Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

United States of America

According to the US census of 2001, there are some 700 000 Lithuanian-Americans. This is the largest Lithuanian community outside Lithuania and the most important one. There is much Lithuanian heritage in the USA, especially in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and the industrial cities of the Midwest.

Lithuanians settled in the USA in three separate eras, so-called "waves". The first wave arrived in the late 19th century (when Lithuania was occupied and discriminated by Russian Empire). Some 300 000 Lithuanian peasants left their agricultural lives for workplaces in Pennsylvanian mines, slaughterhouses of Chicago and factories in other major cities. Speaking little English they formed their own districts and communities, founded Lithuanian newspapers and orchestras, funded extremely lavish churches (for their humble lifestyle) and now lay in cemeteries covered by massive tombstones.The first wave was curbed by the limits on immigration imposed in 1908 by the US government but its legacy continued.

The first wave Lithuanian-Americans campaign for the liberty of Lithuania in the 1910s. Some of them returned after 1918 independence to help their homeland get on its feet.

The second wave came after World War 2. People who managed to escape the Soviet regime were finally able to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Germany in some 1948. The USA welcomed up to 100 000 of them, never having recognized the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. These refugees were primarily intellectuals, artists, and the elite. Feeling to have been forced from their homeland rather than leaving it due to economical reasons they were/are very patriotic, taking part in various Lithuanian groups and social gatherings, Lithuanian churches being among the most important. Even many people born in the USA to such Lithuanian parents are more attached to Lithuania than to their new homeland. The massive second wave of immigrants fought hard to advance the Lithuanian cause and established an entire nation of Lithuania-in-exile, with its government in Washington, DC and all the necessary institutions. Their tireless work contributed to the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990. This event came just at the time when time started to take its toll on the second wave Lithuanian-American communities. However many were still in good health in the 1990s and some left their comfortable American lives for restored free Lithuania using their experience and money to help rebuild their homeland after decades of Soviet misrule. Among these returnees was president Valdas Adamkus (1998-2009), two presidential candidates and multiple businessmen. In a sense, this helped to make Lithuania of the late 1990s more American than European in various ways.

Lithuanians DPs in a ship which moves them from refugee camps in Germany to a new world (left image). They later established cohesive communities, such as the one centered around this new (1950s) Nativity BVM church in Marquette Park, Chicago (right image).

The third wave immigrated after the restoration of independence opened the borders yet again. The reasons for migration were economical as years of Soviet rule left Lithuanian economy shattered. At one time some half of Lithuanian US tourist visa holders would not return home. After Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004 this migration diminished as more people opted for Western Europe instead. Third wave immigrants are generally less attached to their native culture than the previous waves. Influenced by long Soviet state atheism they are also less religious. They failed to replenish Lithuanian churches and therefore American dioceses went on to Lithuanian church closure and demolition spree in the 2000s. The number of people that consider Lithuanian culture important also decrease as the older generations pass away. Some of the things you can see today may no longer be there after a couple of years, so be quick.

Mini-museum of Lithuania at St. Anthony church in Detroit (closed 2013). Old Lithuanian American parishes, clubs, and other institutions typically include memorabilia such as Lithuanian flags, emblems, anthem texts, ethnic clothes, religious symbols, historical and modern images, names of important people and freedom fighters. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Chicago is regarded to be the capital of Lithuanian Americans. There were several Lithuanian neighborhoods and two streets are still named after Lithuania. Lithuanians constructed many churches, the most elaborate being Holy Cross in the Back of the Yards (1913). There are two extensive Lithuanian cemeteries: the Roman Catholic St. Casimir and multidenominational Lithuanian National Cemetary. Several monuments and plaques exist, the most famous being the memorial for pilots S. Darius and S. Girėnas, the first Lithuanians to perform a transatlantic flight. The world's oldest Lithuanian language newspaper Draugas is published in Chicago since 1909. There are opportunities for tasting Lithuanian dishes (even though they are less common than in the 1990s or before). You may also visit the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian culture, the only such institution outside Lithuania.

The rule of the thumb is that in every city that used to be major in early 20th century exist be Lithuanian communities and heritage, primarily churches and cemeteries. This can be said about Cleveland and Detroit near the Great Lakes as well as Boston, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia on the Eastern coast. Los Angeles is the only city in the west to have a sizeable Lithuanian community (and a church). Ater all the America's West was much less populated at the time of second and especially the first waves of Lithuanian immigration.

Pennsylvania has a large population of Lithuanians in its small Coal Region towns, in some places exceeding 10%. Shenandoah used to be called Vilnius of America. Here you may also find Lithuanian churches and cemeteries (unfortunately many churches, such as the 19th century one in Shenandoah, were condemned to demolition or are no longer used for religious purposes). Lake Kasulaitis in Pennsylvania is a rare Lithuanian toponym on the American continent.

Washington DC has a Lithuanian embassy that served like a shadow government in the years of Soviet occupation.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: USA 2 Comments

Chicago, Illinois

Home to some 80 000 Lithuanians Illinois is perhaps the second important center of Lithuanian nation after Lithuania itself. Lithuanians are nothing new to Chicago, having worked side-by-side with Germans, Poles and the Irish in its massive slaughterhouses as early as late 19th century. Between 1890s and 1930s there were more Lithuanians in Chicago than in any town or city of their still agricultural former homeland. Chicago Lithuanian numbers increased rapidly from 14 000 in 1900 to 80 000 in 1924.

After earning enough money some Lithuanians went back to Europe yet others remained, starting influential families. Elaborate churches were built, Lithuanian restaurants, shops, cultural institutions and media opened. The center of Lithuanian settlement gradually moved: from Bridgeport and Back of the Yards (in 1900s - 1910s) to Marquette Park (in 1950s). After Marquette Park was overtaken by Blacks there is no longer a Lithuanian district in Chicago, but a community center exists in the Lemont suburb.

Sadly, Lituanity in Illinois seems to be somewhat on decline. In 1990s - 2000s several Lithuanian churches were demolished or no longer celebrate Mass in Lithuanian. The older generation of Lithuanians ("second-wave immigrants") pass away, and the third wave fails to replenish Lituanity. Many decades-old Lithuanian restaurants and diners closed down, leaving Marquette Park neighborhood without Lithuanian food for the first time.

Back of the Yards Lithuanian heritage

The prettiest of Chicago's Lithuanian churches is the Baroque revival Holy Cross in Back of the Yards. Built by the original community of slaughterhouse workers in 1913 the elaborate church once anchored a district full of Lithuanian homes and institutions. With immigrants from Latin America displacing Lithuanians the parish was abolished in 1970s and the Lithuanian Mass ceased to be celebrated in ~2005. Condition of the building deterioriated as now only the Sunday Mass is held (in Spanish). Plaque "Lietuvių Rymo katalikų bažnyčia" remains near the entrance ("Lithuanian Roman Catholic church" in pre-modern Lithuanian language when "Rome" was still called "Rymas"), as do the vaults depicting scenes from both Lithuanian and American history.

Holy Cross Lithuanian church and its pre-modern Lithuanian language plaque. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The life of Lithuanian butchers of the era is described in the fictionalized account "Jungle" by journalist Upton Sinclair still held to be of great importance to Chicago history. It was in these slaughterhouses where the industrial might of the Chicago was born. For the first time the animals were slaughtered in a single city only to be sold in far away places like New York or Boston. Prior to this "to buy meat" meant "to visit a local butcher", something changed for good by the Chicago's businessmen and countless immigrants from thousands of cities and towns around Europe (the number of Lithuanian butchers was only surpassed by Poles).

Bridgeport Lithuanian heritage

Bridgeport was once outflanked by a beautiful massive tower of 1902 Gothic revival St. George Lithuanian church. It was the oldest Lithuanian parish in Chicago (and, in fact, west of the Appalachians). Unfortunately by bishop's decision the church was demolished in 1990 and replaced by a modern building, after donating the church's works of art and furniture to a parish in the recently-independent Lithuania. The riches of the fading emigre were thus symbolically repatriated.

The nearby former 3-floored parish school (1908), declared by to be the "best Lithuanian school in America" by an 1916 Lithuanian-American almanach, still stands although is a non-Lithuanian Philip Armour school (but the plaque "MOKYKLA ŠV. JURGIO K." (St. George C. school) still remains on top). In 1916 it had 450 pupils and a parish hall with 1500 seats (the parish was among the US richest Lithuanian parishes).

Bridgeport St. George Lithuanian church (demolished; left and center), its parish school (top right) and rectory (bottom right).

Bridgeoport also had a 1000-seat Lithuanian theater Milda (est. 1914) that has been also demolished in the same period after a long decline. Another theater "Ramova" still stands albeit closed (3518 S. Halsted Street) with a movement to save it. The name is Lithuanian but the crumbling decor is Spanish.

Bridgeport Ramova theater with its crumbling Lithuanian sign meaning 'Pagan temple'. Google Street View.

A street in Bridgeport is still named Lituanica Avenue. Lithuanian pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas left for their doomed flight from the St. George church there. They became instant martyrs in 1933 when after flying across the Atlantic ocean their plane "Lituanica" crashed in what is now Poland, only several hundred kilometers from destination Kaunas. S. Darius and S. Girėnas were also worldwide pioneers of air mail and their continuous flight time was the second largest ever at the time (6 411 km).

The two pilots who perished while trying to make Lithuania's name famous are still the key figures for the Lithuanian-American community. In 1993 a plaque was unveiled for them in Midway Airport which happens to be at the center of various past and present Lithuanian districts. In 2008 this plaque was reinstated after reconstruction through titanious efforts of some Lithuanians.

Marquette Park Lithuanian heritage

Main historical monument for S. Darius and S. Girėnas stands at the northeastern corner of Marquette Park. The unveiling of this art deco sculpture in 1935 was attended by 60 000 people. The anniversaries of their "glorious but doomed" flight are still celebrated annually there, even if drawing only 100 people. By the way, S. Darius, a lover of sport and Olympic participant, is also credited for writing one of the first books on basketball in Lithuanian (in 1922), making foundations for this American invention to become Lithuania's national

Darius and Girėnas monument on the Marquette Park corner. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

It was east of Marquette Park where post-WW2 Lithuanian community has developed, after the old immigrants were joined by the "second wave" of refugees fleeing from almost certain deaths in their Soviet-occupied country. Coming from intellectual backgrounds these refugees created a well crafted and rich community, centered around Lithuania Plaza street. In its heyday Marquette Park area housed 30 000 Lithuanians (out of total population of 45 000).

Lithuanian church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) in Lithuanian Plaza Road. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

A large 1957 Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) towers over the district. It combines post-war architectural austerity with pre-war size and historicist details. Initially criticized this joint work of architect Jonas Mulokas and interior designer V. K. Jonynas was eventually praised and set the style for later Lithuanian American churches. Lithuanian Mass is still celebrated there and everything tells of the longing for their lost homeland. The tricolor is always waving and patriotic historical mosaics, such as "The coronation of King Mindaugas" adorn the walls. External Bas-reliefs represent the sites of Lithuanian Maryan visions and internal stained glass windows show the religiously important Lithuanian towns.

Corronation of Mindaugas mosaic on the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) church exterior. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The district itself, however, is now populated by blacks who started moving in in the 1970s displacing the Lithuanians. Some buildings are now abandoned, but in Lithuanian Plaza Avenue (named so in 1970) you may still see crumbling Lithuania-inspired tricolor and Vytis decor. The last Lithuanian restaurants have been closed in ~2007. There was Antano Kampas, for example, its premises now searching for a new tenant. Several years old maps still have "Gintaras Club" marked. Even this was already only a shade of the original community which had many businesses and cultural institutions in extensive area between 63rd st., 73rd st., Western Avenue and California Avenue.

Lithuanian architectural details in Lithuanian Plaza Road. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

This district also boasts a St. Casimir Convent that keeps exceptional relations with Lithuania. A neighboring street is called "Honorary Maria Kaupas road" after the 1880-born Lithuanian woman who established the convent. The Casimir sisters were also instrumental in building a large Holy Cross hospital nearby.

West of the Marquette park there is other important Lithuanian heritage. Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture established in 1966 is the largest such institution outside Lithuania (South Pulaski Rd. 6500). The "Draugas" ("Friend") publishing house building is home to the oldest continuously published Lithuanian language newspaper (first edition in 1909). Aimed at Lithuanian Americans it used to be daily until 2011 and now is issued three times a week with circulation halved since 1960s. Unlike non-Lithuanian-owned "Čikagos Aidas" ("Echo of Chicago") "Draugas" publishes solely its own material on its website.

Entrance to Balzekas Museum. The local road is named Honorary Stanley Balzekas Road. Google Street View.

Another massive key Lithuanian hub in Chicago is Lithuanian Jesuit Youth Center (5620 S Claremont Avenue, ~3 km north of the Marquette Park). This is yet another Cold War-era institution (built 1958) funded by Lithuanian diaspora desperately trying to help their culture survive for the generations to come (even as a minority). Lithuania-themed activities/education for children and teenagers had been its goal. The massive building complex uses patriotic architecture with a large modernized Vytis forming its façade Given the Catholic nature of the institution there is also a chapel and a traditional wooden cross. While Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and religion was persecuted there Lithuanian Jesuit province was effectively based here in Chicago.

The Lithuanian Jesuit Youth Center houses a multitude of other Lithuanian institutions, amalgamated in 1981 to form the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, which is the largest Lithuanian scholarly organization outside of Lithuania. It includes the World Lithuanian Archives and numerous other related archives (musicology, medicine, photo, audio-visual, fine art), which are the best repository of Lithuanian American works but also include works by other Lithuanians. The scholarly wing (responsible for studies, education and publishing) consists of the Institute of Lithuanian studies, Center for the Study of Genocide in Lithuania and Lithuanian Institute of Education. Furthermore the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center owns three museums: Ramovėnai Lithuanian Military Museum, Lithuanian Museum and the Lithuanian Museum of Medicine.

The main entrance of the Lithuanian Youth center with Lithuanian coat of arms Vytis. Google Street View.

While today the Lithuanian nation is predominantly Catholic prior to World War 2 up to 15% of ethnic Lithuanians were Lutheran. These people hailed from Lithuania Minor region of what was then Germany. Tragically they were wiped off almost completely by the Soviets in the Genocide of Lithuania Minor (1944-1949). Two Lithuanian Lutheran communities of the 1910s, however, exist in Chicago centered around their modest churches not too far from the Marquette Park. On a walking distance north of the park stands a former historic Lithuanian Lutheran church, now sold to a Black-dominated Heart Church Ministries church. The more modern Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church further away is still open, as is the Tėviškė (Homeland) Lithuanian church at 5129 Wolf Road, Western Springs.

While small a Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church (9000 Menard Avenue) shows that Lithuanian community in Chicagoland is large and colorful enough to even have a minority-within-minority. Google Street View.

Pilsen Lithuanian heritage

Back in the 1920s, Chicago had 11 Lithuanian Catholic parishes, each of them centering a Lithuanian community. One of the Chicago districts - Pilsen (north of Bridgeport) - even had two Lithuanian churches at once.

The church of Providence of God (1927) is the closest Lithuanian church to downtown (since the 1960s, the district population was replaced by Hispanics and the Mass is now celebrated in English and Spanish). It has been founded by St. George parishioners from Bridgeport.

Providence of God church no longer dominates the panorama as much after the highways were constructed. Google Street View.

Pilsen's 2nd Lithuanian church was a more modest Our Lady of Vilna church (2327 W 23rd Place), now closed. The two-floored residential-like building used to host the church in the main floor and a parish school above it. The parish name now remains only in the relocated St Paul-Our Lady of Vilna school (closed 2013). Chicago Sun Times reported an interesting story in 2013 of scrapyard worker noticing Lithuanian inscription on a bell and the diocese requiring it. It turns out this bell has disappeared from Our Lady of Vilna site after closure; it will now call the residents of Tinley Park suburb to prayer, thus itself completing a migration that so many did before: from the inner city to suburbs and from ethnic culture to "United American" culture. The inscription on the bell reads (reminding that Lithuania of 1900s-1918s was still under the rule of Russian Empire and giving reasons why Lithuanians migrated to Chicago so eagerly): "Bell, little bell, sorrowfully ring and proclaim the Miraculous Madonna of the Gate of Dawn in Lithuania, where our enemies suppress us. Our oppressed fellow countrymen are comforted. Call us to prayer, to the Church, in her name, so that we may feel a part of God’s flock. Call us three times daily, without fail, and the deceased lead with your sound. From this day forward, speak to the living, and accompany the dead to the cemetery".

Brighton Park and Cicero Lithuanian heritage

Brighton Park district west of former stockyards is now also largely Hispanic but its modernist Lithuanian Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (built in 1964, 2745 W. 44th St.) still offers Lithuanian Mass. The parish dates to 1914 but like some other churches, this one was rebuilt post-WW2 to accommodate a major influx of Lithuanian refugees.

Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary includes secular institutions as well. Google Street View.

Brighton Park also had a Darius-Girėnas American Legion post 271, comprised mostly of ethnic Lithuanians. The post has sold its rather large building (corner of W 44th and S Western Ave) that once hosted many Lithuanian events and now meets at various locations. The post's former building is used as the "Way church".

On the W 43rd (near S Western Ave) stands a small building belonging to the Lithuanian Rifleman Union (Šaulių sąjunga). This patriotic paramilitary organization used to be especially important in interwar Lithuania and then banned by Soviets (its members persecuted or killed). Like was the case with many such organizations, the survivors who fled Lithuania continued its existence in the USA. After independence Rifleman Union was reestablished in Lithuania as well but it didn't reach the pre-war glory.

Lithuanian Rifleman Union building at Brighton Park, covered in the Cross of Jogaila and Columns of Gediminas patriotic symbols. Google Street View.

Further west from the downtown Cicero has a massive St. Anthony Lithuanian church and school. Lithuanian, English and Spanish mas is now offered and only the US flag waves.

Romance Revival St. Anthony church in Cicero is among the more impressive Lithuanian churches in America. Massive parish school and other buildings are behind. Google Street View.

Historic St. Anthony parish school, boasting a massive old Lithuanian plaque, is an example of how old and well entrenched the Lithuanian community of Chicago is. Google Street View.

Chicago far southside Lithuanian heritage

The Chicago district further south are currently nearly completely inhabited by Blacks. There have been Lithuanian districts there but they collapsed even earlier (most churches closed in 1985-1990 when most Lithuanians left).

South Chicago area is only 1,92% White. Its small single-floored St. Joseph Lithuanian church (8801 S Saginaw) has been closed in 1986, now used as part of McKinley public school (itself built in 1953 as parish school). A former priest's house stands next, it is older and more interesting; the priest used to have an animal sanctuary between the buildings.

Former St. Joseph Lithuanian church is an example of the south Chicago's small Lithuanian parishes. Google Street View.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church of Chicago Heights (283 E 14th Street) suffered a similar fate (closed 1987). It looks like a century-old residential. Its two floors used to house a school as well as a church and just like on Holy Cross the former fashion to inscribe institution names on stone led to the survival of its Lithuanian name. Empty lots are now all around the building.

All Saints Lithuanian church in Roseland (0,42% White district today) with art nouveau inspired nice semi-open metal tower has been sold to the Baptists in 1989 (a more popular faith among Blacks than Catholicism). The survival of the church still is not easy at it has been robbed numerous times recently.

All Saints Lithuanian church in Roseland. The tower looks similar to the Nativity BVM church in Marquette Park. All Saints was designed by Stasys Kudokas, an architect that took part in shaping interwar Kaunas modernism before taking refuge in America. Google Street view.

The only area's Lithuanian church to remain in Catholic use is St. Peter and Paul church in West Pullman (12433 S Halsted St). The building modernist with some gothic inspirations (built 1959). The parish has been established in 1913 and celebrated centenary in 2013 but it has nothing to do with Lithuanians today. West Pullman is only 0,56% White and the Lithuanian share is now negligible. Pullman was once famous for its world-class factory of railway carriages. Modern Far South Chicago, however differs from that of 1900-1915 (when most Lithuanian parishes were established) like day and night. The industry collapsed ~1970, the ethnic groups are also all different.

Lithuanian cemeteries in southern Chicago

Deceased Lithuanians used to be buried in Lithuanian cemeteries since well before World War 1. St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery was established in 1903 at the extreme south of Chicago. The entrance plaque "Lithuanian Cemetery" was removed in 1997. This is not the first such move - in 1965 Cardinal Cody removed the word "Lithuanian" from the cemetery's official name, leading to mass demonstrations of post-war Lithuanian refugees. This is one of many similar episodes in the history of Lithuanian Chicagoans. E.g. in 1972 local Lithuanians chartered a plane to Rome in order to protest in St. Peter square against the presenting of first Holy Communion to Lithuanian children in the English language.

Latin Americans (today the largest Catholic community of Chicago) now have joined Lithuanians in the St. Casimir Cemetery rows. Yet the massive Lithuanian gravestones, built throughout eight previous decades, far outflank small American plaques. It seems that entire major city is buried here and everywhere the surnames are Lithuanian, some of them shortened or spelled in English. Among those interred is the Lithuanian general Povilas Plechavičius who moved to the USA as a refugee in 1949. There is a monument to Romas Kalanta who self- immolated in Kaunas to protest against the Soviet occupation. It was built the same year in 1972 by sculptor Ramojus Mazoliauskas.

Romas Kalanta monument in the St. Casimir cemetery. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Another Lithuanian cemetery is next to a small forest outside the official borders of Chicago. This is the multi-denominational Lithuanian National Cemetery and the word "Lithuanian" remains in the official name. It was established in 1911 when a local priest refused to bury Lithuanians who did not actively participated in Lithuanian communities in the St. Casimir Cemetery. There are some 2500 graves. Among those buried here is the 1925-1926 President of Lithuania Kazys Grinius (the remains were repatriated in 1994 but the gravestone remains). Art deco buildings are pretty.

Art deco pavillion at the Lithuanian National Cemetery. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lemont and the modern Lithuanian community

Further southwest lies the modern heart of the Chicago Lithuanian community. After the disintegration of Marquette Park there are no longer any district where Lithuanians would make more than a few percent of the population. But in the automobile-loving USA driving 10 or 20 km is no obstacle. In 1987 the "Lithuanian World Center" was opened in Lemont suburb. Various events such as concerts and Chicago Lithuanian Basketball League matches are held there (basketball is the Lithuania's national sport and the Chicago League was established in 2003; its ~15 teams play using the FIBA rather than NBA rules). There are sport, event halls, schools, Blessed J. Matulaitis Catholic Mission. To the southwest of Chicago stands the Grand Duke Lithuanian cuisine restaurant which replaced those closed in Marquette Park and Bridgeport.

Lithuanian-related sites in northern Chicago

While most immigrants from Lithuania have settled in the less fancy southern Chicago, the northern Chicago once also had a Lithuanian church, dedicated to St. Michael (since demolished). The area also has Telshe yeshiva - a Jewish religious school named after the Lithuanian town of Telšiai. The history of the name is such: the yeshiva was established by the identically named Telshe yeshiva of Cleveland, which was in turn established by the teachers of the original Telšiai yeshiva after it was closed down by the Soviet occupational force.

A larger Lithuanian community exists in the suburb of Waukegan. As the suburb is far from Chicago center, it is described in a separate article.

Maps of Chicago Lithuanian heritage

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in entire Chicagoland.

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Southside Chicago.

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Marquette Park (Chicago Lawn, Lithuania Plaza) area of Chicago.

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Bridgeport area of Chicago.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Illinois, USA 97 Comments


Pennsylvania is the home to the world's oldest Lithuanian overseas community, started in ~1865 by coal miners. 82 000-strong it is also the second largest in the USA.

The strongest presence of Lithuanian heritage is in the parts of eastern Pennsylvania known as the Coal Region. Coal, the oil of 19th century, was discovered there in the 1860s. People from poor European regions were recruited for hard and dangerous work (10 hours a day, 6 days a week, 25 ct wage per hour) living in the newly erected towns. Lithuania was at the time occupied and heavily persecuted by the Russian Empire, giving rise to emigrants known as "grynoriai" ("Free Air Men") for whom the conditions in Pennsylvanian mines were far better than persecution back in their agricultural homeland, where the Lithuanian language had been banned and serfdom abolished only recently (1861).

Map of Pennsylvania with Coal Region shaded in red and main Lithuanian locations marked. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Coal Region ran out of coal but the towns remained, in many of them Lithuanian population still ranging between 5% and 35%. There are lavish Lithuanian churches built of the hard-earned money by the early settlers and large Lithuanian cemeteries with their typical massive tombstones. Out of ~45 churches, only 20 to 10 survived the parish consolidations. Lithuanian mass is no longer celebrated and Lithuanian dedications (Our Lady of Šiluva, Our Lady of Vilnius, St. Casimir, St. George) are largely removed where they existed, especially during the church closure spree of ~2008. After all, the Coal Region Lithuanian communities, unlike those in major cities, were not replenished by new immigrants and English language became dominant in the communities over some 4-5 generations. However, Lithuanian inscriptions, Lithuanian history-inspired church interiors and exteriors still remain where the churches are still used for religious purposes. It should be noted that Lithuanian church attendances were growing until at least 1980, contrary to regional trends.

Lithuanian mass is still held in state's largest city Philadelphia, St. Andrew church (19th and Wallace Sts). Another Lithuanian church dedicated to St. Casimir (324 Wharton Street) has been attached to St. Andrew parish in 2011 but remains in operation. The third Lithuanian church, St. George, stands at 3580 Salmon St. It is double floored with school at the first floor.

Philadelphia also hosts the Lithuanian Music Hall (2715 East Alegheny Avenue), a comprehensive Lithuanian institution which includes a restaurant, reading room, language courses, folk art exhibition, cultural center and annual Lithuanian fairs ("Mugė"). The building was constructed in 1908 when various Lithuanian clubs merged.

In addition to the usual Roman Catholic churches, there is a schismatic Lithuanian National Catholic Church in Scranton, working together with similar Polish and Slovak churches.

The most Lithuanian town in the USA is also in the Pennsylvanian Coal Region. This is Shenandoah where 14,65% inhabitants consider themselves Lithuanians today. In the turn of the 20th century, it used to be called "Vilnius of America". Here the world's first Lithuanian novel was printed ("Algimantas" by V. Pietaris in 1904 when Lithuanian language was still banned back home), Lithuanian miner orchestra and other cultural institutions, newspapers, existed. Shenandoah had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years. The most imposing piece of Lithuanian heritage was the massive gothic revival St. George church (1891), the heart of oldest Lithuanian parish in the Americas (est. 1872). The church was recognized by the Pennsylvanian history museum commission to hold a historical value of state and national significance. Despite protests by local Lithuanians it was closed and demolished by the diocese in 2010. The town itself is also undergoing depopulation. According to Ripley's in the early 20th century it was the most densely populated place on earth. By 1910 it had 25774 people, only 11073 remained in 1960, while 2010 census counted merely 5071. This fate is shared by the entire area as it lost 30% of its population in 1930-2010 while the entire USA gained 130%. Abandoned mines where Lithuanians and others worked so hard are now off the beaten path tourist attractions.

1950s postcard of Shenandoah churches (Lithuanian St. George church on the right).

The 20 miles wide area surrounding Shenandoah hosts many Lithuanian villages. In Seltzer (pop. 307) Lithuanians make 27,46%, in New Philadelphia (pop. 1616) - 16,97%, in Cumbola (pop. 382) - 15,06%. Lithuanian populations surpass 9% in the area's towns of Minersville (pop. 4686), Mahanoy City (pop. 5725), Barnesville (pop. 2076), Frackville (pop. 8631). All these locations are in top 20 US locations by the share of Lithuanians. Among these 20 as much as 16 locations are in Pennsylvania, 15 in the Coal Region.

These areas also host the annual Lithuanian Days which is the longest running ethnic festival in the USA (every August since 1914). It outlived two parks it was previously held at (Lakewood and Rocky Glen) and was moved to Schuylkill Mall. Lithuanian arts, crafts, dances, cuisine, and customs are celebrated and proceeds go to Lithuanian causes. Before World War 2 the event used to attract some 25 000 participants and the mines were closed for that day.

Pittston (pop. 37883), the suburb of Scranton, hosts 4,15% Lithuanians, making it the largest share of Lithuanians in a US city of comparable size. Scranton is in the Northern Coal Region where the cities are larger.

Not far south of Scranton, there is Lake Kasulaitis, likely the location furthest from Lithuania to be named after a Lithuanian surname. The Lithuanian Book of Records mistakenly gives this title to Čiurlionis mountains in Franz Joseph Land, Russia (~3500 km away), but Pennsylvania is twice that far (~7000 km).

Kasulaitis is also among a minority of surnames among those of Lithuanian Pennsylvanians which are still written as they are written in Lithuania. By the time immigration to Pennsylvania took place, there was no standardized Lithuanian orthography yet and the immigration service transcribed the surnames using various orthographies, including English, Polish or created ad hoc; they either added or removed word endings at will. Therefore in the Shenandoah Lithuanian cemetery, you may see surnames such as Bakszis and Bakszys (the modern Lithuanian spelling is Bakšys), Kutchinskas and Kutchinsky (modern Lithuanian: Kučinskas), Abrachinsky and Abraczinsai (modern Lithuanian: Abračinskas).

The fourth major Lithuanian area in Pennsylvania is located in Pittsburgh, where the Coal Region coal used to be turned into steel. Pittsburg has Lithuanian communities, cemeteries, and churches (both closed). Back in 1930 three Pennsylvanian cities were among the US top ten by the total number (rather than percentage) of ethnic Lithuanians: Philadelphia (3rd), Pittsburg (8th) and Scranton (10th).

Additional sources:
Popalis family website (Lithuanians from Shenandoah). Includes Shenandoah and local Lithuanian history.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 12 Comments

Shenandoah and southern Coal Region, Pennsylvania

The Southern Coal region of Pennsylvania is also known as "Little Lithuania". It's not only that many Lithuanian Americans inhabit its towns - this region had been especially important for Lithuanian cultural history. Almost every town here has (or had) a Lithuanian church, cemetery, and club. The surrounding countryside is full of derelict closed coal (anthracite) mines which lured all those Lithuanians in during the 1860s-1910s era. Currently, the local Schuylkill county is the most Lithuanian one in the entire USA, with Lithuanians making 6% of local population.

Shenandoah - American Vilnius

The heart of the region is Shenandoah (pop. 5500) that used to be nicknamed "Vilnius of America". Even today it is ~12% Lithuanian. The heart of Lituanity here used to be a twin-towered St. George church, the oldest Lithuanian church in the entire continent (built in 1891), full of Lithuanian art paid for by meager coal miner salaries. It was even recognized as heritage yet after a controversial process and many protests the diocese decided to tear it down. Lithuanians who collected money to save the church decided to spend it on a commemorative plaque for the Shenandoah's "Little Lithuania" (Main and Centre streets corner).

The nickname is not an overstatement as the town had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years. More than that: the first Lithuanian-language novel in the world "Algimantas" has been published in Shenandoah in 1904. The reason for this (as well as Lithuanian migration to Coal Region in general) was that Lithuanians back home were discriminated under the Russian Imperial rule with their language banned between years 1865 and 1904.

Back then Shenandoah was a much larger town than it is today, with a population of 20 000 (some say 40 000), a quarter of them Lithuanians. "Ripley's Believe it or Not" claimed Shenandoah to be the world's most densely populated locality.

Shenandoah St. George Lithuanian church on a historic postcard (left) and the empty lot today (right).

Such decline has been common in all the regional towns: they lost at least half of population since 1930 while some even lost three-quarters. Perhaps this helped to save the Lithuanian culture - there are comparatively few new migrants (Blacks, Latin Americans), therefore the old communities continue to dominate culturally. When there are so many Lithuanians the probability of having a Lithuanian husband or wife is also not that small so there are 100% Lithuanians up to 3rd, 4th and further generations of immigrants.

Still what exists today is far under what existed in 1898 when Shenandoah Lithuanians owned 59 Taverns, 17 shops, 5 meat markets, 8 stonemasons, 3 barber shops, 4 tailors, 1 blacksmith, 5 mortuaries, 5 stables and 2 publishers!

The glory of the era may be glimpsed in six Lithuanian cemeteries of the town. St. George is the oldest one with burials 1892-1934. Later Lithuanians have been buried in Our Lady of Calvary, Lady of Lourdes, Lady of Fatima and Lady of Dawn cemeteries. A small and old Liberty Cemetery of the Supreme Lodge of Lithuanians in America served the similarly named local organization; it has ~50 of its members buried. Most of the Shenandoah cemeteries are in the Shenandoah Heights suburb.

Lithuanian towns that surround Shenandoah

Merely a few miles separate Shenandoah from some other "Lithuanian" neighboring villages and towns. However, Lithuanians moved in here at the time when the world could have only dreamt about automobiles and that distance was still too big to travel on foot. Therefore every town had its own Lithuanian church commissioned. All of them small, with a single tower or towerless. When there were so many Lithuanians the ethnic traditions were easier to safeguard and even ~1970s the attendances of Lithuanian churches were increasing (those of other ethnic parishes were already declining). Even at ~1985 some Lithuanian parishes constructed new church buildings (thus although all the parishes are ~100 years old some churches are new). However ~2008 the dioceses decided to abolish most of the ethnic parishes and close their churches down. After all, Lithuanian masses had been abolished quite long ago in all of them: 3 or more generations have passed since the coal miner immigrants, thus the bishop thought there is no reason to keep multiple open churches in small-and-diminishing towns/villages. However, the churches with their old Lithuanian inscriptions, paintings, decor are also important culturally and historically. Therefore their communities defend them at all costs. Even though the language had been largely forgotten, other Lithuanian traditions (crafts, dances, food) are cherished. The southern coal region hosts Lithuanian Days since 1914 - this is the oldest ethnic festival in the USA. It is also mentioned in the new commemorative plaque. Currently, the event takes place in Schuylkill Mall; before the Lakewood Park closed it used to take place there (1922-1984).

In the same way as Shenandoah is important to Lithuanian literature, Mahanoy City (pop. 4 000 today, 16 000 in 1910) should be known to every fan of Lithuanian music. The coal miners of years gone-by have established the world's first Lithuanian wind instrument orchestra ("Mainerių orkestra"). The town has a 1923 St. Joseph Lithuanian church. Unlike in the other towns, the Mahanoy City parishes have been amalgamated into this church in 2008 so it continues to be open, albeit renamed after Mother Theresa of Calcutta who visited it in 1995.

Maizeville village had the USA's sole Our Lady of Šiluva church (14 North Nice Street), named after the oldest church-recognized Marian vision in Europe that took place near the village of Šiluva in Lithuania. It has been constructed in 1967 after the old one burned down. The old church has been named St. Louis as is the local Lithuanian cemetery - however, the parish, even though already dominated by American-born Lithuanians, decided to adopt a more Lithuanian name. Maizeville and the nearby Gilberton lost extremely many people even by Coal Region standards: in 1910 they had a population of 5500 yet only 750 live there today. Maizeville still has an Our Lady of Siluva Boulevard (actually a small side-road).

Our Lady of Šiluva church in Maizeville. Google Street View.

Girardville's (pop. 1500 today, 5000 in 1930) St. Vincent de Paul church is one of the final 3 remaining Lithuanian churches in the southern Coal Region of Pennsylvania. First mass has been celebrated in an opera theater at 27 E. Main St. (as the town turned into a village it became a cinema, roller skating hall and finally has been demolished). Current brick English gothic revival church has been built in 1926, its lavish interior simplified in 1978. Although no Lithuanian mass has been held for long the parish celebrates its Lithuanian minority heritage. The official website declares that "our roots will always be in Lithuania", there are some Lithuanian phrases even if most of them seem to be Google-translated.

To churches, two fates: the Girardville one (right) is still Lithuanian, while the Mahanoy City one is multiethnic. Both of them are old, built while the original immigrants were still alive. Google Street View.

Another still open Lithuanian church is Annunciation BVM in Frackville (pop. 4000 today, 8000 in 1930). A Lithuanian inscription still greets at the door and while the building itself is modest parish has an entire complex of other buildings. Next door stands a Lithuanian Museum and Cultural Center (est. 1982) with artifacts of the 19th-century Lithuanian immigrants and Lithuanian crafts. It is unclear how long will this all survive as the three local ethnic parishes have been unified in 2013. West Pine Street has an Annunciation BVM Lithuanian cemetery.

Frackville Lithuanian church and parish buildings. Google Street View.

Further south: Lithuanian heritage at 209 road

209 road ~15 miles south of Shenandoah has much of Lithuanian heritage in the towns along it.

Tamaqa town has the third still open Lithuanian church (St. Peter and Paul, 307 Pine St.). Tamaqa is one of the larger towns in the area with 7000 inhabitants (13 000 back in the "golden days"). In its southern part at Owl Creek Road, there is Lithuanian cemetery.

Tamaqa Lithuanian church. Google Street View.

The same cemetery was also jointly used by a parish ~5 miles east in Coaldale based in a white Ascension church (227 Second street). This church has been closed while the town itself lost nearly three-quarters of its population decreasing from 7000 to 2000 people.

Shenandoah is the most Lithuanian US town among those above 5000 inhabitants but if you count all villages with population above 1000 the New Philadelphia has that title. ~25% people there are Lithuanians (more than of any other ancestry). In 1910 when the village was double in size there was a confrontation between two ethnicities: Lithuanians and Irish. Both established a church and both remained open nearly until today. Unfortunately, in 2008 the Lithuanian Sacred Heart church was closed (its building constructed in 1984). Massive Sacred Heart Lithuanian cemetery still exists.

Minersville (pop. 4000 today, 9000 in 1930) Lithuanian parish of St. Francis of Assisi has been also condemned but its people achieved an impressive victory in Vatican. After their complaint, Vatican recognized that bishop illegally closed down their church. Unfortunately, the bishop refuses to concede and decided to reopen the church merely symbolically (for a single holy mass celebration annually).

St. Clair town (pop. 3000 today, 7000 in 1930) also saw its Lithuanian church (St. Casimir, 441 South Nicholas St.) closed down recently. St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery remains.

Among the closed-down churches, the fate of Branchdale Out Lady Star of the Seas Lithuanian church is somewhat merrier. The only church of a 400-strong village has been purchased in 2011 by a music teacher from Philadelphia. He permits sermons of all Christians here and also organizes concerts and other events. He said that he pitied for an important village building that got closed and plans to acquire more churches in the region.

Branchdale Lithuanian church should remain an important cultural center. Google Street View.

Brockton is too small a village to be incorporated but even here Lithuanians had their St. Bartholomew church (214 E Green Street). Now it is closed though the St. Bartholomew cemetery survives.

Lithuanian heritage west of Shenandoah

Mt. Carmel township (pop. 6 000 today, 18 000 back in 1930) still has a Lithuanian Social Club (309 S. Oak St.) with a door painted in Lithuanian tricolor. There is also a massive Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery (south of town, Cemetery road). It was named after a Lithuanian church, closed in 1992. Marija Kaupas, a Lithuanian nun worked here (she is on the route of canonization and a street has been named in her honor in Chicago).

Lithuanian Social Club of Mt. Carmel, est. 1926 Google Street View.

In Marion Heights even further west the Lithuanian church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been transformed into an Easter Rite Catholic (Ukrainian) church: stained glass windows have been removed and an iconostasis moved in, while the tower has been crowned by a dome. It is now hard to recognize the church's Lithuanian roots. The similarly-named Lithuanian cemetery has remained. In general, it is easier for Ukrainians to protect their religious heritage - even though they are also Catholic, they have a different rite thus the dioceses are unable to amalgamate their parishes into non-Ukrainian ones.

Shamokin town has been famous for the America's first Lithuanian publishing house (which published Lithuanian-English dictionary by Markas Tvarauskas). It also had a Lithuanian St. Michael Archangel church (Cherry St.) that was closed in 1995 and demolished in 2015. Its Lithuanian club still functions as a pub.

Lithuanian heritage east of Shenandoah

The area's largest town east of Shenandoah is Hazleton (pop. 17 000 today, 38 000 back in 1940). Its brownish Sts. Peter and Paul's Lithuanian church used to be an extensive multiple building complex. Unfortunately, it all has been sold in 2010 by the diocese. Hazleton Lithuanian cemetery is at the Cemetery road / E Broad corner.

McAdoo (pop. 2000 today, 5000 back in 1930) had a wooden St. Casimir Lithuanian church near the Cleveland and Adams street corner (a residential house now occupies the place). It is interesting that this church has been born out of anti-Catholic sentiment as its builders planned to stay independent of Vatican. However after the works had begun in 1928 they disagreed among themselves and were short on money, therefore went back to Catholicism. The completed church then served as Catholic as Catholic although the congregation was never big enough to support a separate parish.

Although Kelayres (pop. 500) is nearly joined to McAdoo it had a separate Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church, which has been sold by the diocese in 2010 to serve as a residential home.

The hard labor conditions in the mines led Lithuanians to protest but back then the worker's rights weren't that much protected. This had some tragic outcomes: a few Lithuanians have been killed by police in 1897 when they stroke and illegally marched in Lattimer town. 19 workers died that day and they are commemorated by a plaque in Harwood which declares that the victims were "Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks". A bigger memorial stands at the place of the massacre; a victim list there has a single obviously Lithuanian surname but more people may have been Lithuanians as in that era Lithuanian language was not standardized yet and surnames changed after migration. Lattimer massacre became well known in the USA and it caused the trade union ranks to swell. In spite of this many Lithuanians who disliked the local conditions left the Pennsylvanian coal region for surrounding states, e.g. Upstate New York.

The map of Lithuanian locations in Southern Coal Region Pennsylvania.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 8 Comments

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is among the "most Lithuanian" cities of USA and has the fourth largest total number of ethnic Lithuanians after Chicago, New York and Los Angeles (~6000).

It has an especially old (erected 1906) Lithuanian Music Hall, also known as Lietuvių namai ("Lithuanian House") in Lithuanian language (2715 E. Allegheny Ave). It is a separate red brick building inspired by art nouveau. Inside one may find the "Amber Roots" Club (celebrating Lithuanian handicrafts, culture, history and arts), an annual fair, language clubs, library, an exhibition of Lithuanian folk arts. Kanklės (traditional Lithuanian musical instrument) is the symbol of the Hall.

Lithuanian Music Hall in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Another Lithuanian Club of Philadelphia, known as the Lithuanian National Hall, used to be located close to 2nd Avenue. Its building still stands and the name is still chiseled in stones but it has been remodeled into apartments (the Lithuanian Club closed in 1984). In a way it's going back to the roots as when the Hall was completed in 1900 it also included apartments. Afterward, the expanding Club needs and rental halls had pushed the residential use out.

Lithuanian National Hall in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Towered neo-romanesque St. Andrew Church (1913 Wallace St.) still hosts Sunday mass in Lithuanian. The building has been acquired from protestants in 1942 after the Great Depression and War shattered hopes of the parish to erect its own new building.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Philadelphia has two more old Lithuanian churches.

The St. Casimir of southern Philadelphia (324 Wharton Street) is the oldest one (parish established in 1893) but it slowly faded away as the numbers of visitors diminished. In 2007 its 100-year old school has been closed while in 2011 the parish has been amalgamated with St. Andrew. The church is still open and hosts stained glass Windows of Marija Kaupas and Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. The altar shows the burial of St. Casimir. Near the entrance, two angels are holding a Lithuanian message "Iženk geras, išeik geresnis" ("Enter as a good person, exit as a better person").

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. A Lithuanian tricolor is waving nearby. Google Street View.

St. George Lithuanian church (3580 Salmon Street) has two floors, the first of them built for a school.

St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Lithuanian communities also sprawled to the cities near Philadelphia.

Easton (pop. 70 000, ~0,5% Lithuanians), a suburb of Allentown had its St. Michael Lithuanian church closed in 2008 and acquired by a film studio in 2011. It is a pretty Gothic Revival building with an old rectory.

St. Michael Lithuanian church in Easton near Philadelphia. Google Street View.

In Bensalem, an old cemetery of Lithuanian National Catholics (an offshoot of Roman Catholicism) have been rediscovered. Their Mary church has long since gone.

Recommended literature: "Where Have All the Lithuanians Gone? A Study of St. Casimir’s Lithuanian Parish in South Philadelphia"

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA No Comments

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is among the US cities that have the most ethnic Lithuanians. The community here is especially old, dating to ~1870 - although those who associate Lithuanian ethnicity with the language may be disappointed as the community now speaks English

English inscription over the Lithuanian Hall entrance in Pittsburgh. Even Lithuanian churches here lack Lithuanian inscriptions. Google Street View.

Most Lithuanians used to live in southern Pittsburgh and the red brick Lithuanian Hall still stands there with stylized Lithuanian coat of arms (Vytis) proudly hanging above its entrance. A commemorative plaque nearby declares that the building has been constructed in 1870, rebuilt in 1908. The club has been closed in the 2010s and the building sold, however.

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Hall from further away. Google Street View.

The Cathedral of Learning of Pittsburgh University has a Lithuanian Nationality Class. Its back wall is proudly covered by a copy of the famous "Karalių pasaka" ("Tale of Kings") painting by symbolist M. K. Čiurlionis. Wooden blackboard sides and furniture are of traditional Lithuanian folk style. Heaters have rue (Lithuanian national flower) details while ceiling moldings are filled with names of the Lithuanian national revival heroes (Daukantas, Basanavičius, Kudirka, Donelaitis...). The Cathedral of Learning is an impressive gothic revival/art deco skyscraper (42 floors) dating to 1926-1934. Its massive central hall looks like a real cathedral nave. It is surrounded by 29 nationality classes, each of them a small tasteful museum glorifying a particular nation. They have been crafted, furnished and still are supported by the respective ethnicity; a single class now costs 1 million USD to make. The Lithuanian class has been designed by Kaunas architect Antanas Gudaitis and it has been opened in a sad era: October 1940 when Lithuania had been recently occupied by the Soviets. The Lithuanians became one of the first Pittsburgh ethnicities to have their class in the Cathedral (with just Scottish, Russian, German, Swedish, Chinese, Czechoslovak, Hungarian, American and Polish classes created in the initial 1938-1940 period). All the classes may be explored with tours when they are not used by the university.

Lithuanian media has recently capitalized on the remarkable geographic similarity of Lithuania's second largest city Kaunas (left) and Pittsburgh (right). Both maps have north at the top. Bing Maps.

In 1930 Pittsburgh had ~4000 Lithuanians and it was the 8th US city by this number. Currently, there are ~6000 people of Lithuanian ancestry, which is ~0,65% of total population. This percentage is the largest among all the US cities of such size (Pittsburgh has a population of 736 000). Most Lithuanians came to work at the steel mills that made Pittsburgh famous. This industry used coal in metallurgy, much of it mined by the Lithuanians of Shenandoah and Scranton.

Lithuanian churches of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh and its suburbs are full of Lithuanian churches, all established ~1900-910. The largest ones were built from scratch, some buildings were acquired from Protestants. Unfortunately, many Lithuanian churches have been closed until 1993. As the city population falls and the immigrants becoming English-speaking after multiple generations the former ethnic Catholic parishes have been amalgamated into a single church. Unfortunately, no Lithuanian church was saved: all of them have been closed and sold for non-Catholic use, thus condemning the Lithuanian interior. Most of the buildings remain but little reminds of their Lithuanian history today.

The largest and oldest Lithuanian church in Pittsburgh was St. Casimir in the south side. A Protestant building at this location has been acquired by Lithuanians in 1893 but soon it became too small and has been replaced by a current massive one uniting red bricks with the Baroque revival in 1902. In 1992 it has been closed. The interior has remained intact until 2017, however, when the conversion into apartments has begun.

St. Casimir church (right) and the St. Casimir apartments (left) built in the parish's former school. Google Street View.

St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian church in Esplen has been closed a little later (1993) but by then the parish was already a shadow of its former self. The main church building of 1903 has been closed in 1962 and sold in 1970 (now demolished). The mass has since been celebrated in a former parish school (Tabor St.) that already lacked children. After the parish closure, it became a pastoral center but was closed and sold to the Sons of God church in 1997. The former citizens of Esplen remember the district as full of Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans but today many of its buildings are abandoned, only ~300 people live there.

This building housed the St. Vincent de Paul church in the parish's final two decades. Google Street View.

The smaller Lithuanian parishes have been closed even earlier for a variety of reasons. Ascension Lithuanian parish of northern Pittsburgh once used a single-floored church acquired from Presbyterians in 1906, however, it has been demolished in 1962 to make way for an industrial zone.

Braddock suburb used to follow the rhythm of a local U.S. Steel plant. After this factory has been closed in 1982 many workers moved away. The local parishes were amalgamated in 1985 and the St. Isidore Lithuanian church (built 1918 on Talbot and 7th corner) has been closed. Now it serves as the First Church of God in Christ (non-Catholic).

Former St. Isidore Lithuanian church. No Lithuanian marks are left. Google Street View.

St. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church in the suburb of Homestead also became a victim of steel industry albeit in a different fashion. Constructed in 1901 it was demolished ~1941 when it blocked the way for the expansion of nearby steel mill that was needed to meet the needs of World War 2. Parish still has been lively and acquired a new (1929) building from Reformed Christians in 1941 (this church closed down in 1992, with its building sold fo 20000 to the Apostolic Faith Assembly; the building still stands at 1321 Mifflin St. after recently changing hands again for a mere 1 dollar, being acquired by the Higher Call church. All this show the deterioration of the district).

Bridgeville suburb St. Anthony Lithuanian church has been closed in 2007 after the collapse of the local industry. The building had been acquired from Methodists in 1915 and expanded ~1970 after it has been saved from a demolition due to highway construction. The parish was closed in 1994, however, the church stayed open for more than a decade after that.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church of Donora suburb operated in a former Presbyterian building acquired in 1906. It was the Pittsburgh area's first Lithuanian church to be closed; this happened in 1963 when there were just 13 families left in the parish.

For 93 years before 2015, Pittsburgh also had a St. Francis monastery of Lithuanian nuns. However, in 2015 the youngest among them were in their 60s; unable to care for the 13 ha land with the monastery and the chapel, they have sold it.

Bentleyville has a Lithuanian club. The proper address is 217 Main St. but it stands next to Lithuanian Street. There are also Wilna street (named after Vilnius) and Abromaitis Street (named after a Lithuanian priest who has helped establish the local Lithuanian parish), making it an impressive list of three Lithuanian-related street-names in a village of 2500. The former Polish-Lithuanian St. Luke church has been merged into Ave Maria parish in 1994 and again in St. Katherine Drexler parish in 2017 but in all cases, it remained an open church.

In a similar case, the East Vandergrift Lithuanian church of St. Casimir has been also renamed in 1985 (to Our Lady, Queen of Peace), but survived as a Catholic church. The former Polish and Slovak parishes have been added to it in what is now a village of just 600 people. The church is thus small. There is also a Lithuanian club in front of it, now doubling as a members-only restaurant but decorated with Vytis and Lithuanian colors.

Lithuanian cemeteries in Pittsburgh area

Pittsburgh's largest Lithuanian cemetery was owned by St. Casimir parish. It is located at Whitehall suburb next to Hamilton Road. A smaller Lithuanian cemetery exists at West View suburb, accessed by a small Perrysville Road near Bellevue Road. Entrance plaque there reads "Lithuanian Cemetery Association, incorporated June 14, 1919" signifying that this cemetery used to be associated just with ethnicity rather than Catholic faith. Both cemeteries are surrounded by trees and cover a slight slope. Pittsburgh Lithuanian community is especially old thus there are few Lithuanian details (save for surnames), US flags predominate, although the gravestone may be larger than most. Lithuanian inscriptions ("motina" ("mother"), "brolis" ("brother"), "amžiaus 28 m." ("aged 28"), etc.) are more common at the old graves (especially pre-WW2).

Homestead suburb has another Lithuanian cemetery.

The entrance of the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery. Google Street View.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 4 Comments

Detroit, Michigan

Like other industrial megalopolises of the USA Detroit attracted a Lithuanian community since well before World War 2. Detroit Lithuanians worked at the automobile factories of what was the world automobile manufacturing capital (it still is the home for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler). 4879 Lithuanians lived in Detroit during the 1930 census.

St. Anthony Roman Catholic Lithuanian church was built in 1920 in Southwest Detroit (1750 25th St.). The massive brick building has two floors. The main church hall is on the second floor while the first (ground) floor once housed a Lithuanian school. Later it had only a chapel where ordinary Sunday Mass was held (the diminishing parish no longer needed main upper hall and elderly people find it hard to ascend the stairs). Also on the first floor a large hall for parish meetings after the mass was located, its walls covered with pictures of Lithuanian cities, a list of people killed by Russian soldiers on January 13, 1991, and similar memorabilia. Another small room was dedicated to a museum. The church was closed in 2013.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church. The building to the left is Lithuanian Hall. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

A nicely renovated building on the opposite side of W Vernor Highway still bears the words „Lithuanian Hall“ on its facade. Now owned by real estate developer and transformed into rental offices it was once constructed by the parish and used for the community celebrations (holidays, marriages). On the surrounding private homes, you may still see names of the Lithuanians who once inhabited them.

Facade of the Lithuanian Hall building. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

But like all over Detroit some buildings are now abandoned or burned out. Detroit population more than halved after the 1967 racial riots and the city is now 85% Black with most Whites having left for suburbs. The area around St. Anthony church is now however dominated by Hispanics and is known as Mexicantown. It is safer than average Detroit area. Most of the Lithuanians moved to the suburbs, but Mexicantown still has the largest percentage of Lithuanians in Detroit area.

Like many Detroit houses, this one is abandoned. The old advertisement still reminds of the Valys Bauza (Lithuanian name) funeral home. The house was constructed in 1930 when the city and the Lithuanian district were still thriving. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

St. Anthony parish was the strongest immediately after World War 2 when a large share of the Lithuanian intellectual elite emigrated to the USA fearing Soviet persecutions. In these days the church was too small for the congregation and many people had to partake in the Mass from outside the building. In some 1985 the church was damaged by fire but repaired afterward. Until 2009 the daily mass was still celebrated (twice daily on Sundays). However, in 2009, the priest died and only a single weekly Sunday mass remained. There was no mass in any other language, therefore the building became scarcely used and its parking is used by the owners of Lithuanian Hall in weekdays. In 2011 the bishop of Detroit decided to abolish the parish, which was done in 2013.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church main hall (2nd floor) interior. Lithuanian and US flags stand beside the altar. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In Detroit (more correctly, its suburb Southfield) there is a more lively Lithuanian parish, dedicated to Divine Providence (255335 W 9 Mile Road). This church moved together with its community. Its roots are in the St. George church within Detroit City limits (constructed in 1908). In 1949 a new God‘s Wisdom church was constructed further from the center. During the 1960s highway construction program both churches were demolished to make way for new wide roads. Bishop wanted to abolish the parishes but Lithuanians collected the necessary funds to build and support a new Divine Providence church (1972). As it is not in the poor Detroit but in the rich suburbs it is frequented by newer, younger immigrants as well. There are sports and other events, ateitininkai, šauliai, boy scouts, ethnic dance and other organizations. Lithuanian language school works on Saturdays. The church is low-roof and small, with a modern triangular leaning tower.

Divine Providence church. Extensive single-floored building for social needs is nearby. Google street view.

Interesting Lithuanian memento may be found in the eerily empty streets of downtown Detroit. On a building in Grand River Avenue and Times Square corner hangs a memorial plaque with a sole Lithuanian inscription „Čia gimė Fluxus įkūrėjas Jurgis Mačiūnas“. The English translation is not provided (it would be „The founder of Fluxus George Mačiūnas was born here“). It is likely an art object created by some follower of Mačiūnas, a Lithuanian-American avant-garde artist. In reality, Jurgis Mačiūnas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania (1931) and emmigrated to the USA in 1948. There is no information about this plaque available online – please write in the comment section if you know more about it.

False George Mačiūnas memorial plaque. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Michigan, USA 23 Comments

New York City, New York

New York (pop 8,5 mln., 14 mln. with suburbs) is undeniably one of the centers of the world. Between 1930 and 1950 (when the Lithuanian refugees arrived) it was the world's largest city and it has been the US top city throughout its history. By the time it received its first 100-floor building in 1931 the tallest "skyscraper" of Lithuania stood at 7 floors. New York must have truly impressed the contemporary immigrants from agricultural Lithuania (of which there were 15 000 in 1930). Unlike some other once-industrial US cities New York continued to be important and its Lithuanian community constantly renews itself.

Lithuanian churches in New York

Even before World War 1 Lithuanians had their churches in New York. Queens has a Transfiguration church (64-14 Clinton Avenue). First constructed 1908, twice rebuilt (once after fire and after WW2 due to expanded Lithuanian community). Current building dates to 1962, both Lithuanian and English mass are held. The modern glass-clad building that ingeniously incorporates Lithuanian vernacular architectural details (a form of village barn, rooftop horse ornaments) and modernized historical symbols (e.g. Vytis cross, St. Casimir sculpture, merged sun-cross) has been praised by contemporary architects. It is sometimes considered a magnum opus of architect Jonas Mulokas and interior designer V. K. Jonynas who also collaborated on multiple Lithuanian American churches in 1950s Illinois.

Transfiguration church incorporates Lithuanian details into modern architecture. Google Street View.

Brooklyn Annunciation Lithuanian Roman Catholic church is a century older (built 1863, 259 N. 5th Street). It has been constructed by Germans and acquired by a Lithuanian parish in 1914. The interior has been redecorated the Lithuanian way: Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis and Gate of Dawn altars created. The mass is held in Lithuanian and Spanish (as the neighborhood has large Hispanic population).

Like many Lithuanian churches the Annunciation church of Brooklyn has traditional wooden chapel-post and wooden cross (a UNESCO inscribed ethnic art form), even if there is very little place for them. Google Street View.

Brooklyn also had a St Mary of the Angels Lithuanian church (corner of 4th S St. and Roebling St.), closed 1981, now El Puente academy devoid of any Lithuanian marks. A simple neoclassical edifice it was famous for the stained glass windows by sculptor V. K. Jonynas it had, which were then moved to Our Lady of Vilnius church in Manhattan.

The most "infamous" Lithuanian church in New York is the gothic revival Our Lady of Vilnius (1910). This only Lithuanian church in Manhattan but it has been closed in 2007. The diocese plans to demolish it and sell the expensive land, triggering the largest Lithuanian community protests since independence. It included mass prayers, vigils, demonstrations attempting to save this "shard of Lithuania", among the last Our Lady of Vilnius churches of Lithuania. Even the Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, himself a former Lithuanian-American, protested to the Pope against the church closure. However, all these were unsuccessful and the church was demolished.

Our Lady of Vilnius church squeezed between massive skyscrapers. It no longer exists. Google Street View.

At about the same time, New York's fifth Lithuanian church, the Rennaisance Revival St. George's, has been destroyed and replaced by apartment blocks without much attention, likely because its less glamorous Brooklyn location. Google Street View of the 2007 has the only online image of it.

>Lithuanian institutional HQs in New York

New York is also the home to a major Lithuanian secular institution. The Lithuanian Alliance of America HQ (307 W. 30th Street) is its small but well-located heart. Now surrounded by skyscrapers, the historic 19th century four-floored building recently had its exterior renovated to its former glory.

The Lithuanian Alliance publishes the oldest Lithuanian newspaper ("Tėvynė", since 1896), albeit currrently the publishing dates are scarce and the printing is done outside the building. Sla 370 gallery has been recently opened on the ground floor of the building, celebrating both Lithuanian and American art. The Lithuanian Alliance was founded in 1886 by the Lithuanian-American nationalists and leftists who dissented against the central role the Catholic church and its parishes played in many Lithuanian-American activities. Lithuanian Alliance has also served as a life insurance company for Lithuanians. Its membership has declined over the time since World War 2, however, as the new generations of Lithuanians were less likely to join. It went down from 11948 in 1955 to just 2446 in 2007 and merely several hundred today. The Alliance has abandoned its no-longer-lucrative insurance business to become a non-profit.

In its basement, the Alliance HQ has a massive archive documenting as the former insurance business made it to collect more information on its membes than usual. Possibly useful for genealogy research, the archive is not digitizes so far. The second floor has offices with some authentic interwar furniture while the top floors have a apartments that are rented out making the main profit for the Alliance today.

New York Lithuanian memorials

Between the 2nd street, Hewes street and Union Avenue in Brooklyn there is Lituanica square, also known as Lithuania square, a small patch of land with a monument and flagpole. It is dedicated to pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas who became the first Lithuanians to cross the Atlantic by air and the pioneers of Transatlantic air mail. Sadly their 1933 flight which departed from New York Floyd Bennett Field ended up in a tragedy near their destination in Kaunas, making them martyrs of both Lithuania and Lithuanian-American community. Lithuania sought to build a symbolic wing in that airport in 2013 (70th anniversary) but the airport administration denied this. Only a memorial plaque reminds of Darius and Girėnas there, as well as a memorial post in the green line of Flatbush Ave, erected by New York Lithuanian artists Laura Zaveckaitė and Julius Ludavičius in 2013.

On the New York stock market in Broad Street (Manhattan), there is a commemorative plaque for the first famous Lithuanian-American Aleksandras Karolis Kuršius (better known in Latin as Alexander Carolus Cursius-Curtius). This nobleman established the NYC's first Latin school on the location (at the time New York was still a Dutch colony known as New Amsterdam). The plaque for him was created in 1976 for the US 200 anniversary and has been a part of a Lithuanian American struggle to widen the knowledge of the name "Lithuania" and its Soviet occupation.

Before the massive immigration from Eastern Europe began in the late 19th century such isolated noblemen were the only Lithuanians to set foot on New York shore. One of them - Tadeusz Kosciuszko (Lithuanian: Tadas Kosciuška) - fought for US freedom before unsuccessfully attempting to defend his homeland Poland-Lithuania (united at the time) from European great powers. A commemorative plaque for him has been jointly funded by Lithuanian and Polish Americans in 1997.

Another Lithuania-related memorial plaque is on the floor of the New York Library at 476 5th Ave. It cites Martin Radtke, an immigrant from Lithuania, who had a few opportunities for formal education and so educated himself in the library, amassing a fortune he then bequeathed to the library. There is next to none information available about him online, however, save for the plaque. "Radtke" surname was, however, somewhat common among Lithuania's Germans, so it is likely Martin Radtke hailed from that community.

The first leader of both Poland and Lithuania, ethnic Lithuanian King Jogaila lived at the time America was not even discovered (1348-1434). However, New York Central Park includes Jogaila statue, created by S. Ostrowski. Symbolically it is a copy of a sculpture in Warsaw (Poland) that had been destroyed to make WW1 bullets. The Central Park sculpture was made to decorate Polish pavilion in 1939 New York Expo but while that Expo was still ongoing Poland itself was invaded and occupied by Soviet Russians and Nazi Germans. The property of Polish pavilion has then been transferred to the Polish museum but a joint request of New York mayor and Polish consul made it a gift to New York City. As the sculpture has been built by Poles the Polonized version of king's name is used (Jagiello) and the word "Poland" inscribed.

Jogaila monument in Central Park. Google Street View.

Ellis Island

Not just for the Lithuanians, but for most immigrant ethnciities Ellis Island, a point through where 12 million immigrants came to the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, among them hundreds of thousands Lithuanians.

Still, Lithuanians were among the smaller immigrant groups (compare dto the Poles, Italians, Germans, Jews...), so, relatively little is available particularly on them in the Ellis Island. But the place is great for learning the experience many Lithuanian migrants had, epitomised in a local quote from an immigrant from Lithuania that basically says that emmigration was similar to death in that you wouldn't every see even your parents anymore.

New York consists of five massive boroughs. Queens has ~6000 Lithuanians, Manhattan ~5000, Brooklyn ~3000, Bronx ~500, Staten Island ~750.

New York is also a political center. It is the location of United Nations HQ and thus the Lithuanian representative office to the UN.

Map of Lithuanian heritage in New York City.


Click to learn more about Lithuania: New York, USA No Comments

Upstate New York

Many may associate "New York" with the city but unlike the small neighboring states the State of New York is truly expansive (larger than the entire New England save for Maine) and merely a half of its population live in the NYC. The state's remaining part is nicknamed Upstate New York. It consists of smaller cities where the population has halved since 1960s (total regional population remained the same).

Many of these cities have old Lithuanian communities with old churches. Unfortunately, the recent years have been sad to them: local dioceses have been hastily closing the Lithuanian parishes that survived a century or more. Not only the Lithuanian mass would be canceled but the buildings themselves were sold to other religions in many cases, destroying the Lithuanian-inspired interiors.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Amsterdam, Upstate New York, is now Buddhist-owned. Google Street View.

The number of parishes is lowered as the population falls. ~2010 a parish reform in Niagara Falls left 9 Catholic churches open out of the previous 21 (in 1960 the city had a population of 102 394, 2010 census counted merely 50 193). Niagara Falls St. George Lithuanian church (1910 Falls Street) has been among those closed. Built in 1928 its congregation peaked in 1971. The building has been sold to Anglo-Catholic who turned it into their pro-cathedral. Atypically, this small Christian community left the St. George dedication untouched and even invited the Lithuanians to continue using the premises. No interior details have been destroyed; on the contrary, Anglo-Catholics felt sad that Roman Catholics removed some pieces upon closure. 14 pretty stained glass windows survived.

Vytis (Lithuanian coat of arms) detail on the fronton of the Niagara Falls St. George church. Google Street View.

Other Upstate New York Lithuanian churches have been less lucky. Amsterdam St. Casimir church has been sold to Buddhists after its closure; they established the Five Buddhas Temple there. The community leader Lucas Wang (a.k.a. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi) claimed that he received a revelation to purchase the church. United into the World Peace and Health Organization the local Buddhists plan a massive expansion that will even include theme park - but the fate of Lithuanian details of the St. Casimir church is likely sealed. Previously the church area hosted other Lithuanian institutions such as Pakėnas laundry, Piliponis grocery. Today their owners are probably resting in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery (Park drive).

St. Casimir sculpture with a Lithuanian inscription 'Bažn. Šv. Kazimiero' ('Ch. of St. Casimir') adorns the tower of the Amsterdam church. Google Street View.

Rochester attracted most of its ~400 Lithuanians ~1900 as they have been fleeing hard labor in Pennsylvania mines. In 1935 they constructed St. George church (545 Hudson Avenue) which has been closed in 2010 (up to the final days the Lithuanian mass has been celebrated). The parish was not destroyed however and it meets in another church at Brighton suburb (Our Lady of Lourdes, 165 Rhinecliff Drive); unfortunately, that building lacks Lithuanian details and history. In order to perpetuate Lituanity, ~100 Rochester Lithuanains have established a Lithuanian Heritage Society. In 2010 the city established sister ties with Alytus, Lithuania.

St. George church of Rochester may look modest but the parish owned multiple buildings (all the ones visible here) and the Lithuanian mass survived long. Google Street View.

Lithuanians (~500) also live in Binghamton. This community's history is similar to its many "siblings" in Upstate New York. It began before World War 1 and the highest point of Lituanity was in the 1930s. This golden era is still reminded by a dusty inscription "Lithuanian Natl. Assc. Inc." on a non-descript ~1917 building at 315 Clinton Street. City landmarks list also lists "Sokolvonia" building (~1939) as Lithuanian although a likely Slavic name may indicate a mistake. Subsequently, the membership of many Lithuanian organizations grew older, the usage of Lithuanian language grew limited to ethnic events. However, many still guarded cherished folk customs and amber jewelry as something that reminded them of their homeland. The arrival of refugees after the occupation of Lithuania (~1950) triggered a limited rebirth of Binghamton Lituanity. However, the DPs left the Upstate New York for work-laden major cities once they could.

Former Lithuanian National Association Inc. in Binghamton, now a Tri-Cities Opera. The fact that the old inscription was made of bricks saved it. Google Street View.

Like elsewhere the church life survived the longest in Binghamton. The modern facade of St. Joseph Lithuanian church (1 Judson Ave) still has a Lithuanian inscription over its doors. However, the building has been sold to Grace Tabernacle church in 2008. Multiple ethnic parishes have been consolidated into a single Holy trinity parish in the former St. Ann church. Some things of St. Joseph have been moved in there: electric organ, carillon, the Last Supper.

Former Lithuanian church of Binghamton looks the most modern of Upstate New York Lithuanian churches. Google Street View.

Another Lithuanian church stood at Utica (St. George; closed as recently as 2007 but there is nearly no information about it available online, likely it has been destroyed; if you know more please write a comment). The Lithuanian church building with a dome survives in Schenectady (Holy Cross church, 19 N. College Street) but the information on it is also scarce. Schenectady is a suburb of state capital Albany.

The domed Lithuanian church of Schenectady. Google Street View.

Albany itself had a Lithuanian church of St. George once (corner of Thornton and Livingston streets). Built in 1917, it has been closed in 1986. Today the building is used as a community center / soup kitchen dedicated to Sister Maureen Joyce. Blessed Mary statue from the original church as well as a plaque reminding of Lithuanian history remains.

Former St. George Lithuanian church in Albany, New York. Google Street View.

Source, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4

Literature: Bygone Binghamton – Remembering People and Places of the Past (Jack Edward Shay).

Click to learn more about Lithuania: New York, USA 2 Comments

New Jersey

Jersey City (the largest city in New Jersey) is part of the New York City conurbation. It is separated from New York proper by merely a river that is crossed by bridges and tunnels. As such, the New Jersey and NYC Lithuanian communities are closely related.

The heart of the local Lithuanian community is Elizabeth suburb of Jersey City with its old and massive Lithuanian St. Peter and Paul church (211 Ripley Pl.) - the mass is celebrated in Lithuanian and English. It houses an Our Lady of Šiluva altar dedicated to the earliest church-recognised Maryan vision in Europe (took place in Šiluva, Lithuania). Since 2006 the parish shares its priest with the Polish St. Adalbert parish (but both churches are open).

The Elizabeth Sts. Peter and Paul church. Google Street View.

For 65 years a Lithuanian bakery (131 Inslee Place) operates in the district offering Lithuanian bread among other Eastern European meals.

Lithuanian bakery. The front façade is covered by wood to remind of the Lithuanian traditional architecture. Google Street View.

Elsewhere too Lithuanian parishes indicate Lithuanian presence. The trend was the same: the Lithuanian parishes established in Jersey suburbs ~1910 with the first Lithuanian migrant wave, however, the current churches constructed in 1950s-1970s modern or semi-modern style as the small communities became rich enough and post-WW2 refugees needed to be accommodated. In 1980s-2000s Lithuanian language services were abandoned as new generations replaced their parents and grandparents who spoke Lithuanian well.

A small towerless St. Michael Lithuanian church stands in the southern suburb of Bayonne since 1977. Its address is 15 E Twenty-Third St but the nearby Church St. is also known as Matulis Way after the church's priest who passed out in 2000. Bayonne has ~400 Lithuanians (~0,6%). St. Michael church was, however, closed and transferred to Syriac Catholics in the 2010s, making its history especially short (less than 40 years). The inscriptions remained.

St. Michael church in Bayonne, a typical example of a Jersey small town Lithuanian church. Google Street View.

Another area that has been popular among Lithuanian immigrants was the Kearny suburb. In 1915 when a Lithuanian parish has been established there, there lived 400 Lithuanians in Kearny and 700 in nearby Harrison (~450 and ~150 today). ~1954 a new larger towered church of Our Lady of Sorrows has been constructed (136 Davis Ave). On the parish's 850th anniversary Reverend Pocus wrote, "Second- and third- generation families may never fully appreciate the fervent longings of their forebears for the sights and sounds of their homeland. But certainly, our older parishioners can recall the poverty of our people, their loneliness in a strange land, their youth and energy, and feeling of unity which they felt with their fellow Lithuanians".

Entrance to the Our Lady of Sorrows church at Kearny. Elaborate wooden crosses are a recurrent theme of ethnic art in old Lithuanian parishes. Google Street View.

After World War 2 (1962) the Paterson Lithuanian parish also constructed its modest St. Casimir church (147 Montgomery St; closed 2014, sold to non-denominational Christians). Two-floored like Holy Trinity church (207 Adams St, Newark) would remind of the office building if not a large Lithuanian wooden cross nearby; it has also been built in 1960s-1970s.

Recommended literature: Barbara Krasner "Kearny's Immigrant Heritage" pg. 67-76.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: New Jersey, USA 2 Comments


Connecticut is a small state and although the number of Lithuanians is only ~33 000, this means 1% of the entire population (the largest share among US states).

Connecticut has been an old colony and its Lithuanian community is also old. Lithuanian churches tower among historic townhouses where families likely once lived with their servants. These churches are massive; built in various revival styles in 1900-1930 period, they look as if teleported from a Lithuanian countryside. The size makes you think they have been constructed for an entire town of tens of thousands rather than a single minority. They are surrounded by equally old parish houses and Lithuanian schools. Interestingly, these were established at roughly the same time as the first Lithuanian schools in Lithuania itself where Lithuanian language has been banned by the ruling Russian Empire until 1904 (something that surely played a role in increasing emigration to the USA).

Lithuanian churches in Connecticut

After the massive "First wave of immigration" Lithuanians ceased to enter Connecticut. Small towns famous for their Autumn leafs were not as attractive as Chicago or New York. Perhaps this has saved the old churches: they haven't been rebuilt into modern-yet-less-appealing ones. Out of the six Lithuanian churches ever built in Connecticut, four are still open, four have just recently been officially Lithuanian and three even had Lithuanian mass until some 2015 despite the community being third or fourth generation already. It's very different from Chicagoland where merely four churches survive out of fourteen, even though the number of Lithuanians is twice that big. Perhaps a more compact provincial life helped Lituanity to survive longer.

The city with most Lithuanians is Waterbury (2 500 out of 100 000). It has an entire Lithuanian district with a large red St. Joseph church with a traditional wooden "roof-post" in front (a form of ethnic art) and great stained glass windows with Lithuanian inscriptions inside. First Lithuanian mass has been celebrated in Waterbury in 1894 (also the first in Connecticut). The church built in 1904-1905, the oldest in Connecticut. Beyond it stands an elaborate school building (1925), now closed and crumbling but still having Vytis in front. The nearby street once had 3 Lithuanian clubs popularly named after the streetnumbers of their houses: one leftist, one nationalist, and one Catholic (Vyčiai). Only the last one is still open, as the leftist one long closed (as the Soviet persecutions in Lithuania made the socialism less popular) and the nationalist one burned down.

Waterbury also has a Lithuanian cemetery, the only one in Connecticut. Established by the atheists (there is even a gravestone with hammer and sickle) it was later blessed and used by the Catholics as well. Clubhouse of the burned-down club stands at the cemtery entrance.

St. Joseph school bears a Lithuanian coat of arms over the entrance and is surrounded by may sculptures. Google Street View.

Lituanity still exists in the state capital Hartford (pop. 124 000). Red gothic revival Holy Trinity church slightly reminds in its form of old French cathedrals. A nearby old house is a parish home; both US and Lithuanian flags are waving in front of it. The land has been purchased in 1900, the church constructed 1915-1928; parish school was open until 1964.

Holy Trinity church and rectory in Hartford. Google Street View.

Romance revival New Britain St. Andrew Lithuanian church (396 Church street) dates to 1911, a recreation center is nearby. The interior of the church is especially pretty, as it was constructed to be a visual church that could show often ilitterate Lithuanians of the early 20th century the stories of the Bible. The church is, however, locked outside of the mass and it is likely condemned to close in the upcoming years, the parish relocating to a much smaller and simpler church that looks like a house. On a large parking on the opposite side of the street from the ST. Andrew church stands a Lithuanian traditional wooden chapel-post surrounded by Lithuanian and US flags, illuminated at night.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church and the parking monument. Google Street View.

White towers of the St. Anthony church of Ansonia (199 North Main Street) were started in 1912 without a bishop permit (the bishop sought to unify Lithuanians into a non-Lithuanian parish). In 1915 permit has been granted by Vatican itself where the Lithuanians appealed; teh church opened the same year. This shows just how much Lithuanians of the era wanted their own parishes which were important for their self-expression and preservation of culture. Unfortunately, the church was closed in 2015, becoming an Abundant Life church. A Lithuanian monument adorned by the columns of Gediminas still stands in the yard.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church in Ansonia. Google Street View.

New Haven St. Casimir church has been closed in 2005 and transformed into apartments. Quality reconstruction preserved the front facade (even the crosses) but the massive gable has been transformed by adding rooms on the sides. Nothing visibly Lithuanian remains there.

Bridgeport St. George church is still operating and, in fact, open most of the time. Inside, one could see more Lithuanina details than in many churches of Lithuania, including Lithuanian inscriptions about benefactors incorportated into the stained glass windows, a Lithuanian chapel-post, Lithuanian words on the altar. All this despite the fact that the church is now mostly Hispanic. The Hispanic immigrants that came to the area and the remnants of Lithuanian community are on good terms, however, and the Lithuanian mass is celebrated once monthly.

New Haven St. Casimir church after reconstruction into apartments. Look for the roof windows. Google Street View.

Putnam monastery - Lithuania outside Lithuania

Putnam town in eastern Connecticut is famous for its Lithuanian monastery (nunnery) of Immaculate conception. The surrounding lawn hosts annual Lithuanian festivals attracting thousands of Lithuanians. It includes a romantic model of Lithuanian castle, a monument to Šiluva Maryan vision, a cemetery, and other symbols. The monastery has been established in 1936 as a dependency of Lithuanian monastery (which has been closed down by the occupying Soviets in 1940, leading to independence of the Putnam monastery). The monastery building includes a LithuanianAmerican cultural archive (with a library and art museum). The things from Lithuanian pavilion of EXPO 1939 New York has been moved here: busts of King Midaugas and President Anatnas Smetona, sculptures "Grand Duke Vytautas" and "Lithuania", paintings of Napoleon in Vilnius, Vytautas after Žalgiris battle, establishment of Vilnius university, a model of Gediminas castle tower of Vilnius. It breathes the interwar atmosphere and also has contemporary maps and other things necessary to teach the Americans of 1939 something about Lithuania, a country most of them would have never been able to visit. The monastery also includes J. Matulaitis pensioner's home and a summer camp "Neringa".

The nuns of this monastery published a "Siberian book of prayers" in 1959. This book by Adelė Dirsytė was written after her exile to cold and dreary Siberia by the Soviet occupational regime for her disapproval of communism. She wrote her hopes and prayers onto a manuscript in 1953 but only by 1959 could it go beyond the Iron Curtain (the author deceased in 1955 unable to withstand the harsh conditions after being moved to a lager). The prayer book has been a major success, it had been translated into many languages (even Chinese), had a massive circulation (450 000 Dutch books alone) and many issues (5 times issued in Germany), helping the world to learn about both the tragedy and determination of the Lithuanian nation. This is likely the most widely published Lithuanian book.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Connecticut, USA No Comments


Massachusetts Lithuanian community is among the oldest and the fourth largest in the USA (~51 000 people, 0,8% of total).

The heart of the community is in South Boston where Lithuanian St. Peter church, clubs, and other institutions are located. Boston is also famous for having been the location where largest ever Lithuanian encyclopedia has been published.

In turn of the 20th century, Massachusetts Lithuanian communities also began in what were then industrial towns: Brockton and Worcester. Lithuanian Village was one of the hearts of Brockton and famous for its celebrations eagerly followed by non-Lithuanians as well. Worcester was the smallest US city outside Pennsylvania to have more than a single Lithuanian church.

Merrimack river valley and its long-gone textile industry made another Lithuanian heartland in towns of Lowell and Lawrence.

Beautiful Lithuanian church exists in Athol (Romance revival, 1912, still in use, 105 Main Street)

St. Francis church in Athol. Google Street View.

There are less Lithuanian institutions left in these towns today however as the communnity has not been replenished by new immigrants in 1950s and 1990s as was the case with Boston. Most Lithuanian churches have been closed in late the 2000s and sold to other denominations. They still stand however as do various monuments related to Lithuania. Some locations have names relating to Lithuania. Closed Lithuanian churches in small town Massachusetts include St. George at Norwood (built 1915, Polish seceded 1919, a convent was built 1955, closed 2004, converted into apartments).

The town of Stockbridge in the West of Massachusetts has few Lithuanians but it is the place of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy constructed in 1960 in support of the Divine Mercy worship which began in Vilnius.

Springfield, Massachusetts is the birthplace of Lithuania's national sport (basketball); the Basketball Hall of Fame there lists Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis among the top players. Westfield, a suburb of Springfield, also has a former Lithuanian church.

St. Casimir church of Westfield, now a school. Google Street View.

Literature: Images of America: South Norwood, 2004, Norwood Historical Society, pg. 20-25

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 1 Comment

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was one of the first US metropolises and the heartland of US independence war (some Lithuanians, deeply pro-freedom, also joined the fight for US cause there). The extensive Boston Lithuanian community, however, dates to late 19th century when the city was 5th largest in the USA. Its numbers mushroomed in some 1904. There were so many Lithuanians that a demonstration at Boston Commons urging the USA to recognize newly independent Lithuania attracted 5 000 in the year 1919.

In South Boston, traditionally the heartland of Lithuanian community, there is Boston Lithuanian Citizen's Club (368 West Broadway) which houses a Lithuanian food bar and an auditorium for events where the bands from Lithuania have their gigs. This district also has a Lithuanian Saturday school, ethnographic bands, self-support community, credit union and local groups of Lithuanian organizations (Scouts, Knights, Ateitininkai).

The last remaining open Lithuanian church in Massachusetts is also located in South Boston, 75 Flaherty Way (others were closed down ~2009). Built in 1901 it is dedicated to St. Peter. The parish was established in 1896 through a hard struggle as the Irish community then dominated South Boston and Irish bishop Williams opposed the move. In 2008 the parish had 1000 member families, 100 of them newly immigrated and 900 descendants of earlier immigration "waves". Lithuanian and English mass are both celebrated.

St. Peter Lithuanian church; its car park has Lithuanian an American flags. Google Street View.

Previously other Boston conurbation areas had their Lithuanian churches as well. Immaculate Conception church of Cambridge (432 Windsor Street) has been built in 1913 and has been recently transformed into "affordable housing" by the "Just a Start Corporation". This corporation acquired the building in 2007. A municipal commission formed in 2009 deemed it to be of great significance as an example of Mission Style / Arts and Crafts (created by famous Maginnis and Walsh company) and for its possible inspirations in the Gothic architecture of Lithuania. It asked not to alter facades (was unaltered) and not to remove religious references where possible (crosses were however removed and frescoes whitened). The owners were however given a free hand in the interior which was entirely changed.

The small square in front of the Immaculate Conception church is named after a Lithuanian-American Peter D. Sarapas who died fighting for the USA in the World War 2. This renaming was a part of a WW2-era campaign by various parishes that sought to have places near them renamed after the war heroes who were parish members.

Immaculate Conception church undergoing reconstruction into affordable housing. Google Street View.

Boston is also famous for the Lithuanian encyclopedia first published there in 1953-1966 (nicknamed the Boston encyclopedia). This 37 volume work is still the largest encyclopedia ever published in the Lithuanian language. At the time Lithuania had been occupied by the Soviet Union so there was no state funding and many sources were very hard to access making the job undertaken by some 200 Lithuanian American authors even more tremendous. The authors wished that liberated Lithuania would have its encyclopedia and their work is indeed still used. In 1970-1978 they translated the Lithuania-related articles to create 6 volume English "Encyclopedia Lituanica", still the most comprehensive English work on Lithuania.

Lithuania's Jews also moved to Boston before World War 1 forming the community of "Anshei Vilner" (Yiddish for "People of Vilnius"). Their modest synagogue (Vilna Shul) was built near the Boston Commons. It was abandoned in 1985 after the Jews left the district but unlike many other similar buildings, it was saved from demolition. It has since been repurposed as a museum which offers a chance to return back in time to the era when Jewish communities were poor.

Vilna Shul in Central Boston. Google Street View.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 2 Comments

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 established their own district Lithuanian Village. It was full of Lithuanian businesses: bakeries, shops, pharmacies. To this day in internet forums, the inhabitants of Brockton remember it as the heart of their city. The center point of life there used to be St. Rocco church (later renamed St. Casimir, established 19th century, rebuilt 1957, 214 Ames St.). Many Lithuanians graduated from its 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).

Monument to those died for Lithuanian freedom next to the former St. Casimir church. Google Street View.

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).

Unfortunately, other elements of Lituanity also decreased over the time. In 2009 the archdiocese of Boston went onto ethnic church closure spree and this included the St. Casimir church, the heart of Brockton's Lithuanians. To the very day of closure Lithuanian priest used to hold Lithuanian mass there. In 1910 this 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.

Some objects dear to Lithuanians were moved from St. Casimir church to St. Michael church in Avon, a northern suburb of Brockton (211 North Main Street), where most former parish members now pray at. In its churchyard, the monument to Lithuanian defenders of freedom now stands (with a symbolic cross, sword, and memorial plaques). The St. Casimir furniture was donated to a newly constructed church in Tanzania.

Another churchyard monument For those who died for Lithuanian Freedom has been rebuilt in 2009 at the Our Lady of Sorrows monastery cemetery (as Massachusetts law forbids to remove what has been constructed in a cemetery).

Most of the Brockton's Lithuanian bars and restaurants also closed down (in 2009 there was one bar The Lit left owned by a 75-year-old Lithuanian woman) and the Romuva park feels abandoned. 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 2010 census.

The Lit bar in the Lithuanian Village. The Lithuanian-American community is younger than the Lithuanian nation just as the White America is regarded to be younger than Europe. However, this may seem arguable here: you wouldn't find a bar (or any other private institution) established in 1897 in Lithuania itself because of wars and the Soviet occupation (when everything was nationalized). Google Street View.

Brockton Lithuanian Village (now sometimes called just The Village) still has a playground named after Lithuanian Tukis and Baltic Street (Baltic Sea borders Lithuania and Lithuanian language is part of Baltic language group).

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 4 Comments

Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester, 64 km westwards from Boston has a population of 180 000, ~2% Lithuanian (~4000). This is the 5th largest number of Lithuanians among all US cities (after Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia).

Gothic revival St. Casimir Lithuanian church (41 Providence Street) offered regular services here from 1916 to 2009. Final mass was held in 2010 for Lithuanian independence day and the building was sold in 2011 to charismatic Christians for 650 000 USD. Altair and other sacred items were removed beforehand. Former members of the parish (established in 1894) still maintain a large website dedicated to the church which was created for an unsuccessful struggle against merging their parish with English-speaking St. John parish. It is quite rare that so much information about an important Lithuanian American building is collected in one place.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church.

Worcester was large enough to have a second Lithuanian church, gothic revival Our Lady of Vilna (153 Sterling Street, built ~1925). Today it serves the Vietnamese community indicating that the modern migration to America is mostly non-White, unlike that of the 1900s. Vietnamese-Americans have one thing in common with Lithuanian-Americans however: many of them immigrated after their country has been overrun by a communist invasion. Gediminas street still exists in church vicinity (named after Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, 1275-1341).

Our Lady of Vilna church in Worcester. Google Street View.

The suburb of Shrewsbury includes Maironis park (52 South Quinsigamond Avenue), named after the famous Lithuanian patriotic poet of 19th-century national revival. This is a building rented out for celebrations (including Lithuanian holidays).

In 2010 the Worcester municipality recognized its partly Lithuanian roots by twinning with a town of Ukmergė in Lithuania.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts No Comments

Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts

Lawrence (pop. 70 000), Massachusetts is known as the "immigrant city" for the numerous early 20th-century European migrant communities. And nearly every ethnicity built its own church.

Lithuanians constructed two churches (both now closed). The first one was the usual Roman Catholic St. Francis (94 Bradford Street), currently used as a Christian Belessini Academy (Lithuanian mass was transferred to Corpus Christi parish in 35 Essex street).

St. Francis Lithuanian church in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Google Street View.

The second Lithuanian church, constructed in 1855 (Garden Street 150), used to be owned by an independent Lithuanian National Catholic Church which has acquired it in 1917. This has been a unique denomination established in early 20th century by Lithuanians which considered itself Catholic but denounced the authority of Roman Pope (thus they are not Roman Catholics). Lithuanian National Catholics had their cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania (still operational) and Lawrence was its only other parish.

Lithuanian National Catholic Church in Lawrence. Google Street View.

Lawrence's Lithuanian National Catholic Church building has been sold again (to the Haitian Baptists this time). But the Methuen suburb still has a Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery, the final resting place of the parish. They could have been buried neither in the unsanctified Protestant cemetery ground nor together with the papal followers, that's why they established their own cemetery which has received a nice arch in 1997 and a memorial to Lithuanians who fought for the USA in 2016.

Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery in Methuen. Google Street View.

Methuen suburb also has a unique-in-America area where, near Forrest lake, entire district has its streets named in Lithuanian. There are Palanga, Varniai, Kaunas, Luoke streets (all named after Lithuanian cities), as well as Birute street (named after a Duchess of Lithuania) and Vytis street (Vytis being the Lithuanian Coat of Arms). This was the former resort area owned by the St. Francis church, which the Roman Catholic church had swiftly sold for residential construction after disestablishing the parish.

Lowell, Massachusetts

10 km further west from Lawrence along the Merrimack river (its valley once a major hub for textile industry which has attracted Lithuanians in the first place) lies the town of Lowell (pop. 100 000), a kind of Lawrence's twin. The local Lithuanians also had their church dedicated to St. Joseph (151 Rogers Street). Built on 1911 it has been closed on 2003.

Lowell still has Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas club named after the famous Lithuanian leader under whose rule Lithuania was the largest medieval European state. Opened in 1920 the club moved to its current location at 447 Central Street in 1966 and its entrance is still adorned by a Lithuanian flag and a pre-modern Lithuanian abbreviation of its name DLKV. Theoretically, it's still open although practically its doors are rarely opened as the community is already senescent.

Lowell DLKV Lithuanian club. Google Street View.

In 2012 a commemorative stone to local Lithuanians has been unveiled near Lowell municipal building.

Other Merrimack valley

A little north Nashua, New Hampshire is also considered a part of the Merrimack valley. That textile town has its own Lithuanian heritage.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts, USA 11 Comments

Baltimore, Maryland

The largest city of Maryland Baltimore is a traditional industrial city and has an old prewar Lithuanian community.

Centrally located gothic revival St. Alphonsus Shrine (114 West Saratoga Street) with its three-stage 73 m bell tower is one of the most impressive Lithuanian churches in America. Built in 1844 it is also the oldest one - predating even most of the US famous stately buildings. In mid-19th century there were few Lithuanian Americans as serfdom was not yet abolished in the Russian-occupied Lithuania, limiting freedom of migration. So the Shrine has been built by the German community and used to be called "German cathedral" before being sold to burgeoning Lithuanian parish in 1917 when Germans were moving out of the district. The new church expedited Lithuanian settlement and the neighborhood received its "Little Lithuania" nickname. In 1973 the St. Alphonsus Church was enlisted in National Register of Historic Places, in 1995 it was styled "Shrine". Lithuanian, English, and Latin (Tridentine) mass are celebrated here these days.

St. Alphonsus shrine towers over central Baltimore. Google Street View.

Before they bought the St. Alphonsus shrine Lithuanians had their parish of St. John the Baptist on 308 N. Paca St. (1888-1917). That parish was later Italian and now replaced by St. Judas shrine; it is unclear whether the building is the same as in Lithuanian times.

Like the other US downtowns Baltimore has been affected by white flight; most Lithuanians left for suburbs as well. In 1950 Baltimore had a population of 950 000, in 2010 it was 621 000 (63% Blacks, ~2000 Lithuanians), the crime rates are high, so the St. Alphonsus shrine has less parishioners although Lithuanians drive from the suburbs. In total Maryland has 18 000 Lithuanians.

After the acquisition of St. Alphonsus shrine a Lithuanian Hall was opened in the locality for secular events in the year 1921 (until 1968 the building was known solely by its Lithuanian name Lietuvių namai; 851-853 Hollins St.). The Doric design is by Stanislaus Russel and the Lithuanian coat of arms Vytis is proudly hanging above the main entrance and on the top. The three-floored building has a 1500seat events hall (2nd floor), a conference hall, a dance area, a bar, a kitchen, a pool room. Since 1978 the Hall houses a Lithuanian museum with various memorabilia (e.g. the glasses of the "Patriarch of Lithuanian independence" dr. Jonas Basanavičius, the flight logbook of the first Lithuanians to cross Atlantic ocean and worldwide pioneers of air mail Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas). Workshops of traditional ethnic arts and crafts (e.g. Easter egg painting) are possible. Lithuanian Hall also houses the Lithuanian National Library. It has been established 1908 merely 4 years after the Lithuanian language was legalized in its Russian-ruled homeland after a 50-year-old ban. This is the oldest ethnic minority library in America. Active entertainment of Baltimore Lithuanians includes ethnic dance troupe, seniors club, internet radio. Unlike Lithuanian Halls in some other cities which closed down with a decline of attendances, the Baltimore one is successfully attracting non-Lithuanians as well to its hip dancing nights. On the opposite side of the Lithuanian Hall, there is a Little Lithuania Park names so after the alternative name for the entire district.

Massive Lithuanian hall with Vytis symbols. Google Street View.

Baltimore is the birthplace of the famous 20th-century singer Frank Zappa (1940-1993). Interestingly 2 years after musician's death (1995) his statue was unveiled in downtown Vilnius (capital of Lithuania) by a group of fans. At the time Lithuania had just restored independence (in 1990) and was eagerly embracing libertarianism, thus such initiative was not opposed by urban planners. The news was a US media sensation back then and F. Zappa statue became popular among foreign tourists in Vilnius. In 2010 Vilnius municipality decided to gift a copy of the famous statue to Baltimore where it has been erected on the corner of Conkling Street and Eastern Avenue.

Frank Zappa bust in Baltimore is the copy of one in Vilnius, Lithuania. Google Street View.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Maryland, USA 2 Comments

Cleveland, Ohio

The 14 000 – strong Cleveland‘s Lithuanian community dates to the 19th century.

Within the city limits, you may find old St. George church (1921, 6527 Superior Avenue). Towerless massive building is similar to the St. Anthony in Detroit. It has two stories with a church hall on the upper floor and a former school downstairs. Unfortunately, there are no more pupils in its classes and the last Mass in the church itself was celebrated in 2009. Saving money Cleveland Diocese the closed the church. At that time it was the oldest Lithuanian parish in the USA (established 1895).

Diocese planned to sell the building and the surrounding lot which also includes a historical 19th cnetury house for at least 220 000 USD, but it had to reduce price to merely 11 000 USD. This is the reality of cities like Cleveland where decayed urban centre is unsafe since the 1966 race riots and subsequent white flight. The buildings were acquired by Community Greenhouse Partners which will use the area for urban agriculture. Yes, in the rapidly depopulating cities like Detroit and Cleveland cheap land is regularly acquired for gardens. The new owners plan to renovate the church building and grow food on its roof.

St. George Lithuanian church. On the right, the glasshouses are already visible as this dilapidated city district is meant to become countryside again. Google Street View.

The closure of Lithuanian church in Cleveland failed to spark protests akin to those in other communities influenced by the church-closure spree. This is because there was another Lithuanian church in Cleveland – Our Lady of Perpetual Help (18022 Neff Rd) which remained open as a newly-united (2009) St. Casimir Lithuanian parish. The Mass is celebrated there in both Lithuanian and English. The sharp-cornered church building was constructed in 1960s after the influx of some 4 000 displaced (exiled) persons from the Soviet-occupied Lithuania. The parish itself is older, but formerly it had been using a simple house as a church building.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (St. Casimir) Lithuanian church, the last such in Cleveland. Like many of the post-WW2 Lithuanian churches, it combines extensive buildings with a relatively simple modernist design. Google Street View.

Away from the churches, a Lithuanian Community Center (877 E 185) houses a Lithuanian Gintaras restaurant, bar, lounge and party center. Various Lithuanian memorabilia and crafts are kept inside. Like the new church, the Community Center has been built in 1973 after the refugees moved in and many Lithuanians resettled east of downtown.

Lithuanian Village Community Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Google Street View.

In the All Souls Cemetary (Chadron suburb of Cleveland) the President of Lithuania Antanas Smetona (his main term was in 1926-1940) is buried. He is very important in Lithuanian (and Baltic States) history and entire era of his rule is typically called the Smetonic era. It was an era of prosperity followed by the tragedy of World War 2 and Soviet occupation when hundreds of thousands Lithuanians were murdered, exciled or had to flee Lithuania. Antanas Smetona also fled Lithuania to the USA, where he died in house fire in Cleveland in 1944. Lithuanian Americans had various opinions about Smetona at the time as some disliked him for his authoritarian rule. Among his policies were the clampdown on communist and nazi terrorist movements (the first anti-nazi trials in the whole Europe).

Cleveland Rockefeller park has a collection of ethnic gardens for each of the city’s ethnic communities. A Lithuanian garden blooming there is one of the oldest, established in 1930 (together with the Italian, German, Slovak and Ukrainian gardens). The garden has three levels; the upper level has Lithuanian flag and the fountain of duchess Birutė (legendarily a pagan priestess) surrounded by busts of 19th century Lithuanian National Revival poets who called for Lithuania to be independent once again and romantically sought inspiration in the last era Lithuanian was truly free (the Grand Duchy era). The poets are priest Maironis (built 1961) and Vincas Kudirka (built 1938), the author of Lithuanian National Anthem. The middle level has the Pillars of Gediminas, a patriotic symbol related to Grand Duke Gediminas. The lowest level has a bust of Jonas Basanavičius, known as the "Patriarch of the Nation" this scholar is frequently credited the most for the restoration of Lithuanian statehood in 1918 (bust erected 1936).

Upper terrace of the Lithuanian Cultural Garden in Cleveland which feels like an interwar Lithuania: because of the symbols, people whose busts are erected and landscaping aesthetics. Google Street View.

Cleveland also has Telshe yeshiva (Jewish religious school, 28400 Euclid Avenue), named after the Lithuanian town of Telšiai. This is a continuation of the original Telšiai yeshiva, opened in 1875 and closed after Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 (due to the Soviet atheist policies). As it happened, two of the Telšiai yeshiva's teachers were collecting donations for their yeshiva among the US Jewry at the time. Given the circumstances, they decided not to return to Lithuania but establish Telshe yeshiva in Cleveland instead. It became an important US haredi institution; in 1960 another Telshe yeshiva was opened in Chicago.

Entrance to Telshe yeshiva. Google Street View.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Ohio, USA 4 Comments

Washington, DC

Washington, DC is the political heart of the United States but for 50 years (1940-1990) it was also the political heart of Lithuania. In that era Lithuania was occupied by foreign powers with Soviet occupation lasting 46 years. USA never recognised this act of aggression so the Lithuanian embassy in Washington (622 16th St., N.W.) continued to represent the independent Lithuania - in fact, Lithuanian embassy in Washington was its de facto government. Among its jobs in that era of hardship was to lobby USA to support Lithuanian freedom.

The embassy is also the oldest Lithuanian representation abroad. Lithuanians acquired this 5 floored towered italianate villa in 1924 (6 years after establishing independence in 1918). Relations with the USA have always been of utmost importance to Lithuania because of the extensive Lithuanian American community (193 600 people in 1930 or 6% of contemporary Lithuania's population) which provided great help in advancing Lithuanian political and economic aspirations.

In 2008 the embassy received a new wing, doubling its size (1116 sq. m to 2488 sq. m). The old wing is now used for ceremonial purposes only. It is still the authentic building by architect George Oakley Totten, Jr completed in 1909 for senator John B. Henderson (although part of the building was demolished in 1950).

Historical Lithuanian embassy in Washington. The Old Wing now looks strangely slim near the massive adjoining building (leftmost). This building has replaced the other half of the historical villa in the 1950s. The New Wing is behind the Old Wing. Vytis (Lithuanian Coat of Arms) covers the front balcony. Google Street View.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and the tallest building in Washington, DC (100 m). Built in a period of 41 years (1920-1961) the National Shrine is also famous for its many chapels dedicated to the ethnic communities of the USA and their original homelands. Lithuanian chapel is named after Our Lady of Šiluva, the earliest church-recognised apparition of Virgin Mary in Europe (Šiluva village, Lithuania, year 1608). In addition to her statue interior decor includes many other elements inspired by nostalgia for former homeland: mosaics of famous Lithuanian buildings, Lithuania's symbols, Lithuanian cultural traditions and traditional arts.

Washington, DC was never an industrial city so it failed to attract a larger Lithuanian community. Therefore, save for the largely ceremonial chapel in its National Shrine it lacks a Lithuanian church. Lithuanian mission with monthly mass operates at Epiphany parish (2712 Dumbarton St., NW) since 1985 however.

Washington, DC and its suburbs house various pro-Baltic umbrella organizations such as The Joint Baltic American National Committee (est. 1961) which unites Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian members. These three nations have been united by history as all three suffered Russian Imperial, German and Soviet occupations.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: USA, Washington, DC No Comments


Northern Indiana was absorbed by suburban Chicago - "Lithuanian-American capital". Some Chicagoans moved in there.

The heart of Lithuanians in Indiana is the resort town of Beverly Shores near the famous Indiana Dunes of Lake Michigan. 12,5% of its ~700 inhabittants are Lithuanians. In 1968 a local park was renamed after Lituanica plane; a statue for Darius and Girėnas who piloted that aircraft in a doomed first air mail voyage accross Atlantic also stands here (1971, author Juozas Baltakis). Tennis and basketball courts, a pond are nearby. Beverly Shores also have a Lithuanian club.

Nearby city of Gary once had a Lithuanian St. Casimir church (closed ~2000). Old modest two-floored building survives (1368 West 15th Avenue) and is still crowned by corsses but today it operates as an independent Power and Light church.

Former St. Casimir church of Gary, Indiana of a design that incorporated religious and secular needs into one building and was typical to smaller Lithuanian communities. Google Street View.

East Chicago also had its Lithuanian church (demolished, formerly 3903 Main Street) and still has a street named after Lituanica.

In 1976 Lithuanian community has also been established in the state capital Indianapolis. Indianapolis is among the growing US cities, expanding its population fourfold since the first Lithuanian wave of immigration ~1910. That's why back then it had no Lithuanians but in 1990s it attracted new immigrants rejuvenating the community. There is a Lithuanian school and band.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Indiana, USA 12 Comments