Cleveland Irish: 1810 & Then, by Francis McGarry

Cleveland Irish: 1810 and Then

If you leave the Irish American Historical Society and walk westerly through Central Park, you pass the Great Lawn. Then keep heading west for a couple of blocks and you will end up at 81stand Amsterdam.   At that point you can stop at the corner and have a pint of Guinness and place a bet on the ponies.  If you head north or south on Amsterdam, you will find plenty of Irish flags, Guinness and Jamo.  Depending on the time of day, the southern route may allow you to cross paths with Michael from Cork.  He pours a fine pint and serves up corned beef croquettes.  Michael, Thomas down Amsterdam and Nickla on 79thall spoke poorly of Jamo, “a tourist whiskey.” 

Nickla poured the best pint.  They all agreed that Roscommon and Longford are in the middle of nowhere. Each had a plan for their time in New York, more or less. Michael planned to stay until he began to lose his accent.  “You can’t bartend in an Irish pub without one.”

Each of the three navigated the Venn diagram of Irish and Irish American cultural identities.  Each embraced the Irish immigrant identity and self-ascribed expertise in their professional setting, while demonstrating familiarity with their adopted context. This two-step is not a new dance; the Irish have been known to cut the rug.  The Cleveland Irish were no different.  Yet, the Cleveland Irish were different.

Church made them different.  Clubs and organizations made then different.  Language, then accent, made them different.  Neighborhoods made them different.  Where and what they drank made them different.  History made them different. 
Fellow Clevelanders attempted to make them feel different.  That did not stop the Cleveland Irish from being successful.

In 1890 that success led a group of Irishmen on the Eastside at a Super Bowl party … hold on getting my stories mixed up.  On July 4th1890 the first Irish American Club opened at 413 Superior, near the Cathedral.

The Irish-American club had the formal opening of the club rooms at No. 413 Superior street yesterday.  The reception committee consisted of President Foran, First Vice President Gleason, Second Vice President Burke, Treasurer O’Rourke, Thomas Rodgers, Capt. James McMahon, Major W.R. Ryan, John Reeves, H.C. Quigley, J.F. Gallagher, J.E Farrell, Dr. Sullivan, the president of the board of directors, and J.C. Ryan, secretary of the board of directors, and it was a reception committee in fact-as well as in name, for everybody was made to feel at home through the cordial hospitality extended by the committee and other members of the club.  The commodious house has been elegantly refurnished.  Down stairs are the parlors and reception rooms, upon the walls of which are the Irish and American flags and pictures of Parnell, Gladstone, Sheridan and other who stand high in the estimation of Irish-Americans.  Upstairs are the billiard and card rooms.  The club house was open from early yesterday morning till late last night and many visitors, including numerous ladies, called, enjoyed the hospitality and extended best wishes.  The signing of appropriate songs, such as “America,” “God Save Ireland” and “Annie Laurie” had a prominent place in the festivities of the auspicious opening. (PD 7/5/1890)

The Irish American Club was incorporated in May of 1890 with a capital of $10,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that is about $270,000 in today’s money.  The mission of the club was to promote “social intercourse, physical culture, training and education.” 

A meeting of stockholders in the Irish-American club was held last night at the offices of Foran & Dawley.  Stock in $100 was subscribed by J.C. Ryan, M.A. Foran, E.W. Sullivan, John Garry, Thomas Malley, Owen Kane, Charles H. Gagen, J.C. Cooney, W.J. Lynch, Richard O’Rourke, Peter Byrne, J.T Brady, J.F. Gallagher, W.R. Ryan. A board of directors was elected consisting of E.W. Sullivan, J.C. Ryan, Richard O’Rourke, J.T. Brady, Thomas Malley, J.F. Gallagher and W.R. Ryan. The site for the club house most favorably regarded by members is the building adjoining The Hollenden on the east on Superior street.  Several others are being considered by the committee in charge. (PD 5/23/1890)

Foran was the Honorable Martin A. Foran.  Earlier in the year he travelled to Philly as the keynote speaker for Clan na Gael’s celebration of Robert Emmet’s birthday.  We have mentioned him before in this series.  Martin was president of the Coopers International Union.  He was prosecuting attorney for Cleveland in 1875 and a Democratic congressman from 1883 to 1889.  Mr. Foran later was common pleas judge from 1911 to 1921. His vision for the club was straightforward.

There is no place in the city where I can take a friend to unless I take him home or to a restaurant.  This club aims to have a permanent place for entertainment of people visiting the members.  It will be equipped with a billiard room, gymnasium and dining apartments. The club will largely be composed of young business men.  I do not suppose it will be confined exclusively to Irish-Americans.  Ultimately, we will have a building of our own.  The affair was started only a day or two ago, but things are going with a rush.  The secretary of state is a stockholder. (PD 5/22/1890)

That secretary of state was Daniel J. Ryan, a Republican from Columbus.  He was born in Cincinnati to Irish parents, John and Honora.  Daniel served on the board of trustees for the Ohio Historical Society for 34 years. 

If you left the Irish American Club and went east or west there were plenty of Irish flags, Guinness and Jamo.  T&P Malley had a saloon at 380 Superior and J. Current was at 339 Superior. Before you could reach the Cathedral you passed J.T. Curry’s saloon at 442 Superior and Malley and Reidy at 446.  Gallagher’s Hall was on the northwest corner of Erie (E. 9th) across the street from the Cathedral and its hall held the National AOH Convention in 1884.

Water of life everywhere and not a drop to drink, at least for Marty Foran. The Irish saloon did not serve all of the needs of the affluent Irish in Cleveland.  Affluent but not Euclid Ave, Millionaires Row, affluent. 

These Irish had positions of power in the Irish community and in the Cleveland community.  They needed a space that spoke to both, especially when out of town Irish visited.  If they were even invited to WASP clubs or welcome in those social circles, they did not want to be there, at least not exclusively.  That would have indicated that they had lost their accent.  Michael can tell you about that. 

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