The ministry of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, dates back to 1890. At that time, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew Chapter from Emmanuel Church, Cleveland, realized the need for planting a church in the “extreme eastern part of the city.” A committee, chaired by the Rev. A.B. Putnam, Rector of Emmanuel Church, was appointed on August 11, 1890 to “further look into the matter.” In December that same year a store room was located at the junction of Euclid Ave and the Nickel Plate Railroad. This was to serve as the mission’s first place of worship and on January 4, 1891, the first service was held in the store room. The mission was called St. Andrews-in-the-East because the ministry was established by Emmanuel Parish’s chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. The Rev. A. B. Putnam became St. Andrews’ in the East first Priest-in-charge.
In 1892, as the mission continued to grow, a lot was purchased at the corner of Murray Hill and Fairview Ave. On June 29, 1892 Bishop William Andrew Leonard laid the cornerstone of the church of St. Andrew’s-in-the-East. Construction of a chapel began and the first service was held in the new chapel on November 1, 1892. The building was then consecrated on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30th by Bishop Leonard. The parish was admitted into the union with the Convention of the Diocese of Ohio on October 22, 1893 and the Rev F. M. Musen became the next Priest-in-charge. In 1897, St. Andrew’s-in-the-East was moved to Euclid Heights and reopened with its first service on August 1, 1897. The building was literally moved from the old location to the new location up the hill by a team of oxen. The parish received the deed to present property in 1898. The parish held their first parish meeting on February 13, 1901. During this meeting, the name of the parish was officially changed to St. Alban, after the first English Martyr.
1926 marked the beginning of a period of renovations for the church. During 1926 the parish remodeled and enlarged the building. Then, in 1940 the chapel was built with a dedication the following year. The newly renovated building was consecrated on June 22, 1947 by the Rt. Rev. Beverly Daindridge Tucker, 6th Bishop of Ohio. The rectory just north of the church on Edgehill Rd was acquired and added to the church property in 1948. The parish hall was built in 1963 and then dedicated on June 23rd. In 1979 the undercroft and parish hall were remodeled and decorated.
On Thursday June 1, 1989, an act of arson destroyed much of the sanctuary, choir and nave of the church. Despite this terrible event the congregation stayed strong and continued their normal worship schedule over the remaining summer under a tent right next to the burned out structure. The first Sunday after the fire, June 4th, brought crowds of people to worship. Everyone wanted to show support to the church in their time of need. An electric piano was used for music, a neighboring parishioner wheeled her patio table down the street to be used as the alter and chairs, prayer books, and hymnals were loaned from other churches. The procession was led by their badly charred, but still usable, processional cross. This Sunday service marked the start of many weeks of worship and community building under the tent.
The decision was made to raze the entire church structure and rebuild on the same site.
The congregation processed into the yet unfinished building for worship on Palm Sunday 1992. An article from the May 22nd, 1993 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reveals the radical welcome offered by this small but spiritually strong congregation: “On the same site where it was destroyed by fire four years ago, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church has risen again. The still uncompleted $1 million building will provide a spiritual home for the 72 families who are members of the Episcopal parish, while also serving as a place of worship for members of a branch of Temple Ner Tamid.” In an article for the Northern Ohio Live Magazine the Rabbi of Temple Ner Tamid explained “…It’s a spiritual relationship.” One striking feature of the “new” St. Albans was the “Tree of Life” Reredos which held separately a cross for use by the Episcopal Congregation and a tabernacle for the sacred Torah for use by the Jewish Congregation.
Although a valiant effort was made to continue to serve the surrounding community as a radically inclusive parish over the last twenty-five years, declining membership and resources led to a decision by the current members of St. Albans, led by Senior Warden Wiley Smith, to close the parish. During this past Lent, a series focused on remembering the long and fruitful ministry of St. Alban’s parish. The final service held in the building was the Service for Good Friday on April 19, 2019 complete with the solemn Collects for the day and Communion from the Reserve Sacrament.
St. Alban’s church building before the fire on June 1, 1989
St. Alban’s church building after the fire