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Brockton, Massachusetts

Brockton currently houses a population of 90 000 but it was the world's main shoe manufacturing center in 1920-1935.

Like other industrial towns of the era, it attracted Lithuanians who even established their own district Lithuanian Village.

Moreover, Brockton has more memorials for Lithuanians who died for the Lithuanian freedom than any other comparable city of the USA (three in total, with the fourth one dedicated to Lithuanian World War 2 veterans).

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom in the Brockton Convent cemetery

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom in the Brockton Convent cemetery

Brockton also has a Lithuanian monastery and a cemetery.

Lithuanian village of Brockton

Lithuanian village was full of Lithuanian businesses: bakeries, shops, pharmacies, so much so that it was possible to live there without speaking English. To this day in internet forums, the inhabitants of Brockton remember it as one of the hearts of Brockton, while even the local media names it „Lithuanian village“, something rare in the USA where few districts are known officially or semi-officially as Lithuanian.

The center point of life there used to be the St. Casimir Lithuanian church (214 Ames St.). Originally established in the 19th century, it had its current main building built in 1957 over a 1914-constructed basement. This used to be a common way to build Lithuanian-American churches: expand them as more donations are received. The basement church even had a different name (St. Rocco). The priest used up the opportunity to change it by claiming that the church on top of the basement is, in fact, another church. In 1910 that basement church was the place where the Knights of Lithuania community was established. Under the slogan "For God and Motherland" it unites Lithuanian Americans from many states.

Brockton Lithuanian church

Brockton Lithuanian church

The church has been closed in 2008, however, and, in fact, the entire Lithuanian village gradually became non-Lithuanian even before that. The church building is now owned by a Black-majority church who acquired it for ~1 million USD (even though the property was valued at 3 million).

Next to the church, there still stands the largest and oldest of the Brockton‘s Monuments to those who died for the Lithuanian freedom. Erected soon after the Lithuania independence restoration in 1990 06 10, it consists of a red-white obelysk full of Lithuanian symbols (coat of arms, Columns of Gediminas and Cross of Vytis) as well as Lithuanian and English dedications. Some elements of the memorial have been, however, removed after the church was closed (including a metal sword). That‘s because the ground on which the monument stands has also been sold and the new owners may have destroyed the monument. Therefore, Lithuanian decided to move it elsewhere, but the monument proved to be too sturdy for that so they removed just some parts of the monument to a new monument in Avon suburb (see below). The fears that the monument would be destroyed were too far-fetched, however, as it still stands almost a decade later (although the flagpole is now devoid of Lithuanian flag).

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom near the Lithuanian church

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom near the Lithuanian church

The former Lithuanian village also has two more Lithuanian monuments, both reachable by a short walk from the church. One of them (also saved by the new owners of the nearby building where church‘s pastors used to live) is dedicated to Mssgr. Francis W. Strakauskas, a Lithuanian priest of the church, whose image appears on the memorial. It declares the area a Lithuanian Plaza. The second monument is dedicated to the Brockton Lithuanians who fought for the USA in World War 2. At the top of its surname list is Watslo W. Tukis (Vaclovas Tukis). A nearby playground is named Tukis playground after him.

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

Two more buildings in the Village still bears Lithuanian marks or names. One of them is The Lit pub, established in 1897 and closed in the 2010s after more than a century of service (the name remains). Another one is the St. Casimir Convent, which has a Lithuanian-styled sun-cross on top although is no longer serving its original purpose as a Lithuanian monastery.

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

In the past, the Lithuanian life of the Village was tremendous. Every Labour Day (First Monday of September) some 10 000 Lithuanians and non-Lithuanians used to come to Thatcher Street to a mass Lithuanian picnic. Such mass of people was used even by local politicians who would have come to tell their agendas. This tradition died out in some 1985 after the sale of alcohol and gambling was banned (there were attempts to reestablish it).

Many Lithuanians graduated from the local Parish school and nearby Franklin school. Community events (sport matches, gigs, picnics of surrounding Lithuanian parishes) used to be celebrated in Romuva park ("Romuva" means a Baltic pagan temple and is now used as a name for Baltic neo-pagan movement; in the time the park was established however it was likely not seen as a religious but rather as a historical/cultural name as evident by Christians using it). The park is now overgrown, however, and nothing reminds its Lithuanian history.

The once safe neighborhood is now inhabited by other ethnic groups and plagued by drugs and crime; more often than not it is referred to as "The Village" alone. Several generations old Lithuanian community however still remains in Brockton; some 2000 (1,4%) of town's inhabitants declared Lithuanian ancestry in 2000 census.

Brockton Lithuanian convent, cemetery and its monuments

Another historic heart of Brockton Lithuanian community is its massive Lithuanian convent, the motherhouse of one of several orders of Lithuanian nuns that were established in the USA by Lithuanian women. Once especially prominent and housing ~100 nuns, it has merely ~4 now as the popularity of Lithuanian monastic life has dwindled in the recent decades.

Dwindling in numbers, the nuns also scaled back their work. The Joseph Bakshis Lithuanian museum of the convent has been closed, although convent still includes Lithuanian memorabilia. The buildings are not having Lithuanian details from the outside, however.

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

The nearby St. Joseph manor was a home for elderly Lithuanians cared for by the nuns. It is still open, although has been transferred outside of the Lithuanian community. It still has a Lithuanian cross at the entrance.

St. Joseph manor entrance with a Lithuanian sun-cross in Brockton

St. Joseph manor entrance with a Lithuanian sun-cross in Brockton

The most interesting location in the convent area is the small Convent cemetery, which has an elaborate grave sculpture of priest Urbanavčiius, who was the founder of this order of the nuns. It also has many nun graves and another of the Brockton‘s memorials for those who died for Lithuanian freedom. This one is the smallest and simplest (a stone with Lithuanian coat of arms engraved on it), but it has a Lithuanian flag perpetually waving over it. The monument was built here after the St. Casimir church was closed, in fear that the memorial there would be removed or destroyed. A cemetery was chosen for the memorial‘s location because nothing that has been constructed at the cemetery could be demolished according to the Massachusetts state law.

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Lithuanian memorial at Avon

The third memorial to those who died for Lithuanian freedom has been constructed at the suburb of Avon (2011 North Street) near the St. Michael church where the believers from the St. Casimir Lithuanian church were expected to join after their church was closed.

The memorial is rather artful, incorporating the sword removed from the Lithuanian Village memorial.

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom in the Avon suburb

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom in the Avon suburb

The Avon St. Michael church also received various objects dear to Lithuanians from the old church (a stained glass window, sculptures), while some other things (e.g. pews) were donated to a new church in Tanzania.

 


Map of the Lithuanian sites

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination - America" expedition (click the link):

Map of Brockton Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map

Destination America team has visited Brockton, notable for being one of two US cities to have a district named after Lithuania (Lithuanian village), where, according to our local helper Marytė Bizinkauskas, only Lithuanians lived in her childhood era. Brockton also has 4 memorials for fallen Lithuanians!

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 23.

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America 2017 team together with Marytė Bizinkauskas, who shown us the Lithuanian places of Brockton

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America 2017 team together with Marytė Bizinkauskas, who shown us the Lithuanian places of Brockton

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  1. The Lithuanian Bar or better known as The Lit was NOT owned by a 75 year old woman. It owned by Vincent Kazaikaitis – How do i know this he was my Grandfather and my Mother Aldona Kazaikaitis was the day time bartender when i was growing up in The Village . My Grandfather sold the bar back in the 80’s to retire back in Lithuania where he ended up living the rest of his life and is buried in Mariampol, Lithuania.
    Im sure we can provide all documentations if needed as far as ownership and bill of sale

  2. Hi – in the article you note that Romuvos Parkas in Brockton is now somewhat neglected – what’s there now? Has it been built up at all over the years…? Thanks. Warren

    • It is an empty overgrown lot. There was discussion about a year ago of possibly turning the place into an indoor soccer field, with a second possible outdoor field. The hope is that it will become a site for soccer competitions. I have not heard or read of any updates regarding this possibility.

  3. everything my grandparents build and lithuanians friends ,is now gone

  4. Interesting………..I always thought Southie was the center of Boston’s Lithuanians.

    • In Boston – yes. Brockton is, however, another city in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, there were large Lithuanian communities in a number of cities/conurbations: Boston, Brockton, Worcester, Lawrence/Haverhill, Lowell, Athol, Gardner, and Westfield.

  5. fantastic story – I went to Franklin School and went to St Casimir’s. I remember Father Strakauskas as I made my First Communion there. Growing up in The Village was probably the best part of my life – it was a loving community. Brockton used to be a wonderful city.

  6. Wonderful article. I was brought up in the village and my parents owned a popular restaurant there called Marion lunch. I also attended Franklin school and received all my sacraments and was also married at st casimirs church. In fact my uncle Frank kukauskas donated the organ to the church.

    • Great memories! I was born and raised on Ames St.directly across the street from you. I was recently going thru some old photos ,and came across a picture of the kids in the neighborhood ,at your Birthday party. I remember eating lunch at your family restaurant. AWSOME! What a great area to grow up.
      Bob Lelland

    • What was your dad’s name? Did he live on Merton st at one point?

  7. Last of the Lithuanians? My story. I was concieved back in Lithuania, but was born at the Phaneuf Hospital 2 weeks after settling on Ames Street, Brockton. My father, Stasys, married my Prussian Mom, Gertrude. We became part of the Lithuanian Village, with other ethnic groups. My father became part of the old Franklin Club. He passed back in 1957, but we still recieved college scholarships many years after. My favorite memory was the Kilkus bakery and pizza at the Sandara Club. I didn’t speak full English until the 1st grade, just German and Lithuanian. Then, I took 5yrs of Latin in grade school! Tukis Playground provided us with baseball, basketball,winter sledding and ice skating. The Village today, is mostly a derelict empty ghetto. So sad!

    • Sandara Club!

      • Sandara Club! Yummiest Pizza Ever! Especially with onion & ground hot peppers on it. It seemed like every Friday, evening, our whole non-Lithuanian family went to the Sandara Club for Pizza. And by whole family, I mean parents, grandparents, a couple of aunts, uncles, cousin, and sometimes we would see friends who also went there for pizza and we all lived several towns away. Not sure how the family found the place, but I remember it well.

    • Love the memories. Pizza’s and the smell of fresh bread in the Kilkus bakery..I am of Polish decent. Gramma and grampa lived in Montello and had their own grocery store next door to their house on Maine street across from a leather factory. My Uncle married a beautiful Lithuanian girl my Aunt Helen. I think in those days that was a no no.. They had a most wonderful life and Aunt Helen is 93 doing well.

  8. What do you know of the Village Cemetery memorial now in Melrose Cemetery in Brockton? I was told this was relocated to Melrose along with the remains when the original Village Cemetery was raised. There are some 20 markets surrounding a larger granite block which at one time contained a brass plaque identifying the site. The plaque was stolen some time ago. Names on the markers include Alden, Packard, and Keith.

  9. In the early 1950’s my father would take me to what he called the Lithuanian section of Brockton. One thing I recall was a Lithuanian bakery with a wood fired oven. You could see inside the oven as you stood just inside the front door of the bakery. The bread made at this bakery was so good. The other thing I recall was the Brockton Trade High School. My father was a teacher at this school. Does anyone recall the address for the location of the Brockton Trade High School?

    • The Brockton Trade High School was in the basement of the Franklin School on Sawtelle Ave.

    • There was a bakery across the street from St Cashmires we would buy (we called it black bread )on Sunday’s. Hit snd crusty! Yum.. I wonder if anyone else remembers..

      • That was Duoba’s Bakery.

      • We remember it well! My brother would be entrusted every Tuesday with the money (I think it was $2) to bring home two dozen bagels (beronkes) after school. They were still hot from the oven, and he used to keep them next to his little chest so that he stayed warm and the butter would still melt when he got them home. And I remember REAL jelly donuts every Sunday morning after church. Most kids, nowadays have probably never had a REAL jelly donut.

      • I do not recall that specific bakery but I have wonderful memories of Kilkus bakery.

    • Was your father’s name Dave? If so, i knew him at brockton high school, and when he retired I replaced him as job placement coordinator. A really good guy. That was in 1981.

  10. My mothers name was Beatrice Rickabaugh she conceived out of wedlock in 1949. Anyone have any information? Thanks

  11. My sister Dana Kamoski and her familly lives in Brocton.
    Her husband Liudas and childrens .I want to find them .
    Lithuania .Thanks

    • Hi! There was A Dana Kamoski that lived in Brockton. She was married to Ed, and had four children. They raised the children in Scituate. Dana then moved to Marshfield. Dana is 81.

  12. My father, Matthew Peter Bubin, was born in The Village in 1907 to his immigrant parents, Ludwig Bubin(as) & Amelija Šlivinskaitė. I was not really exposed to my Lithuanian background because my father died during WWII and my mother was not Lithuanian. His mother moved to Rockland but died when I was a baby and his father was estranged from the family. Most of the extended family now lived all over the U.S.

  13. Hi, I grew up on arthur st,went to St. Casimir Lithuanian church every sunday had my Baptism and had my First Communion,went to casimir school for 5 years then went to franklin school ,my grandparents help each in other those days ,so sad what happened to the lithuanian village what lithuanian immigrates built

  14. My grandparents (Voveris) came to this country when they were very young teenagers., my grandfathers brother came here first and they all settled in the Village. I remember all the bakeries, the pizza, the fresh kelbasie. There was a small clothing store across from the glass house ( that’s what we called the Lit back in the day) and my grandmother would take me there. My best childhood memories are being with my grandparents and going to all these places in the Village, everyone knew everyone and it was a nice, safe place to grow up. Rumova Park, had such good times there, it was a big event every year. All of the family would get together every Sunday for dinner and all the cousins would play all day, such great memories. When I was younger I could speak a little Lithuanian and I understood every word, that’s all gone too, I just remember little words☺️

  15. BORN and RAISED IN BROCKTON.president of the first graduating class from the parish school 1953 taught by the beautiful wonderful SISTER OF JESUS CRUCIFIED and THE SORROWFUL MOTHER.PLAYED piano for our dance group SUKURYS. WE lived on SAWTELL AVE owned the market across from KNAPP SHOE.FIVE children graduated from the parish school.MEMORIES ABOUND. BETTY D. MIKE W AL S . THE drug store
    walking the RR tacks and the bridge at night with NO FEAR. FUN ARTICLE

  16. Is the Lithuanian Bar where the Sandara club was?
    I will never forget going to pick up
    A pizza there in the early 60s with my
    Grandfather Jurgis Laurinaitis. My
    Grandparents lived on Intervale St and I was
    Born at Phaneuf Hospital even though
    We lived in Jamaica Plain. Does the Sandara
    Building still exist? I hear there is
    Still fabulous pizza in Brockton.

  17. Monsignor Strakauskas always visited our classes at St. Casimir’s and his famous words were “read, read, read”. We received small pins of the Pope or saints for all the books we read. I grew up on Intervale Street right across from the Sandara Club.

  18. I remember the pizza and playing shuffleboard. ▶️

  19. The clothing store may have been Kassettas. She had a lot of cats, too, all over the place.

  20. My sister, who still owns our family place in the Village, says that the Village has improved IMMENSELY in the last decade. It has filled up with a wave of wonderful new immigrants, including many Cape Verdians, and that they are wonderful, friendly people. She says it has become much safer, and is again becoming a great place to live. And I have to admit, when I have visited, I have been amazed at how nice it has again become, and how friendly all the neighbors are. Things are really turning around there!

  21. A terrific article !! Went to the Franklin School, where I met my lifelong friends We have been together for 80 years. Unfortunately we are passing away . We all went to St. Casimirs church for first communion, Saturday School, confirmation. We girls all were married there also. Wallent’s Bakery, Dugeys and Zinkeys Stores were favorites along with others. It was a great place in my day !! Many great memories !!

  22. The convent that you mention is Our Lady of Sorrows for the Sisters Of Jesus Crucified order. The Convents Cemetery plots are on one side for the Sisters and the other side for those who donated for the Convents Building / Family of the Sisters. At one time they owned the land that Massasoit Community College


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