IRISHTOWN BEND is the area along the CUYAHOGA RIVER—east of W. 25th St., and south and slightly north of Detroit Ave.—where Irish immigrants once lived. Part of a larger area known as the ANGLE (and adjacent to the recently dubbed “Hingetown” in northeast Ohio City), Irishtown Bend is centered around ST. MALACHI'S CHURCH at W. 25th and Washington Sts.
When the first IRISH (mostly diggers and dockworkers) came to Cleveland in the early 1830s they lived in this riverside neighborhood of 22 streets. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s the Irish community, greatly expanded by refugees from the Potato Famine of the late 1840s, spread to both sides of the Cuyahoga. Although some Irish were more flush, most of the area was working class at best, with families subject to extreme poverty and myriad 19th-century diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and diarrhea infantum. ST. PATRICK PARISH was established on Bridge Ave. in 1853, roughly one mile away, to help serve the growing west-side Irish population. In 1868 Irishtown residents got their own church: St. Malachi's.
As the Irish became more prosperous, the successful families, known as “Lace Curtain Irish,” moved away—seeking to distinguish themselves from the “Shanty Irish” who remained in the area. Most Irish residents were gone by 1900 and the Bend was resettled by immigrants from Eastern Europe. The neighborhood went into significant decline and by the 1950s all that remained in Irishtown Bend were a few deteriorating warehouses. By the 1980s no commercial or residential buildings existed there.
In 1990 a portion of the site known as the Irishtown Bend Archeological District was added to the National Register of Historic Places and ideas began to burble about significantly upgrading the area. Myriad pieces have since fallen into place: Great progress has been made on the construction of the Towpath Trail and CLEVELAND FOUNDATION Centennial Lake Link Trail; and plans have been firmed up for the “Red Line Greenway,” a pedestrian and bike path to parallel the rail-transit line out to West 65th St. Perhaps most significant, all of these projects complement, and connect to, a proposed park bordering the Cuyahoga River and West 25th St. between the Ohio City Farm to the south and Detroit Avenue to the north.
Updated by Christopher Roy