2175 Coventry Road (1997)


St. Ann Church


St. Ann Church, the oldest Catholic parish in Cleveland Heights, once encompassed an area stretching from the top of Cedar Hill to the Chagrin River. Founded in 1915 by charismatic pastor, Father John Mary Powers (1876-1966), it developed over subsequent decades into one of the most populous and successful of Cleveland's suburban Catholic parishes. The style and substance of its parish buildings were largely the result of the taste, determination and acquisitive genius of Father Powers himself, but his influence went much farther than the parish grounds. Working for decades, in concert with Cleveland Heights Mayor Cain and City Manager Canfield, Powers fought fiercely and successfully to keep the St. Ann area strictly residential and a suitable, stable area for the large catholic families that settled near the church grounds.


The parish buildings were all constructed during Powers' long pastorate (1915-1966) and bear the stamp of his personal enthusiasm for ecclesiastical architecture and his propensity to collect. The original church (today Powers Hall) facing Cedar Road was built in just three months and opened in December, 1915, in time for Christmas Midnight Mass. Intended originally as only a temporary church and school structure, it in fact served as the parish church until 1952, when the new church facing Coventry opened its doors in December. The original church, like the accompanying rectory, was a vaguely Georgian Classic design, planned by the firm of Koehl and Van Renssalaer. But Father Powers had far more ambitious plans in mind, which he eventually unveiled in 1927, in a pamphlet promoting "A New Church For St. Ann." Containing detailed sketches, it presented his dream of a large, Romanesque church, rivaling even the scope and excellence of St. Agnes Church, then considered the crown jewel of Cleveland Catholic architecture.


It was not to be - yet. Owing initially to opposition by Bishop Joseph Schrembs and eventually to the financial realities of the Great Depression and World War II, Powers was forced to defer his dream. But he was not defeated, and he spent the two decades after 1927 stockpiling a vast amount of building materials on the parish grounds and at other Cleveland locations. When 1947 and flusher times came, he was ready, and ground was broken in August of that year for the long-deferred "new" church.


It was one of the most amazingly eclectic structures ever assembled. Nominally designed by the well-known firm of Walker & Weeks and with Jack Butler as the general contractor, the new church in fact was built mainly according to the specifications (and stashed-away building materials) of one John M. Powers. These included interior pillars, lamps and chandeliers from the Euclid National Bank; marble steps and bronze doors from the Central National Bank; oak paneling from the Dan Hanna mansion and extensive interior marble facing from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City. Not to mention thousands of bricks from the old Murray Hill School. Somehow, it all worked, and the second St. Ann church opened to great acclaim in December, 1952. Together with the commodious St. Ann school, designed in 20th Century Beaux Arts style by George Hunt Ingraham and completed in 1925, the St. Ann parish buildings comprise an enduring and impressive part of the Cleveland Heights Heritage.