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Glenville’s Morison Avenue Russian Turkish Bath House and Mikvah
Gail Greenberg


At a time in its early history when population density exceeded bathing facilities, the City of Cleveland from 1904-1954 operated free year-round public bath houses.  With a huge immigration influx in the 1890s, neighborhoods were densely populated and people didn’t have plumbing or running water.  Residents who did have access to tubs reportedly used them for coal bins or storage, because they lacked money for the extra coal needed to heat bath water.

Public showers were first made available to patrons of the Hiram House settlement.  City officials and other concerned citizens advocated for placing public baths throughout the city.  Mayor Tom Johnson, who served from 1901 to 1909, saw crowded tenement housing not only as a public health issue, but as a moral obligation to help the poor.  One councilman, Frederic C. Howe was appalled to find that a district with a population numbering 4,500 had only eight buildings with any bathing facilities. 

In 1904, the first city-operated bath house opened on Orange Avenue, near the edge of the industrial valley, attracting more than 113,000 people during its first year.  From the very first day of its opening, attendance was described as “highly gratifying.”  People of all nationalities availed themselves of its services.

This three-story facility contained private and open bath and shower rooms, a gymnasium, and laundry.  Clubs and sports classes met there as well.  Cost of a bath or shower was $.02, and included soap and a towel.  Seven other similar facilities soon followed, including Broadway (1906) and Clark Avenue (1908).  By 1908, there were about a half dozen bath houses in the city, some of them with gymnasiums and indoor pools.  By 1929, only two of the facilities were used exclusively for bathing.

“Shvitz”, Sleeping Rooms, Meals and Mikvah

In 1925, The Morison Avenue Russian-Turkish Bath House (also known as the Jewish Communal Bath Building and mikvah) opened. Designed by Meyer Altshuld, an active Cleveland architect from 1914 to 1951, the Morison Avenue Bath House was located at 10606 Morison Avenue in the Glenville neighborhood. As reported in the May 22, 1925 issue of The Jewish Independent, the building’s dedication was planned for Sunday afternoon, May 24. The building was the first and only Jewish communal bath built by an Orthodox Jewish community in the United States. A feature of the opening ceremonies was the consecration of the individual ritual baths, following the initial consecrating ceremonies.

Scheduled speakers at the opening were: Rabbi H. F. Epstein of the Chebas Jerusalem Congregation; Dr. Philip Rosenberg, newly-elected rabbi of the Knesseth Israel Congregation; Rabbi Pelkowitz of Canton, OH; Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue of New York; and Dr. Leo Jung of the Jewish Center, NY; and Rabbi Porath, eminent rabbi of Jerusalem whose speech would be in English. Dr. Leo Jung started the movement for the communal bath, just before leaving Cleveland to take charge of the Jewish Center in New York.

Officers of the Jewish Communal Bath Association were: Rabbi H. F. Epstein, honorary chairman and advisor; Isaac Feigenbaum, president; Mr. Marcus, vice-president; M.H. Thorn, treasurer; and Herman Cohen, secretary. Building committee members were: Rabbi Epstein; Max Sabul; J. Schiff; L. Bialosky; Sam Cohen; M. Finesilver; M. Bruder; Mr. Gordon; Max Baer, superintendent; and Sam Glaser, chairman. Ladies’ Auxiliary officers were: Mrs. Schiff, chairman; Mrs. J. Kleinman, vice-chairman; Mrs. M. Freedman, treasurer; and Mrs. M.H. Thorn, secretary.

As announced in The Jewish Independent display advertisement on June 26, 1925, shown below, the Russian-Turkish Baths “are a pleasure for young and old.” “Fine meals served in our modern dining room.” The mikvah was open daily (except Shabbos) from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Russian-Turkish baths for women were available on Wednesdays.

In addition to the baths, the building was equipped with “fifty modern well-furnished bedrooms”, a swimming pool and restrooms with dressing parlors. There was a separate ladies’ department, complete in every detail. The interior was finished in various tiles and marble. The heating system was installed by the Bobier Plumbing & Heating Co.; electrical work, the Gradis Electric Co.; tinning by Reliable Tinning & Furnace Co.; marble work by the Empire Marble Works; plumbing by R. Bunowitz & Co.; painting and decorating by I. Furman; sign painting by Lincoln Sign Co. Towels and linens were supplied by the Independent Towel Supply Co.

Architect - Meyer Altshuld

Meyer Altshuld (1878-1960) was Polish-born, Yiddish speaking, and came to the United States in 1904. He was active as a Cleveland architect from 1914 to 1951. He is listed as a carpenter in city directories beginning in 1909. Originally he lived in the Central neighborhood, moving to 10914 Grantwood Avenue in Glenville, and maintained an office at 750 Prospect. He designed Knesseth Israel Synagogue – 934 East 105th Street – now the Apostolic Faith Tabernacle Church and N’vai Zedek Synagogue – 11901 Union Avenue – now the Second Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. Knesseth Israel, first formed in 1887, purchased the property at 936 East 105th in 1920. The current structure was built in 1922. The congregation merged with Taylor Rd in 1955, however, services continued at this location for several years. The building was acquired by the Apostolic Faith Tabernacle in 1959 and continues to hold regular prayer services. The Second Tabernacle Baptist Church building includes a mikvah (ritual bath) behind the bimah or altar that is now used for baptismal ceremonies. Altshuld was also the architect of several apartment buildings and private residences in the city and Shaker Heights. He last appears in the 1951 Cleveland City Directory. He died in Baltimore, Maryland.


“There was always a mikveh in Cleveland,” according to Gerald Spero, first president of the Cleveland Mikveh Association, as reported in a Cleveland Jewish News feature article on March 22, 1991. The Morison Avenue Bath House preceded the community mikveh located on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Although a mikveh is used strictly for ritual purification, having it in the bath house was for practical reasons. The building, which already contained a ritual pool, was owned by Cleveland butcher Nathan Gordon. Gordon and his wife, Rose (nee Wasserman) managed the bath house for thirty years. “The bath house was profitable,” noted Spero, continuing, “Gordon kept the mikveh open out of the goodness of his heart.” Money for necessities and upkeep, as well as the eastward exodus of Cleveland’s Jewish community resulted in the building of the mikveh on Lee Road. That building was completed in 1953. Due to its age and disrepair, it closed in 1997.

By mid-century, as Cleveland moved into the modern era, and more workers lived with indoor plumbing, most of the bathhouses were razed or converted into other uses. The Morison Avenue Communal Baths and Mikvah was acquired by the Progressive Baptist Association in 1954. City of Cleveland Zoning and Planning records indicated a sign in the front of the building reading Progressive Memorial Home. Today, the building is now the home of the Morison Avenue Missionary Baptist Church. In spite of whatever exterior changes or adaptations may have been made to the original structure and its design, for the congregation’s contemporary Christian worship, evidence of the building as a local Jewish sacred landmark of worship is clearly visible on the front face. Although there is no appearance of any Star of David detail or other featured Jewish symbols, two cornerstones within the front’s right and left brick walls – one in Hebrew and the other in English – identify the building as “The Jewish Communal Bath Assn. Erect. 1925.”

Bath House 1950
Source  Cleveland Memory at CSU

Bath House 2020
Source  Gail Greenberg

Hebrew stone reads "Immersion house/of the city of Cleveland/built in 5685"
Images: Gail Greenberg


The Morison Avenue Bath House opens - June 26, 1925

The Jewish Independent of June 26, 1925 announced the opening of the bath house.

Half-page advertisement.

The description of the facility and services which include baths, massages, ritual baths for women, and meals.


A Memory of the Morison Avenue Shvitz

Nate Arnold, local Jewish historian and “Old Jewish Cleveland” tour guide, shared highlights of going to the Morison Avenue shvitz as a boy of ten or eleven, with his father Irving. Nate also recalled Hersch (Harry) and Leah Sogolovitz, his great-great grandparents, who were from Lithuania. Hersch was reported to have been the manager of the Orange Avenue Bath House.

"The Morison Avenue bath house had multiple levels. One room was a multi-level room and there were steps upward. Wrapped in a sheet, you ascended the steps.  The higher up you went the hotter the steam.  You shvitzed (sweated) from every pore!Next, you were lathered top to bottom with soap and then the attendant whipped you with grape leaves.  Afterward, you jumped into an ice cold pool, sealing those pores and leaving you clean, clean, clean! 

Then, you were given a Turkish towel and a sheet to wrap around yourself.  If you chose, you could go into one of the sleeping rooms or get a rub down with mineral oil to rehydrate your skin.

Later you feasted on a cut-to-order steak rubbed in garlic with grilled onions, whose thickness varied by request.  Steaks were served on a plank with a baked potato and a cold beer. The evening typically concluded with poker or another game of cards. You didn’t dress until it was time to go home. The men lost track of time, as their wives stood outside waiting and yelling for their husbands to come home. It was an experience in itself!"

                 Three Buildings by Meyer Altshuld             

Knesseth Israel Synagogue
 934 East 105th Street

Morison Avenue Bath House
10606 Morison Avenue

N’vai Zedek Synagogue
11901 Union Avenue

Images: Gail Greenberg

(Links to other sites will open in a new window.)

Advertisement, “Morison Ave. Russian Turkish Bath House” — The Jewish Independent, June 26, 1925.

Arnold, Nathan.  Personal Communication.  March 26 and March 28, 2020.

"Cornerstone of Jewish Community Bath Building to Be Laid Sunday" — The Jewish Independent, November 21, 1924.

“Free Bath House” — The Jewish Review and Observer, April 13, 1906.

"Jewish Communal Bath Building to be Dedicated" —The Jewish Independent, May 22, 1925.

"Morison Avenue Bath House Open" — The Jewish Independent, July 3, 1925.

Oster, Marcy. “The Cleveland Community Mikveh: rich history of the local ritual pool.” Cleveland Jewish News. March 22, 1991.


Gail Greenberg, MSEd. is an educator and library media specialist whose teaching experience includes public and private Jewish day and community schools, adult education, and professional development seminars. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at Cleveland State University in the Office of Field Services, supervising pre-service teachers. She is also a volunteer docent at The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. She has published on Cleveland Historical. For her earlier contribution on this website see Building The Temple in University Circle


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