Irish Americans of Cleveland

History of the Cleveland Irish

Continued Expansion: Lace Curtain and Shanty Irish

from The Irish Americans & Their Communities of Cleveland
by Nelson J. Callihan &
William F. Hickey

The 1870's were to see the Irish spread ever westward, occupying most of the territory from the lake to Bridge Avenue, as far west as West 65th Street. It was called Gordon Avenue in those days and there wasn't much beyond it, except for a few scattered farms. By 1880 a new parish, St. Colman's, was created for the Irish who lived in that section. Thus, the West Side Irish had need for a third church although they were compressed into a territory only 40 blocks long by 20 wide.

By this time the Irish were getting numerous enough to create sections within their own enclave. They were also beginning to separate as to their degree of upward mobility. It was a time for labeling one another. When those who moved up the ladder of success more rapidly began moving into larger frame houses and taking on fancy airs, they were dubbed "Lace Curtain." They, in turn, referred to there less fortunate brethren as "Shanty" or "Pig in the Parlor Irish." There were yet other derogatory terms exchanged, some reaching back to events or conduct in the old country, which shows that the Irish felt a measure of success here. An especially insulting term was "Achill Irish," which alluded to the supposed traitorous conduct of the people who inhabited that island off the coast of Mayo during the bad days.