History of Trinity Cathedral

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Trinity parish was first organized on November 9, 1816 in the home of Phineas Shepherd in what was then known as the Village of Cleveland.  As the Parish grew, it moved to a frame structure on the corner of St. Clair and Seneca (W. 3rd St.) When it was consecrated in 1829, it became the first church building within what is now the City of Cleveland.

In 1855 the growing parish moved into a larger, gothic stone structure; and, in 1890 Trinity Church was offered to Bishop William A. Leonard as a cathedral for the Diocese of Ohio.  Charles E. Schweinfurth, noted architect of many Cleveland churches, residences and public buildings, was commissioned to build the new cathedral at its present location at Euclid Avenue and East 22nd Street.

Schweinfurth’s original plans to build a Romanesque building were overruled by Bishop Leondard and Trinity’s vestry. A gothic cathedral, which they believed more in keeping with Anglican tradition, was then designed, and the building of Trinity Cathedral began in 1901.  At the time, Trinity was home to many of Cleveland’s prominent families, such as the Samuel L. Mather family, who generously contributed financial support.  The gothic Cathedral, built of Indiana limestone at an estimated cost of $574,000, was consecrated on September 24, 1907.

  • In 1903, Daniel Tuttle, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, joined Bishop Leonard in laying the cornerstone for the Cathedral. Since then, Trinity has hosted nine more Presiding Bishops, including former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and The Most. Rev. Michael B. Curry.
  • In the years of the First World War through the Great Depression, followed by the Second World War, Trinity Cathedral grew as a parish. Its members and clergy worked diligently to alleviate the miseries of unemployment in the immediate neighborhood and the challenges of wartime in the community.
  • In 1957, the first African American to be elected Bishop (Suffragan) of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Edward T. Demby, was buried at Trinity Cathedral.
  • In 1958 over 1,700 middle school students and chaperones attended the first Cathedral Pilgrimage, designed to welcome young Episcopalians to Trinity and teach them about their Cathedral. After a several year hiatus, the Cathedral reinstituted the annual Pilgrimage in 2007 in honor of the 100th Anniversary of its consecration.
  • In 1961 Bishop Nelson Burroughs introduced the annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival held between Christmas and the New Year which remains immensely popular in Cleveland and throughout the Diocese.
  • In 1977 Trinity hosted the ordination of the Rev. Mary Sterrett Anderson, the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Ohio. Also, in 1977 Trinity installed a new organ, built by Dirk Flentrop, under the watchful eye of cathedral organist, Daniel Hathaway.  Hathaway then instituted the “Brownbag” lunchtime concert series which is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2017.
  • In 1987 the world-renowned Most Rev. Desmond Tutu visited Trinity Cathedral where he preached at a special evening prayer service to an overflow crowd.
  • In 1994, the Very Rev. William Persell, then Trinity’s 10th Dean, and later Bishop of Chicago, led the congregation in the bold step of removing all the pews in the narthex and replacing them with cathedral chairs. The goal was to create a more flexible space for worship and events.
  • In 1999 Trinity’s 11th Dean, the Rev. Tracey Lind and then Bishop J. Clark Grew, along with the leadership of the Cathedral and the Diocese, embarked on an ambitious project to build a new campus from the configuration of existing buildings between the Cathedral and the Diocesan offices. On November 2, 2002 Trinity Commons was dedicated with a festive Evensong service held in the Cathedral.
  • The Cathedral congregation celebrated 200 years from Fall of 2016 through May 2017 with an impressive and wide-ranging speaker series, and an informative history exhibit titled “Crossroads of a City, Heartbeat of its People” in the gallery space, along with special bicentennial worship services.

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Special thanks to the Rev. Dr. Brian K. Wilbert, Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, who provided generous assistance in compiling Trinity Cathedral’s history.