HISTORY OF THE SLOVENIAN SOCIETY HOME
By Marion E. Bocian, Recording Secretary, Board of Directors (2003)
The idea of an establishment which would serve as a Home for the fraternal societies, originated in 1907 when a group of men of Slovenian, Croatian and Gottsche German got together to discuss building a National Home in the Euclid-Nottingham area. This community which still maintained a rural atmosphere was known officially as the Village of Euclid. A group of Cleveland area Slovenians decided to make a trip to the Village of Euclid to discuss the purchase of land in what was then a predominantly farming and grape growing community. Louis E. Recher, a pioneer Euclid resident, was a real estate agent who was selling lots in this area for $50. Most of these men purchased lots and paid a $5 option on the sale.
In the year 1907 they gathered together to organize a civic club for the purpose of gaining improved services from the Village of Euclid for their lots. The meetings were held in a local real estate office. In the spring of that year this group of men formed a lodge naming it “Lodge Austria.” All had worked together previously in organizing and promoting fraternal as well as cultural groups at the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. This was a considerable distance for them to travel from Euclid. Discussed were sites on East 200th Street, which was very favorable to the three fraternal groups.
Members of this lodge purchased a sizable plot of land from Charles Mix on which they built the Slovenian Church, St. Mary of Perpetual Help consecrated in 1908. The church existed only seven years, after which the building and property was bought by John Kraker. The group “Jugoslovenski Narodni Dom” (Jugoslav National Home) then bought the property from Mr. Kraker for $2,500. For this purchase society members paid a donation of $25 into the hall’s treasury. The purpose was to convert the church quarters into a hall for meetings and other civic and lodge activities. Immediately after title transfer, John Fabec, a bricklayer removed the steeple and front elevation, and erected an addition with a new front entrance. A new basement was made and the members again had to contribute $12 to cover expenses.
Soon after WWI, interest again began to take hold and serious talks to organize a National Home began. The first organizing meeting was held on May 25, 1919 at which the following lodges were represented: Slovenski Dom No. 6 SDZ (now AMLA, American Mutual Life Assoc.), Zavedni Sosedje (now Loyalites) No. 158 SNPJ (Slovenian National Benefit Society), and Jutranja Zora No. 337 HBZ (now CFU, Croatian Fraternal Union). On August 10, 1919, the title was transferred to the Slovenski Drustveni Dom. On October 5, 1919 an Opening Day celebration was held.
On March 29, 1922 the Austrian Society of the Slovenski Drustveni Dom took out a mortgage loan in the amount of $4,500 from the North American Bank & Savings to purchase additional lots and improvements to the church. The property purchased was incorporated on July 30, 1924 under the name of “Slovenski Drustveni Dom,” meaning Slovenian Society Home, which is still the official name, although in earlier years it was referred to as the American Jugoslav Center or Recher Hall. Signing the Articles of Incorporation were: Dragotin Massokato, Mathew Debevec, Louis Hafner, Mike Ivanlic, John Bolden, Frank Bajt, George Novacic, Andrew Gail, A. Pezdor and Theodore Kircher. Louis E. Recher was also one of the co-founders of the Euclid Slovenian Society Home. The street that runs along the south side of the hall was named in his honor.
On January 23, 1925 the Tax Department indicated that there was $571 due in delinquent property taxes dating to the time the property belonged to the former Austria Lodge growing to $854 by February. Financial assistance came from the various lodges, each of which contributed $150 to meet the delinquent taxes and for necessary repairs to the building.
In 1926 again the future of the Home was at stake. Rumors had been circulated that the Home was for sale. A vote was taken by the Board and it was agreed by a 12 to 10 vote to retain the Home and make improvements. Cultural and civic affairs were centered in the Home, which brought to the attention of the public that perseverance and diligence to high ideals made possible such an outstanding center for events to all. Of great help to these cultural organizations and Slovenian homes were the newspaper Enakopravnost, American Home, Prosveta, and the Slovenian programs on radio, who gave space as well as editorials to many of these organizations in the early days.
The first mixed chorus had their first concert on May 30, 1920. Profit from this concert in the amount of $301 was donated to the hall. Another chorus under the name of “Zorislava” (Dawns Glory) was organized and had their first concert on March 26, 1927. The chorus existed six years under the direction of Peter Srnovrsnik. In 1927 another group was organized named “Adrija.” They performed many plays and concerts, but it, too, was short-lived.
A dramatic group was organized on October 18, 1930 under the name of Nasa Zvesda (Our Star), many members from the former “Adrija” became members. This group was directed for a time by Frank Cesen who was a board member in later years. The group presented many dramatic performances at the hall. In 1936, a men’s chorus named “Slovan” was organized and was the only male chorus at that time.
In 1939 the Board of Directors secured a loan from the Slovene Mutual Benefit Association (AMLA) in the amount of $10,000 to purchase land from James & Frances Rotter, John Lenak, and Frank Derdich and to expand the hall. In order to pay for these improvements, all lodge members began to sell shares in the Home at $10 each, which paid dividends to the shareholders.
In the 1940’s people were making changes in their way of life and the fraternal and cultural groups had lost ground. Members began to bypass sports, social and other events. The Board of Directors appointed a Building Committee to present to its members a request for the need of a new home. The old home was not very safe and had outlived its purpose.
In 1949, a decision was reached to build a new building and to purchase additional lots for parking. In order to raise funds for the erection of the building, shares were sold to various groups and to the public. Many individuals promoted various fund raising events to accumulate the much needed capital for this project. The Slovenian Society Home also secured a loan from the Slovenian National Benefit Society in the amount of $71,000 for this purpose. Architect Rudy Grosel was hired to draw up plans for this new building to include bowling alleys. The total cost of this building was estimated at $180,000, but later revised, eliminating the bowling alleys. The hall was increased by 5 feet making the cost about $150,000. The hall would seat between 350 to 425 people. Later the members of the home requested that balina courts be built where presently was a garden area. It eventually was approved and included in the plans by 1952. The Brown Construction Company was hired to build the new recreation hall. The loans to build this home and purchase of additional lots was fully paid by September 8, 1978
The Euclid Loyalites Lodge No. 158 SNPJ have been a part of the Slovenian Society Home since 1919. Napredek Lodge No. 132 became a member of the home on December 26, 1920. Klub Ljubljana, a social club, was organized in 1926 by 23 Slovene businessmen. Lodge Slovenski Dom No. 6 of AMLA was one of the founders. Singing Society “Zarja” came here on March 1, 1962. Circle 2 Jr. Chorus, SNPJ came in January 1963, and also sponsors two events annually. The early activities of Circle 2 were handcraft and bowling. They also sponsor a Button Box festival with continuous music for a full day.
The Slovenian Pensioners Club of Euclid was organized on March 3, 1961 at the Slovenian Society Home and continues to hold their meetings at the hall. The purpose of the club was to have a place for retirees to alleviate lonely hours by sponsoring lectures, social gatherings, outings and trips. Club 59’ers was organized in 1959 as well as Cleveland East Suburbanires Barbershop Singers.
The Euclid Veterans began at the Slovenian Society Home holding their first meeting on September 8, 1945. It began with six World War II combat veterans. They decided to meet at “Recher Hall” and invited all returning Euclid vets to share comradeship of fellow veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to unite together for the mutual benefit and welfare of the community. They became known as Euclid’s No. 1 charitable group. They eventually moved into their own home on East 260th Street formerly the Spanish Manor. An Honor Roll Plaque hangs on a wall in the Clubroom with the names of Euclid Veterans that served in WW II. The plaque was donated by the Board of Directors of the hall. all.
Beside the above mentioned clubs, the facilities of our Slovenian Society Home have been used by the following: Comrades No. 566 SNPJ; Lodge 604 Utopians SNPJ; Clairwoods No. 6 AMLA; Progressive Slovene Women of America Circle #3; Slovene Women’s Union Branch #8 and #14; Slovenian Men’s Club, Twirlettes , Slovenian Women’s Union; Club Drustev, Slovenian Sokols, The Euclid Squeezeboxers Button Box Club, Cleveland East Suburbanaires; Croatian Ladies Club; Croatian Pensioners Club; St. Nicholas CFU Club #47; Slovenian American Heritage Foundation; Slovenian American National Art Guild; American Zagreb Junior Tamboritzans; Local 707 IUE; and Worship Ministries.
The Ladies Auxiliary was founded on February 16, 1931. The first officers were Lucija Leskovec, Pres.; Mary Strekal, Vice Pres.; Mrs. Dorothy Zele, Secretary; Mary Misic, Treasurer; and Ursula Rotar, Recording Secretary. The Ladies Auxiliary cooked for many of the affairs held at this hall. In 1959 they started to have fish fries on Fridays and have continued to this past year 2003. All worked for their home labor-free. This group of women are responsible for modernizing all 3 kitchens, updating equipment and making generous donations. The Board of Directors would have been at a loss without their hard work and dedication to the Slovenian Society Home.
In 1942 Club Cards cost $1.00 each, but as expenses rose so did the cost of the Club Cards. They now cost $20 each, but anyone over 80 years of age is exempt from paying.
By 1975 John Terlep proposed an addition (35 ft. x 20 ft. or 12,000 sq. ft.) that would include an addition to expand kitchen facilities, new stage area and expand the main hall and Clubroom floor area. The Clubroom to include a dance area and band stand, and remodel the Clubroom. The plans also provided for two storage areas. The Sajovic Construction Company was contracted to build this addition at $65,000. Included in the plans were an expansion to the rear of the building that would include moving the stage back, lower the floor under the present stage in the upper hall, and expand the lower hall beneath the stage. This part of the plans were dropped.
Two years after the addition was built the lower hall and Clubroom were flooded with 8 ft. of water by a horrible rain storm. It was discovered that the main sewer lines were above the floor level of the lower hall causing water to backup into the hall.
The Slovenian Society Home is situated on about two acres on the western fringe of the City of Euclid. The property and facilities are located between Recher Avenue to the south, North Vine Avenue to the north, and bounded on the west by Ljubljana Drive. The building consists of 23,982 sq. ft. The facility includes a full complement of furnishings and equipment necessary for operation as a social hall and community center.
The basement lower hall contains a bar room, kitchen, club room with kitchen, storage rooms, the boiler room and multiple restrooms. The upper hall contains the stage, stage room, kitchen, meeting rooms, storage rooms, upper bar & annex, caretakers’ apartment and multiple restrooms. An office, conference room and stage storage room are located on the mezzanine floor.
On the north wall of the main reception hall hang two massive paintings of a man and woman each about 10 feet high, dressed in traditional Slovenian garb donated by PSWA Circle #3. West of the hall are three Balina courts, where club members’ play. During the summer the Clubroom sponsors Balina teams consisting of both men and women.
From the very beginning the Board of Directors sold shares in order to finance the various improvements and to cover other daily expenses. The C-Series shares sold for $10 each with dividends. In 1972 a change was made that changed the shares to D-Series certificates with no dividends at a cost of $4 each because the Home became a non-profit organization. In 2001 the cost of certificates rose to $10 each due to increase costs to maintain the Home. At one time we had about 800 certificate holders. There are 1,400 certificate holders on record as of 2015.
The Slovenian Society Home has hosted many special events. In 1941 there was a magnificent Euclid Slovenian Day in honor of poet, composer and musical director Ivan Zorman and the Home hosted a concert. In 1948 the Euclid Vets hosted President Truman and Frank J. Lausche, Governor of Ohio with programs and exhibits. Another was hosting then candidate for President, Jimmy Carter in September of 1976 along with Howard Metzenbaum, and Dennis Eckart, Ohio House of Representative. In 1977 the Progressive Slovene Women of America hosted a National Conference and Symposium to honor Louis Adamic. Hosted National SNPJ Days Banquet and Dance. Hosted bowling tournament banquets, and Balina tournaments. There have been Masquerade Balls, reverse raffles, dinner dances of various lodges, anniversary celebrations of various lodges, card parties, blood donation days, etc. People have reserved the hall on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays up to two years in advance for receptions, anniversaries and other special occasions. At one time more than 42 clubs used the hall as headquarters.