Cleveland and County Mayo: A New “Angle” on Cleveland

– Written by Ezra Ellenbogen

Achill Island County Mayo Ireland twin with Cleveland City

County Mayo, located along parts of the northwestern coast of Ireland with a population of around 130,000, has been twinned with the city of Cleveland since 2003.[1] This sister city relationship was a result of uniquely Irish immigration patterns as well as community bonds that led to Cleveland’s rise as an Irish home. From traditional culture and westward immigration to the “Angle” community, the story of Irish relations with Cleveland is a detailed and interesting one.

Between 1820 and 1825, the first Irish immigrants arrived in Cleveland. Even from the start, most of the Irish immigrants in Cleveland hailed from County Mayo.[2] In 1825, the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal began, and workers were needed. This coincided with the increased immigration of Europeans from poorer areas, including the Irish, who numbered around 500 by 1826.[3] Many of the Irish workers who flocked to Cleveland for the jobs the canal project provided originally meant to stay temporarily, but the 1827 extension of the project resulted in the dense settlement of the Irish around the so-called “Irishtown Bend.” With the start of the Industrial Age and the numerous jobs it brought along with it in Cleveland, immigration flourished, especially Irish immigration. Even though Irish immigration to Cleveland was mostly from the County Mayo region, an agrarian area, Irish immigrants in Cleveland were hard workers during the Industrial Age and contributed greatly to Cleveland’s Industrial economic boom.

Irish Clevelanders reached more significant numbers by the late 1840s. As a result of Potato Famine Immigration (the patterns of mass emigration from Ireland to the United States because of Irish potato famines), Irish Clevelanders numbered over 1,000 by 1848. The Civil War’s need for transportation of people and cargo brought even more jobs to Cleveland and worked with the Industrial Age to invigorate further Irish immigration. Irish immigration to the city only grew more rapidly from there. By 1870, the Irish population grew to be over 10,000, or 10% of the city’s population at the time. In 22 years (1848-1870), the Irish population in the city went up almost tenfold. During the 1860s and 1880s, horrible weather in County Mayo (particularly Achill Island) drove even more Irish people to emigrate. Although Irish immigration kept a relatively rapid pace, it did not keep up with Cleveland’s overall boom as a city. By 1900, the 13,000-some Irish represented only 3.5% of the city’s population.

Irish immigrants in Cleveland tended to cluster in densely populated areas, often earning those parts of the city unique names. Not only was there the ‘Irishtown Bend,” where canal workers settled, but there were many other areas, each with their own nickname. The area west of the river by the lake in Cleveland earned itself the name the “Achill Patch,” in honor of Achill Island in County Mayo, the original home of many of the Irish settlers. Most famously, there was “The Angle,” or “The Triangle.” This area, defined by its large Irish population and St. Malachi Parish, has been broken up by geographic changes but remains a strong community. It was, at its peak, the most famous Irish area of Cleveland.[4] It is interesting to note that most of these areas were close to each other, and by some definitions, overlapped.

The Angle was defined as the roughly triangular area between West 28th Street, Division Avenue, and River Road[5], across from Whisky Island (hence the name, “The Triangle”). It mainly consisted of Irish houses and shops. The cultural center of the neighborhood was St. Malachi Parish, which was founded in 1867. However, the whole West 25th Street area, from 1860 and onwards, was known as a very Irish area. At one point, St. Malachi Parish listed 2,000 Irish families in the region. The Angle only grew, and soon came to include most of the area north of Detroit Avenue that sloped down to the well-known angled riverbed. In 1917, the Detroit-Superior Bridge project started to geographically break up the Irish community in the region. Later, the Lakeview Terrace Housing Project and other bridges (including part of the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway) struck a geographic barrier between parts of the Irish region. Though the area remains an Irish neighborhood, many of the inhabitants of the old Angle left for other areas. However, St. Malachi Parish’s Sunday services still attract many from the old community.

An 1881 Map of Cleveland With “The Angle” Marked, Image Credit to the Irish American Archives Society

When they arrived in Cleveland, many Irish immigrants flocked to the police force and politics. The prejudice expressed at the time by many Americans was the idea that Irish immigrants were all supposedly criminals. Ironically, Irish immigrants were more often police officers than most else. In 1874, Cleveland’s Irish population made up 10% of the city’s total population and 20% of the city’s police population. In 1902, it was 3.5% and 12.5% respectively. Later, as Irish immigrants assimilated more into Cleveland, the proportionately large percentage of them on the force shrank. The Irish population of Cleveland grew to influence many aspects of the city and its culture.

In 2003, under Mayor Jane Campbell, Cleveland partnered as a sister city with County Mayo. This was a celebration of the ancestral lineage of most Irish Clevelanders from that region as well as the creation of numerous new business and social opportunities between Irish and Cleveland communities. Stephen Mulloy spearheaded the effort with years of planning.[6] In July 2003, a Cleveland delegation of Mayor Campbell, Stephen Mulloy, and prominent Irish Clevelanders visited County Mayo. Later in the same year, the Chairman of the Mayo County Council and other delegates visited Cleveland. During that October event, delegates from both areas celebrated Irish heritage in the city with numerous newspapers, notes, documents, and other artifacts from Irish immigrants in the region.

This relationship went on to inspire many others. For instance, the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland and Údarás na Gaeltachta (Gaeltacht Authority) have become business partners as a result of the connection between the two areas.[7]In fact, in 2018, the Mayo Ball saw the arrival of people and businesses from County Mayo and nearby Irish counties, and three Irish companies presented their products and companies to Clevelanders and businesses alike. Delegates and political representatives from County Mayo attended the event, alongside representatives from Cleveland Irish American groups.

At the same event, many who attended worked together to form plans for International Mayo Day, an annual international celebration of all things County Mayo. The event started in 2015 and has been held yearly since in Western Ireland. There, international spectators and locals alike celebrate everything about County Mayo culture, from literature to business. Moreover, the holiday has extended into the US, the UK, and beyond as local County Mayo populations celebrate their heritage.[8] This is all thanks to Martina Hughes of Mayo county council, who had thought of the idea originally. If you’d ever like to help celebrate Cleveland’s County Mayo heritage, May 4th is International Mayo Day.

County Mayo is truly a wondrous land, with astounding coasts and stunning culture. They’re known for their diaspora and immigrant populations in other areas. In fact, while County Mayo numbers around 130,000 people, the diaspora of the county is over 3.5 million strong. Cleveland is more than proud to work with County Mayo and celebrate the contributions of Irish immigrants to the city. Without Irish immigration, from the Achill Patch to the Angle, Cleveland would not be where it is today.

– By Ezra Ellenbogen

Ezra’s blog: One Page Stories





[5] Some sources defined it by the riverbed instead of a third road