The church can trace its roots back to 1859, when University Heights (that is what the Tremont neighborhood was known as at the time) Congressional church began. They would build a church building in 1869 on the corner of what is today, W. 14th St and Howard Ave. That building would later be sold and become St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church (which it still is today). In 1892, they renamed themselves Pilgrim Congregational.
But as the church soon outgrew their building and decided to build a larger church two blocks south on W. 14th St. in 1894. The architect was Sidney R. Badgley. He utilized the “Akron Plan” to design the sanctuary. It was more of an auditorium layout. Sunday school classes were just off the sanctuary and each had walls that could raise up and open them into the sanctuary. When all the spaces were fully open they could accommodate around 1,200 congregants.
The sanctuary has a stained glass dome, believed to be designed by a member of the church, Elizabeth Parsons. Originally is was a skylight but due to leaks it was sealed off and today is back light with electric light. Two stained glass windows flanking the organ both portray St. Cecilia, the patron saint of scared music. They have long been rumored to be Tiffany windows but the church had experts look at them and it was determined, they are most likely done by J&R Lamb Studios.
The church is said to be the first building on Cleveland’s west side to have electricity. The building had its own steam generator to supply the electricity as well as gas. Many of the original light fixtures can accommodate both gas and electricity.
The church was a true community center. They offered ESL classes for recently arrived immigrants. They offered technical classes and sewing classes, skills that could help men and women find work. They had a gymnasium, a bowling alley and a library. The library would become a branch of the Cleveland Public Library system in 1910 but closed once the Jefferson Street branch opened a few blocks away in 1918. The church continues to be a space for the community offering a food pantry, dance rehearsal and performance space and providing an open and welcome space for all.
The church was even in “Captain America: The Winter Solider”. The scenes where Steve Rogers (Captain America) visits Sam Wilson’s (Falcon) recovery group meeting was filmed inside the church in the social spaces downstairs. Here is a video clip by a guy who sought our sites in Cleveland used in the film; in the clip, he is exploring Pilgrim Congregational.
What We Do
Tours of Cleveland, LLC offers year round, exciting and educational walking tours of beautiful and historic downtown Cleveland. To learn more about our tours, see our schedule and book your tour, visit www.toursofcleveland.com
Contact Information for the Church
The Church is located at 2592 W 14th St, Cleveland, OH 44113.
The phone number of the church is (216) 861-7388.
The Pastor is Rev. Arlen G. Vernava.
Weekly service is on Sundays at 10:00 am in person or online.
Their website is www.pilgrimalive.org/