Cleveland Hostel

Hostel for Japanese Americans moving to Cleveland from the concentration camps. Sponsored by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the Cleveland Hostel operated from June 1943 to July 1945 and was one of many run by religious organizations in the resettlement period.

In Cleveland, the second most popular resettlement destination for Japanese Americans in the Midwest after Chicago , the Cleveland Resettlement Committee for Japanese Americans coordinated most activities and services organized for the arriving Japanese Americans. Its Housing Subcommittee worked with the American Baptist Home Mission Society in setting up the hostel, with the latter agreeing to sponsor the hostel for approximately $1,500 a month. The group rented a three-story house at 2429 Prospect Avenue that had been serving as a fraternity house at Fenn College (now a part of Cleveland State University). The furnished house located near the local YMCA headquarters could hold up to thirty people. Each room had a sink, with shared baths on each floor. Residents ate at a common table and all helped with housekeeping tasks. The nightly rate was the standard $1 for room and board, with the rate rising to $1.50 for those with a job and $2.00 after ten days, with children under ten paying half price. [1]

A young couple, Max (1918–90) and Ellen Franzen (1910–90), managed the Cleveland Hostel for the duration. Max was a conscientious objector. As in many places, Cleveland had an abundance of war work, but extremely limited housing for the many workers who moved to the area. As such the Cleveland Hostel had more demand than it could accommodate, requiring the creation of an application process that began in the concentration camps. Eventually, a set of priorities was created, that had remnants of family groups at the top (so that that families could be reunited) and single men at the bottom, given the availability of other housing for them. As with other hostels, the staff also often met arriving resettlers at the station, helped to locate long term housing as well as furniture and household items, and even made small loans to help with rent deposits or tuition. [2]

Given the demand, the organizers looked for a location for a second hostel specifically to serve families. But when the two-year lease to the original property ran out, they were unable to renew at an affordable price, and the hostel was forced to close on July 15, 1945. In total, the hostel served around 850 people over its two year life. After the closing of the hostel, the Franzens continued to work on resettlement with the Cleveland Church Federation before moving to Philadelphia to work with the International Institute. Both remained in Philadelphia for many years, even after their divorce in 1955. [3]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Linehan, Thomas M. "Japanese American Resettlement in Cleveland during and after World War II." Journal of Urban History 20.1 (Nov. 1993): 54-80.


  1. Thomas M. Linehan, "Japanese American Resettlement in Cleveland during and after World War II," Journal of Urban History 20.1 (Nov. 1993), 57–66; Tulean Dispatch , July 8, 1943, 1, 3.
  2. Linehan, "Japanese American Resettlement in Cleveland," 65–66; Rohwer Outpost , June 2, 1943, 3; Gila News-Courier , May 5, 1945, 5.
  3. Linehan, "Japanese American Resettlement in Cleveland," 65–66, 79n26; Manzanar Free Press , June 9, 1945, 3.

Last updated Dec. 16, 2023, 11:22 p.m..