German Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

2 Hospitals Founded by Germans

"100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland"
Nineteenth of a Series
By Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, November 3, 1950

Among the lasting accomplishments of Cleveland Germans were the founding of St. Alexis Hospital on July 16, 1884, and St. John's Hospital on May 15, 1892.

St. Alexis Hospital was founded by two German Francisan Sisters: Leonarda and Alexia, natives of Westphalia, Germany. The sisterhood to which they belonged had arrived only a few years previously from Germany and had established a community house in Lafayette, Ind.

Bishop Richard Gilmour asked Sisters Leonarda and Alexia to come to Cleveland and establish a hospital in the vicinity of the rapidly growing steel district on Broadway, a neighborhood which at that time was "remote" from Cleveland.

Knowing little English, the two sisters arrived in Cleveland on July 16, 1884 with the clothes that covered them and less than $2 in money.

Broadway and McBride

Rev. Fr. Kilian Schlosser, then pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic German Church, received the two nuns and rode with them in a carriage over unpaved Broadway to the corner of McBride Ave.

There was an old house set in a struggling garden. The brick building had eight rooms and was originally used as a school and later as the home of a group of eight Poor Clares.

In common with other houses in the neighborhood, the house was candle lit, had no plumbing.

A kind neighbor, Mrs. Frank Buettner, came to help prepare supper and brought some bedding for the two nuns. They ate their first meal in Cleveland at an oilcloth-covered table.

The following morning Father Schlosser said mass in the small frame chapel adjoining the brick house. It was July 17, 1884, the feast of St. Alexis, hence the name of the hospital.

Others Aided Sisters

Gradually, Mrs. Buettner, the kind neighbor, was joined by others in aiding Sisters Leonarda and Alexia. These early benefactors included:

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Beckman, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Beckman, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kramer, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Grasselli, Mr. and Mrs. L. A. Russell, Harvey Rice, John Wagner, and Messrs. Blee, Fitzimmons, Born, Hullmann, and Mrs. Pulte.

Dr. Joseph Sykora was the little hospital's first physician. By the end of 1884 the number of patients cared for was 25, all charity cases.

In April, 1885, a new frame building was completed, making room for 34 beds. There were 111 patients in 1885, 92 of whom were charity cases. New buildings were added in 1891 and a entirely new hospital was erected and opened on Oct. 4, 1897. Still later, on June 16, 1903, the present main building was dedicated.

Sister Leonarda, one of the founders, died in 1916.

West Side Was Next

After St. Alexis' Hospital was started, Bishop Gilmour asked Sisters Leonarda and Alexia to establish a similar institution on the West Side.

The building fund for St. John's Hospital began with $700 raised by the two sisters and $1,200 from a bazaar held in 1888.

A donation of $5,000 by W. J. Gordon made possible the purchase of a large plot in 1890, on which a two- story frame building was erected. It was opened by Bishop Horstman on May 12, 1892. Among the early benefactors of St. John's were Rev. Fr. G. F. Houck, Herman Beckman, Mrs. Farnam, Dr. Theodore Weed, Dr. Humiston.

Sisters Beatrix Susanna and Juliana for St. Alexis' staff were appointed to lead new John's Hospital; with Sister Beatrix as supervisor.

In 1899 a large adjoining lot was bought by Bishop Horstman and a new structure was built which eventually was razed to give way to the present brick structure.

The cornerstone of the present building was laid Sept. 27, 1914.