roman Catholic was a Mission Revival/Spanish Colonial Revival church built in 1933, well known for its extravagant hand painted details.
The church on Orleans gave its final service on Easter Sunday in 1980, and the congregation moved to their new church in nearby Brecksville, where they still operate today. The property cycled between a couple different church organizations who ultimately abandoned it, and eventually tore it down.
This was from around 2011-2012:
And this was from 2015.
While it like a lot of places I’ve enjoyed visiting the first time around with its door hanging open like an invitation, the second time around was not so easy. Shortly after our final visit, the church was razed, justifying all the climbing and crawling and strategic tumbling I had to do to get back into the sanctuary. Its decay in the four years since my first visit was pretty remarkable, as was the difference in weather and lighting. The beautifully colored murals along the barrel vaults had almost entirely faded into ghostly shapes and outlines, many into nothing at all, and the warmth of the sprawling sanctuary was vanishing with them.
The crews came so suddenly and without warning that I can’t find any photos or articles about the demolition, only an empty lot on Orleans where the imposing, statuesque building once stood. This is very unusual, especially for such a well-known and widely appreciated building. But, since it was somehow not on the National Register of Historic Locations, I suppose no question was ever raised.
Farewell, St. Joe.