Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide


By the time the first wave of Lithuanian immigrants reached the USA in their hundreds of thousands (late 19th century), Arizona was still a wild west wilderness, to receive statehood only in 1912.

Thus, Lithuanian history in Arizona began slowly and, in many cases, not by Lithuanian immigrants moving directly to Arizona but rather by Lithuanian-Americans who moved to Arizona from other places in the USA they immigrated to first (often, they were already quite assimilated).

Thus, while the total number of Lithuanians in Arizona slowly became rather significant (some 13000 in 2010, which makes it 15th among the 50 states), little Lithuanian heritage sites were created.

The major one was the Phoenix Lithuanian club, however, it had a rather sad story. Lithuanians build its building during four years between 1965 and 1969 but it served them barely as long. Financial problems and municipal demands for investments (fencing, paving of the property) forced to sell the clubhouse in 1973 to a Postal Workers Social Club, which still owns it. The building still stands, although only the single-floor section is original to the Lithuanian era. The club continued to exist as an institution even without building but ceased to exist in 2005.

The former Phoenix Lithuanian club (only the single-gloored front dates to the "Lithuanian era", according to local memories)

The former Phoenix Lithuanian club (only the single-gloored front dates to the "Lithuanian era", according to local memories)

While Arizona never had a Lithuanian church, there was a Lithuanian mission that was initially used to celebrate mass in a building owned by Lithuanian nuns. That building was demolished to make a way for a freeway in the 1970s, however, and Lithuanian priests only celebrated the mass at other churches since. The final of the Lithuanian priests assigned to the Arizona mission, quite interestingly, was archbishop Pau Marcinkus, who did a major career in the Vatican.

A more mysterious piece of Lithuanian heritage is the Valancius Way in Rimrock near Sedona. Valančius is a Lithuanian surname; however, this street is located on a hill in a „Wild West“ landscape and the surrounding street names are mostly related to Native Americans (Navajo, Smoke Signal, etc.).

So far, we have been unable to determine how and why the street received its name. Motiejus Valančius was an important Lithuanian priest and leader of the Lithuanian sobriety movement in the 19th century, however, he never visited the USA. It may be the street was named after him by Lithuanian-Americans, or it was named after some other Valančius, e.g. a Lithuanian-American who lived in the region. If you know more about its story, please write in the comments.

Valancius Way sign amidst "Wild West" vistas

Valancius Way sign amidst "Wild West" vistas

Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum has a rather significant section on traditional Lithuanian musical instruments, as the concept of this massive museum is that every country of the world is covered.

Lithuanian exhibits of the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum

Lithuanian exhibits of the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum

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