Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Chicago, Illinois

Home to some 80 000 Lithuanians, Chicagoland is perhaps the second important center of Lithuanian nation after Lithuania itself and it has been so for well over a century. Between the 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 Lithuanian churches were built, followed by schools, monasteries, museums, clubs and other institutions. The center of Lithuanian settlement gradually moved: from Bridgeport and Back of the Yards (in the 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.

Lithuanian district center with church, school, and monastery at the Back of the Yards district

Lithuanian district center with church, school, and monastery at the Back of the Yards district

The top Lithuanian sites to visit in Chicago are:
1.Top Lithuanian churches - Holy Cross (see "Back of the Yards") and Nativity BVM (see "Marquette Park"), followed by St. Anthony (see "Cicero") and Immaculate Conception (see "Brighton Park").
2.Top Lithuanian museums and cultural centers - Lithuanian World Center (see "Lemont"), Balzekas museum (see "West Lawn"), Lithuanian Youth Center (Gage Park).
3.Lithuanian cemeteries - St. Casimir Cemetery and National Cemetery (see "Lithuanian cemeteries").
4.Lithuanian monuments - the Lemont Hill of Crosses (see "Lemont"), Darius and Girėnas monument (see "Marquette Park").
5.Other sites - St. Casimir Sisters convent, Lithuania Plaza street (for both see "Marquette Park").

Lithuanian Youth center, housing numerous museums, archives, and memorials

Lithuanian Youth center, housing numerous museums, archives, and memorials

Sadly, Lituanity in Illinois seems to be somewhat on a decline. In the 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 did not replenish Lithuanity as much as expected.

Back of the Yards - stockyards and America's top Lithuanian church

The most impressive of the Chicago's Lithuanian churches is the Baroque revival Holy Cross in Back of the Yards that has been even included in the general books on Chicago architecture.

Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)

Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (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 the 1970s and the Lithuanian Mass ceased to be celebrated in ~2005. Plaque "Lietuvių Rymo katalikų bažnyčia" remains near the entrance ("Lithuanian Roman Catholic church" in pre-modern Lithuanian language when "Rome" was still called "Rymas") while the pediment includes the Columns of Gediminas.

Pediment of the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)  with columns of Gediminas (on the right side)

Pediment of the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards) with columns of Gediminas (on the right side)

The interior (accessible on Sundays alone) is also miraculously spectacular, dwarfing even many cathedrals in its splendor, as well as most churches in both Chicago and Lithuania itself. It includes paintings of the Hill of Crosses (Šiauliai) and the Gate of Dawn (Vilnius Old Town), as well as Christening of Mindaugas, while the stained-glass windows and artworks are mostly Lithuanian-created, having the Lithuanian names of sponsors or artists under them.

Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards) interior

Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards) interior

Stained glass windows at the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)

Stained glass windows at the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)

Hill of Crosses painting at the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)

Hill of Crosses painting at the Holy Cross Lithuanian church in Chicago (Back of the Yards)

While initially the church has been constructed by a Czech architect Joseph Molitor (at the time, there were no Lithuanian architects capable of such a feat), in the 1950s it has been later greatly Lithuanized by Adolfas Valeška, who is responsible for most of the Lithuanian bas-reliefs, paintings, and stained-glass windows. Moreover, the floor has been covered in Lithuanian patterns since that renovation.

Next to the church stands a former Lithuanian convent (now a school) with a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross and Lithuanian-crated mosaic (author - Valeška, architect - Kova-Kovalskis).

Holy Cross Lithuanian monastery

Holy Cross Lithuanian monastery

The life of Lithuanian butchers who built the Back of the Yards 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 faraway 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).

The famous Chicago Union Stockyards have been closed in the 1971 and mostly demolished. A few buildings remain such as the Stockyard gate in W Exchange Ave. Next to the gate, a plaque reminds of the Stockyards history and the "Jungle" novel. It reminds of the Lithuanians as one of the major groups of workers in the yards.

Union Stockyard gate in Chicago

Union Stockyard gate in Chicago

Bridgeport - the first Lithuanian district of Chicago

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 an empty lot, 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.

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

The site of the St. George Lithuanian church in Bridgeport

The site of the St. George Lithuanian church in Bridgeport

The nearby former 3-floored St. George parish school (1908), declared by to be the "best Lithuanian school in America" by a 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).

St. George Lithuanian school at Bridgeport

St. George Lithuanian school at Bridgeport

St. George Lithuanian school at Bridgeport

St. George Lithuanian school at Bridgeport

Bridgeport also had a massive Lithuanian Auditorium (3133 So. Halsted Street) with a Vytis on it (built 1925) which once served as the hub of Chicago's Lithuanian activities. However, it has also been demolished in the 1990s as Lithuanians departed the district. 1000-seat Lithuanian theater Milda (est. 1914), once associated with Lithuanian communists, has met the same fate (now replaced by a police station). Another theater "Ramova" (est. 1929) still stands albeit closed since 1983 (3518 S. Halsted Street) with a dissipating movement to save it. The Lithuanian name (which means 'Pagan temple') proudly hangs over the S Halsted street on a historic large 1944 sign that is a final reminder of the era when most of the people in the area used to speak Lithuanian (the crumbling decor is Spanish-styled, however).

Ramova Cinema in Bridgeport

Ramova Cinema in Bridgeport

A street in Bridgeport is still named Lituanica Avenue since the 1930s. 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).

Lituanica Street address

Lituanica Street address

The western limit of Lithuanian Bridgeport used to be at Morgan St., with Poles living beyond it.

Darius-Girėnas memorial plaques in Chicago airports

Darius and Girėnas 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 and also the place where they named their plane as "Lituanica". In 2008 this plaque was reinstated after reconstruction through titanious efforts of some Lithuanians. The plaque is in the ticketed-passengers-only area at the beginning of the Concourse A, on the left side if walking towards the concourse A.

Darius and Girėnas plaque at the Midway airport

Darius and Girėnas plaque at the Midway airport

In 2013 (75th anniversary of the Darius-Girėnas flight) an additional memorial plaąue for them was unveiled in the Palwakee (now Chicago executive) airport. While Darius and Girėnas have departed from New York, Palwaukee was significant to them as they bought their Lituanica there. Palwaukee airport badge would often appear during the public fundraisers of Darius and Girėnas and it is even depicted on the 10 litas banknote that depicts Darius and Girėnas. The plaque is at the entrance room to the main airport building (with "Signature" words on it).

Darius and Girėnas memorial plaque at the Palwaukee airport

Darius and Girėnas memorial plaque at the Palwaukee airport

Marquette Park - the largest-ever Lithuanian district outside Lithuania

If somebody mentions "Chicago's Lithuanian district", he usually means Marquette Park. Back in 1950s-1970s, it was the largest Lithuanian district outside Lithuania and many of the today's prominent Lithuanian-Americans spent their childhoods there. At the time, the descendants of the pre-war immigrants who moved there for better-than-in-Bridgeport homes 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 Plaza street name

Lithuanian Plaza street name

Since those times, 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, both historicist and unique ethnic Lithuanian details. Initially criticized by some, 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 celebrated there. Everything in church's architecture tells of the longing for their lost homeland.

Nativity BVM Lithuanian church

Nativity BVM Lithuanian church

On the outside, the tricolor is always waving, while the church's side walls are adorned by two historical mosaics: "The coronation of King Mindaugas" and "Miracle of St. Casimir at the River Dauguva". While having religious connotations enough to put them on the church, the deeper meaning of both is symbolic patriotically: Mindaugas was the first Lithuanian king recognized as such by Western powers (as he was the first Christian king), while the St. Casimir's miracle involved him appearing as a young soldier in front of the Lithuanian troops in 1518, showing these troops where to cross Dauguva river without drowning so they could ambush and defeat the Russians. Both themes - continued foreign recognition of Lithuanian statehood and the victory over the (Soviet) Russian occupants - were extremely important to Lithuanian-Americans back in the 1950s.

Nativity BVM Lithuanian church facade mosaic (the miracle of St. Casimir)

Nativity BVM Lithuanian church facade mosaic (the miracle of St. Casimir)

Corronation of Mindaugas mosaic at the Nativity BVM Lithuanian church

Corronation of Mindaugas mosaic at the Nativity BVM Lithuanian church

External bas-reliefs above the entrance of the church represent the sites of Lithuanian Maryan cult locations (Vilnius, Žemaičių Kalavarija, Pažaislis, Šiluva). The pretty stained-glass windows in the apse repeats the theme, with each including an image of Virgin Mary but also images of numerous Lithuania's churches - some of them closed and looted by the Soviet atheist regime at the time. Even secular buildings such as Trakai Castle are included in some windows. Patriotic symbols may also be seen on the St. Casimir stained-glass window on the side of the church (Vytis, Columns of Gediminas).

Lithuanian-cities-inspired stained glass windows at the Nativity BVM Lithuanian church of Marquette Park

Lithuanian-cities-inspired stained glass windows at the Nativity BVM Lithuanian church of Marquette Park

Also interesting are the two murals on the interior, painted by Lithuanian nuns. One of them is dedicated to Our Lady of Šiluva, which is the earliest church-recognized Maryan vision in Europe.

Among Marquette Park's key Lithuanian symbols is Chicago's largest Darius and Girėnas memorial. 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 sport.

Darius and Girėnas memorial in Marquette Park

Darius and Girėnas memorial in Marquette Park

Darius and Girėnas memorial in Marquette Park

Darius and Girėnas memorial in Marquette Park

The Marquette Park district itself, however, is now populated by blacks who started moving in in the 1960s-1970s, displacing the Lithuanians. For the Blacks, Marquette Park was simple a white district that could be targetted in their civil rights movement as a symbol of segregation in Chicago. As such, hundreds of Blacks came to live in tents in the Marquette Park itself in 1966. The crime rates have risen significantly, the property values declined. A conflict between the "old inhabitants" (Lithuanians and other whites) and the "new arrivals" (Blacks) took place. Both sides were supported by their racial compatriots from elsewhere, who, often with racist ideas, would descend on the area just to fight what they saw to be a "racial war". Unlike for other whites, however, for Lithuanians, this was a matter of their own survival: it was their only district and, losing it, they would have lost the only area in the USA where you can still speak Lithuanian as the main language. For Blacks, this was simply a matter of destroying segregation by coming to live at the historically white districts and they did not differentiate among different white ethnicities despite the fact that there have been no known Lithuanian-American slaveowners in the entire US history.

Eventually, Lithuanians have lost, and more and more of them chose to sell their Marquette Park properties at a big loss and retreat to the suburbs, taking part in the "white flight". They would never create another truly Lithuanian district in Chicago again and this likely contributed greatly to the decline of the Lithuanian culture in Chicago. It is difficult to say that Black civil rights activists have won either, however, as their only achievement was moving the "frontline of segregation" northwards, turning Marquette Park from a Lithuanian district into a ghetto. Still, in 2016, a Memorial to Martin Luther King has been built in the north of the park, where just the Black-side of the story is presented through the call to "destroy the ghetto walls". In an attempt to show the multicultural history of the district, the word "Home" is written in different languages on one of the memorial columns, with Lithuanian word "Namai" written on the top.

Martin Luther King memorial in Marquette Park

Martin Luther King memorial in Marquette Park

Some Marquette Park buildings are now abandoned, but in Lithuanian Plaza Avenue (named so in 1970) you may still see crumbling Lithuania-inspired tricolor and Vytis decor and some Lithuanian names at the now-empty former businesses: "Antano kampas", "Gintaras Club" (the latter of which is sung about in a 1990s song by the famous Lithuanian singer-songwriter Vytautas Kernagis who had a gig there), "Lithuanian Plaza Bakery", "Plaza Pub" (the later two having Lithuanian decor).

Plaza Pub sign

Plaza Pub sign

In the 1990s, the Lithuanity of the Marquette Park was temporarily rejuvenated by new immigrants from Lithuania who found it both cheap and appropriate to live in the historic Lithuanian district and had no prejudices about living among blacks. However, after noticing how unsafe the district is, most of them left once they earned more money and the last remaining Lithuanian restaurants closed in the 2000s-2010s. Even this was already only a shadow of the original community which had many businesses, and cultural institutions in an extensive area between 63rd st., 73rd st., Western Avenue, and California Avenue.

Antano kampas in Lithuanian Plaza

Antano kampas in Lithuanian Plaza that used to be owned by a post-1990 Lithuanian immigrant. Now closed.

Marquette Park district still boasts a massive St. Casimir Lithuanian Convent Motherhouse (the first massive edifice had its construction started in 1909 while the extension took place in 1982) that keeps exceptional relations with Lithuania. On the ground floor, the convent hosts a rather modern Museum of St. Casimir Sisters (officially "Legacy rooms", est. 2018) that tells a story of this Lithuanian-American nuns congregation founded by Marija Kaupas (1880-1940, an immigrant from Ramygala). While the door of the building may be locked, it is opened for people who ring and ask to see the legacy rooms.

Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

Legacy rooms of the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

Legacy rooms of the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

Back in the first half of the 20th century, St. Casimir sisters used to staff the Lithuanian parish schools, hospitals, senior homes all over America. As welfare state expanded, however, and the American public institutions took over these duties, the secular need for the Sisters declined and so did their congregation, going down from ~600 nuns to just ~50 in 2018, with the youngest one at 65.

The nearby Lithuanian school building (Lithuanian cornerstone) and the Holy Cross Hospital (Lithuanian-language plaque near the emergency entrance with 1928 date), once established by the nuns, are now both run and used by non-Lithuanians. Originally, they served the community of the Marquette Park district.

Much of the massive convent ("Motherhouse") itself has also been transferred to other Catholic activities (Catholic Charities) and only parts of it still house a few nuns.

Nativity BVM Lithuanian school

Nativity BVM Lithuanian school

Holy Cross Hospital in Marquette Park

Holy Cross Hospital in Marquette Park

Another impressive site in the historic Convent is its Baroque Revival chapel. There, holy mass is still regularly held (laymen could attend) and there, at the entrance, the body of Marija Kaupas herself lays in a sarcophagus. The goal of the nuns is to convince the Vatican eventually that Marija Kaupas was a saint, making her the second Lithuanian saint. Should that succeed, her relics would likely be sent to various churches all over the world. The stained glass windows in the convent are adorned in Lithuanian inscriptions and have been installed in the 1920s.

Chapel of the St. Casimir Sisters Convent

Chapel of the St. Casimir Sisters Convent

Marija Kaupas sarcophagus at the St. Casimir Sisters convent

Marija Kaupas sarcophagus at the St. Casimir Sisters convent

Outside the convent, there are several Lithuanian memorials. The largest one is the priest Antanas Staniukynas statue (1865-1918) on the streetside with Lithuanian slogan "Jis mirė, bet jo darbai gyvena" (He died, however, his work continues); among his work was cooperating with Marija Kaupas in creating the St. Casimir Sisters. In the yard of the convent, a built-in-1957 St. Casimir monument stands. A neighboring street is called "Honorary Maria Kaupas road" after Marija Kaupas. In the yard of the convent, another Lithuanian-inscribed sculpture is dedicated to St. Casimir.

Priest Staniukynas statue near the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

Priest Staniukynas statue near the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

St. Casimir statue at the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

St. Casimir statue at the Sisters of St. Casimir Convent

West Lawn Lithuanian institutions - Balzekas Museum, Draugas

West Lawn districts immediately to the West of the Marquette park house two of Chicago's most important Lithuanian institutions. Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture established in 1966 is the largest such institution outside Lithuania. It has been located in the current place (South Pulaski Rd. 6500) since 1986.

Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

Exhibits of the Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

Exhibits of the Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

The museum has three floors, with a general exhibition of Lithuania available on the first floor, the second floor housing a hall for temporary events, and the third floor hosting temporary exhibits. The first-floor permanent exhibition includes many pieces of the Lithuanian culture and history, as well as of that of Lithuanian-Americans and their strive to get established in the new land as well as help their (former?) homeland both economically and (especially) politically: first so that Lithuania would become free in 1918 and then recognized by the USA, and then so that its occupation (1940-1990) would end. It is useful to read some basic Lithuanian history (for example, here) before visiting the museum to grasp the meaning of the exhibits, although they are labeled in English.

Exhibits of the Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

Exhibits of the Balzekas Lithuanian museum of Chicago

A painting exhibited at Balzekas museum - a woman carrying the Tower of Gediminas of Vilnius

A painting exhibited at Balzekas museum - a woman carrying the Tower of Gediminas of Vilnius

The museum has been established by Stanley Balzekas, a son of Lithuanian immigrants, who wanted it to become a bridge between Lithuanians and Americans, to have more contact to the American community as a whole than many other Lithuanian institutions had. Balzekas being a businessman and avid collector, he managed to collect a significant number of items and attract a wider attention to his museum, especially in the 1990s when Lithuania was in the world news as a newly-independent country. Balzekas museum also helps foster Lithuanian-American relations through organizing annual tours to Lithuania for Lithuanian descendants. The nearby portion of Pulaski road even received a honorary name of Stanley Balzekas Way in his honor.

Balzekas Lithuanian museum in Chicago

Balzekas Lithuanian museum in Chicago entrance with the plaque of Stanley Balzekas Way

Not too far away from Balzekas museum, 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 went down to a third of what it was in the 1960s (down from 7000 to 2000), some 60% of the readers located in Chicago but many reading it all over the USA. Now "Draugas" also publishes its own English-language monthly "Draugas News" and also sells Lithuanian books at its publishing house. The publishing house is spacious as it dates to another era when a "small village of people" was needed to publish and print a single edition of the newspaper. With the advent of the computers and the outsourcing of printing, an atmosphere of empty-ish 1950s office prevails inside, with Lithuanian spirit is all around.

Draugas publishing house

Draugas publishing house

Draugas publishing house (a new edition is sent to the subscribers)

Draugas publishing house (a new edition is sent to the subscribers)

"Draugas" has been established by the Maryan fathers who were based in the Maryan fathers monastery nearby and worked for free for the newspaper. Designed by Jonas Mulokas, the monastery follows his iconic "modern Lithuanian" style with a tower that reminds a traditional Lithuanian chapel-post (koplytstulpis). While the Maryan fathers community has been effectively reestablished by a Lithuanian priest Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, ultimately few Lithuanians joined it in America and now the community is dominated by Polish priests. They no longer use the monastery, renting it to various weekend retreats instead. Lithuanian Maryan fathers now work in Lithuania alone

Lithuanian Maryan monastery of Chicago

Lithuanian Maryan monastery of Chicago

Lithuanian Maryan monastery of Chicago interior

Lithuanian Maryan monastery of Chicago interior

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In Burbank suburb next to the West Lawn, a new Lithuanian institution has been created in 2018: the Lithuanian-American Hall of Fame, where famous Lithuanian-Americans are being inscribed. It will be a hall used for various Lithuanian events as well as accessible to the public.

Lithuanian-American Hall of Fame

Lithuanian-American Hall of Fame

Lithuanian Jesuit Youth center - museums, gallery, and archives

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.

Lithuanian Youth center facade with Vytis and the memorial to those who died for Lithuanian freedom in front

Lithuanian Youth center facade with Vytis and the memorial to those who died for Lithuanian freedom in front

The massive building complex uses a patriotic architecture with a large modernized Vytis forming its façade. In its yard, stands the Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom that includes all the traditional Lithuanian symbols: the Cross of Vytis, the Columns of Gediminas, and Vytis itself. It has been constructed by the famous architect Jonas Mulokas in 1959 and originally had more inscriptions. Next to it, there is a traditional Lithuanian chapel-post (koplytstulpis) dedicated to Jesuit priest Jonas Raibužis (donated by scouts) and Cross dedicated to Kražiai massacre victims donated by Paskočimas family. Kražiai massacre was a 1893 event when Russian soldiers have murdered Lithuanian civilians who tried to protect their church from destruction. This event attracted worldwide attention to the Russian Orthodox anti-Catholic discrimination in Lithuania. At the time the cross was constructed, the anti-Catholic discrimination by the Russians resurfaced in Lithuania once again, this time in the name of communism. Thus there is an inscription on the cross that in 1976, during an anti-Soviet protest, students read the Chronicles of Catholic Church (an underground newspaper that documented the human rights violations in Lithuania) for 40 hours in a row.

Lithuanian cross dedicated to the victims of Kražiai massacre

Lithuanian cross dedicated to the victims of Kražiai massacre

Lithuanian girl scouts' chapel-post (koplytstulpis)

Lithuanian girl scouts' chapel-post (koplytstulpis)

While Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and religion was persecuted there, Lithuanian Jesuit province was effectively based here in Chicago and part of the building is Jesuit monastery. Currently, there are no longer any priests or monks living there as the Jesuit activities have been relocated back to Lithuania. Still, the monastery chapel still offers holy mass once a month. The exterior of the monastery chapel includes a bas-relief "Jesuits come to Vilnius in 1569", also the Lithuanian Coat of Arms.

Lithuanian coat of arms on the Lithuanian Jesuit chapel

Lithuanian coat of arms on the Lithuanian Jesuit chapel

The 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.

Like many such top-level Lithuanian-American institutions, the Research and Study Center expands its repositories through donations and legacies, often by old Lithuanians who have no Lithuanian-speaking descendants. With many donations, even the quite massive premises of the Youth Center became too small for LRSC, and so the LSRC has acquired a new building in Lemont in 2018.

The scholarly wing of LRSC (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. All may be visited during the workdays although it is better to contact in advance.

Badges of the old Lithuanian-American brotherhoods in the Lithuanian Youth Center museum

Badges of the old Lithuanian-American brotherhoods in the Lithuanian Youth Center museum

Key sections in the museums include:
*Miniature versions of Lithuanian traditional wooden crosses (UNESCO World Heritage).
*Things that belonged to the Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisans (uniforms, flags, etc.) and information related to that war that was the longest guerilla war in 20th century Europe [the Ramovėnai Lithuanian Military Museum].
*Lithuanian postal stamps.
*Historic Lithuanian banknotes.
*Stamps of the post-WW2 Lithuanian refugee organizations in Germany.
*Pendants of the early 20th century Lithuanian organizations.
*Inventory used by the Lithuanian doctors of Chicago in the mid-20th century [the Museum of Medicine].

Traditional Lithuanian metal crosses in the Lithuanian Youth Center museums

Traditional Lithuanian metal crosses in the Lithuanian Youth Center museums

There are also two non-LTRSC affiliated institutions in the Youth Center, namely the Lithuanian Saturday school and the Čiurlionis art gallery that offers temporary exhibitions of the works of Lithuanian artists. The Main hall of the Youth center offers Lithuanian events, although they have grown rarer and rarer as the Lithuanians have left the neighborhood.

Lithuanian Lutheran churches of Chicago

While today the Lithuanian nation is predominantly Catholic, prior to World War 2 up to 15% of ethnic Lithuanians were Lutheran (9% in Lithuania itself). These people hailed from Lithuania Minor region of what was then Germany. Tragically, in Lithuania, they were wiped off almost completely by the Soviets in the Genocide of Lithuania Minor (1944-1949).

However, two large groups of Lithuanian Lutherans managed to emigrate, establishing two Lithuanian Lutheran parishes in Chicago. Unlike the Catholic parishes, Lutheran parishes did not hesitate to "migrate" together with their congregations after their districts were hit with white flight, so, both are now located in the suburbs where most Lithuanians live. Both Lutheran church buildings are rather small and function is accentuated over beauty, with many non-religious premised available inside.

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church is the older one, dating to 1910 when it has been established by Martynas Keturakaitis, a priest from Tauragė. It has its own building in Oak Lawn suburb that includes church hall and Lithuanian kindergarten. The building has been acquired from another Protestant community in 1973 when the parish relocated to this suburb from Chicago. As such, the building itself has no Lithuanian details but the interior has many Lithuanian memorabilia. Also, Lithuanians have extended the building in 1982 in order to have a larger secular hall.

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church (priest images)

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church (priest images)

The initial congregation of Zion Lutheran church itself has been greatly expanded ~1950 when Chicago's Lutherans wrote over 800 letters of invitation to many Lithuanian Lutheran refugees who were stranded in refugee camps in Europe. However, a rift soon became apparent between the "old Lithuanian-Americans" of the Zion parish and the post-WW2 refugees: for the pre-WW1 Lithuanian-Americans, USA was already more or less the homeland, and the Zion parish had aligned itself with the US Lutheran church of the Missouri Synod. The post-WW2 immigrants, however, often saw their lives in the USA as a temporary exile and saw the need to safeguard as much of the Lithuanian traditions as possible, as well as separate from the US society more in order to safeguard Lithuanians as a separate group.

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church (main hall)

Zion Lithuanian Lutheran church (main hall)

After the calls by post-WW2 refugee priest Trakis to severe the Zion Lutheran church relations with the US Lutheran church (Missouri Synod) were not recognized by the "old Lithuanian-Americans", Trakis created a separate Lithuanian Lutheran parish known as Tėviškė ("The Homeland"). Initially, this parish has been located in the Lithuanian Lutheran church building near Marquette park that was acquired from Jews in 1950s and sold to Black-dominated Heart Church Ministries church in 2000s as the district has changed (nothing reminds the Lutheran church in the building now). Since then, Tėviškė Lutheran church rents its premises in Western Springs (5129 Wolf Road). However, even though the premises are rented, Lithuanian-inspired welcome signs have been built and some Lithuanian memorabilia is kept inside.

Lithuanian historic flag at the driveway to the Tėviškė chruch

Lithuanian historic flag at the driveway to the Tėviškė chruch

Tėviškė parish continues to be the more "ethnic" one among the two Chicago Lithuanian parishes: for example, Tėviškė has solely Lithuanian services while Zion parish also offers English services and conducts its Bible study in English. For some five decades 1950s-2000s, Zion parish also offered German services for the Germanized Lithuanians of Lithuania Minor who spoke better German than Lithuanian, however, as their ranks became scarce, the German service has been canceled by the mid-2000s. When the entire Zion congregation sings hymns together, each person is permitted to choose his own language (English, Lithuanian or German) still. Another difference between the two parishes is the burial places: while Tėviškė members are usually buried in the Lithuanian National Cemetery, Zion members are often buried in the common American cemeteries.

However, both parishes have helped Lithuania after independence, promote Lithuanian activities and have attracted priests from Lithuania itself after Lithuania became independent and both have aligned with the Lithuanian Lutheran church. That said, Tėviškė parish is aligned only to the Lithuanian Lutheran church whereas Zion church also keeps its alignment to the Missouri Synod while the Lithuanian-Lutheran alignment is mostly a spiritual one.

Pilsen Lithuanian heritage

Back in the 1920s, Chicago had 12 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 Romance Revival 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 events there are now Spanish). It has been founded by St. George parishioners from Bridgeport. The rather grand interior includes authentic stained-glass windows and stations with the cross with Lithuanian inscriptions. The access is limited though as there is no regular mass. On the outside, next to a Lithuanian cornerstone there is another stone commemorating the fact that Providence of God was the sole Lithuanian church in Chicago to have Pope visiting it. This happened in 1979.

Next to the church stands the former Lithuanian school with cornerstone indicating its original purpose.

Providence of God Lithuanian church (right) and school (left)

Providence of God Lithuanian church (right) and school (left)

Providence of God Lithuanian church

Providence of God Lithuanian church

Lithuanian stations of the cross at the Providence of God church

Lithuanian stations of the cross at the Providence of God church

Cornerstone of the Providence of God Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Providence of God Lithuanian church

Pilsen's 2nd Lithuanian church was a more modest Our Lady of Vilna church and school (2327 W 23rd Place), now closed. The two-floored residential-like building used to host the church on the main floor and a parish school above it. The building was intended to be primarily a school, with the church temporarily located there before a bigger building is built (which never happened); that is why all the available inscriptions declare its school purpose ("Lithuanian Catholic school" above the entrance, "Lietuviška mokslaini Vilniaus Austros Vartu Š. M. P. Parakvijes", which in old Lithuanian language means "Lithuanian school of Our Lady of Gate of Dawn"). 1906 is inscribed as the date the construction began. After the parish has been closed, the parish name remained 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".

Our Lady of Vilnius church/school in the Heart of Italy district of Chicago

Our Lady of Vilnius church/school in the Heart of Italy district of Chicago

Our Lady of Vilnius church/school in the Heart of Italy district of Chicago (cornerstone)

Our Lady of Vilnius church/school in the Heart of Italy district of Chicago (cornerstone)

Brighton Park Lithuanian church, school, monastery and Šauliai house

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.). It includes numerous Lithuanian details in its interior, among which the most striking are the Our Lady of Šiluva shrine in a side-chapel, Divine Mercy shrine (based on the painting in Vilnius) in the other side-chapel, and the Our Lady of Šiluva stained-glass-window that is colored in the colors of the Lithuanian flag. The rest of the stained-glass windows also have Lithuanian donors written on them; the windows are not the traditional light European-style but rather they are made of large single-colored chunks of glass.

Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception

Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception

Our Lady of Šiluva side-chapel at the Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception

Our Lady of Šiluva side-chapel at the Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception

Stained glass windows of the Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception with the Our Lady of Šiluva tricolor window on the right

Stained glass windows of the Brighton Park Lithuanian church of Immaculate Conception with the Our Lady of Šiluva tricolor window on the right

The parish dates to 1914 but like some other churches, this one was built post-WW2 to accommodate a major influx of Lithuanian refugees. An entire complex of buildings served them, including the Lithuanian school (1915) and Lithuanian convent (1925), both of which have their Lithuanian purpose inscribed on their facades (in English and Lithuanian) despite no longer being used for that purpose. Today, the parish is mostly Hispanic, and most of the masses are celebrated in Spanish although some are Lithuanian; Hispanic details (Our Lady of Guadalupe) have also been added to the church.

Brighton Park Lithuanian school cornerstone

Brighton Park Lithuanian school cornerstone

Entrance to the Brighton Park Lithuanian convent

Entrance to the Brighton Park Lithuanian convent

Still, Lithuanian details outnumber them. At the entrance of the church, a traditional Lithuanian cross stands built in 1987 in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of Christianity in Lithuania. It incorporates Lithuanian coat of arms in its design.

Brighton Park Lithuanian cross

Brighton Park Lithuanian cross

On the W 43rd (near S Western Ave) stands a small building belonging to the Lithuanian Rifleman Union (Šaulių sąjunga) known as the Šauliai House, its facade adorned in Lithuanian patriotic symbols since it has been acquired by the organization in 1975. Šauliai, variously translated as "Lithuanian Riflemen" or "Lithuanian National Guard", is a 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. In America, Šauliai withered over the time as the original refugees died off and their children mostly did not join the organization. After independence, however, some new Šauliai from Lithuanian moved in or new immigrants decided to join the organization. In 2005, Šauliai House was acquired by one such recent immigrant who later joined Šauliai himself. It is now not only used for Šauliai meetings but also as a rental hall. The organization is much different today from what it was: it had some 1000 members once but just some 20 these days.

Šauliai House of Chicago at Brighton Park

Šauliai House of Chicago at Brighton Park

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".

Cicero Lithuanian heritage

Further west from the downtown Cicero has a massive St. Anthony Lithuanian church. Lithuanian, English and Spanish mass is now offered.

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian school and church

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian school and church

The Romanesque Revival church has been constructed in the interwar period and blessed by the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, holding the distinction of being a rare (or only) Chicago church dedicated by a person who was given the status of Blessed. The massive interior holds a side-altar dedicated to Matulaitis, a Matulaitis stained-glass window (on the right near the roof). There is also a stained-glass window with Vytis, the coat of arms of Lithuania (left side near the roof) donated by the Knights of Lithuania, a Lithuanian chapel-post and many Lithuanian inscriptions (under each old station of the cross, over the Virgin Mary statue). The cornerstone lists the 1925 date.

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

Lithuanian-inscribed station of the cross at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Lithuanian-inscribed station of the cross at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Stained glass windows with the Lithuanian surnames of the donors at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Stained glass windows with the Lithuanian surnames of the donors at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church (interior)

In front of the church stands a unique plastic chapel-post, donated by Msgr. Albavičius and built by a famous Lithuanian-American architect Jonas Mulokas to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lithuanian independence in 1698 (which was a sad date, actually, as Lithuania was then under "deep" and seemingly invincible Soviet occupation). Lithuanian chapel-posts are a UNESCO-recognized form of ethnic art, however, they are traditionally wooden. Yet in this case, a former 1950 Lithuanian wooden cross that stood on-site has been destroyed by parasites, prompting the parish to request a "more eternal" plastic sculpture in its place. The church itself has been also expanded during the 50s, adding the front extention in historicist style.

Plastic chapel-post by Jonas Mulokas at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church

Plastic chapel-post by Jonas Mulokas at the Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church with the Mulokas chapel-post

Next to the church stands unusually massive St. Anthony Lithuanian school which has its Lithuanian name chiseled in large letters above the entrance. Both buildings look especially impressive from the intersection of S 49th and 15th streets.

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian school

Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian school

The third building with Lithuania-related inscriptions in the area is the Lithuanian Liberty Hall (Lietuvių laisvės salė, 1921), often associated with communists. Once, Lithuanian communists were quite a significant part of the Cicero Lithuanian community, so much so that they held regular protests against the church construction while it was under construction (something that was later banned by courts). While the "Liberty Hall" has been used into the 1960s, after the Soviet occupation showed the "real face of communism" the communist ranks among Lithuanians declined to a small minority, so the Hall was sold and is now partly abandoned.

Lithuanian Liberty Hall of Cicero

Lithuanian Liberty Hall of Cicero

Lithuanian Liberty Hall of Cicero

Lithuanian Liberty Hall of Cicero

There is also a building on the 15th street with letters "P. JUKNIS 1912" written near its top, eternalizing its Lithuanian builder. Once, many local buildings had Lithuanian owners, there were as much as 10 Lithuanian pubs alone in the area. Currently, however, Cicero is predominantly Hispanic but it has not gained such a bad reputation as South Chicago so some Lithuanians still live in the district, attending the church.

P. Juknis building

P. Juknis building

Chicago far southside Lithuanian heritage

The Chicago districts further south have smaller Lithuanian communities and smaller churches than those cathedral-like edifices closer to the downtown - however, some of these churches have interesting architecture and histories. Those areas are currently nearly completely inhabited by Blacks. The small Lithuanian districts there all collapsed very early and very quickly (most churches closed ~1970s-1980s after most Lithuanians left and other institutions, e.g. Lithuanian schools, have been closed even earlier).

The most interesting there is All Saints Lithuanian church in Roseland (0,42% White district today) with a semi-open metal tower that has been inspired by traditional Lithuanian chapel-posts as well as, arguably, art nouveau. It has been designed by a famous Lithuanian interwar modernist architect S. Kudokas who, like many other architects and many additional members of the congregation, fled Lithuania to avoid being murdered by the Soviets. Kudokas was a modernist in Lithuania, responsible for many significant buildings in the interwar Kaunas which now has a UNESCO World Heritage application. After arrival in America, Kudokas criticised his colleague Jonas Mulokas who attempted to create a modern ethnic Lithuanian style in place of international functionalism. In his All Saints church, though, Kudokas himself has emulated Mulokas's style in creating a "non-wooden chapel-post" on the tower. The history of the All Saints church illustrates the history of the entire South Chicago: the parish has constructed this new church in 1960, still expecting a long existence and growth. Then, however, the white flight took place and by 1972 already the Lithuanian parish was closed. It has been sold to the Baptists in 1989 (a more popular faith among Blacks than Catholicism). The Lithuanian details, ethnic art remains, although the Lithuanian name above the door of the church has been covered. The survival of the church still is not easy at it has been robbed numerous times recently.

Roseland All Saints Lithuanian church

Roseland All Saints Lithuanian church

South Chicago area is only 1,92% White. Its small single-floored St. Joseph Lithuanian church (8801 S Saginaw) has been closed in 1986, became part of McKinley public school (itself built in 1953 as parish school) that is now closed. A former priest's house stands next, it is older and more interesting; the priest Antanas Petraitis was interested in science and had Illinois's second largest telescope there and also had a small animal sanctuary between the buildings. Some say the church remained so small because of the priest investing much to the science.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church

St. Joseph Lithuanian church

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. Such practice was very common in Chicago, whereby a parish would have constructed such a "regular building" first that would have included its all activities and, having collected more donations, would have constructed a "true church" nearby, leaving the old building to the likely-now-expanded school. St. Casimir of Chicago Heights, however, never got to build the second building as it withered and died with Lithuanians moving elsewhere. 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.

Chicago Heights Lithuanian church

Chicago Heights Lithuanian church

Chicago Heights Lithuanian church cornerstone

Chicago Heights Lithuanian church cornerstone

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. Unlike in Roseland (All Saints), the West Pullman church was constructed at the time some parishioners were already non-Lithuanian, so it has few Lithuanian details (the only Lithuanian details are the historical images and newspaper clippings near the entrance that remind of the past Lithuanian priests, the cornerstone that mentions priest Petrauskas and the name of the church's hall that is named after the church's final Lithuanian priest Brinkis). 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.

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman

Two pastor images at the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church - the first one of them is Lithuanian, and the second one is African American (after the change in the parish demography)

Two pastor images at the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church - the first one of them is Lithuanian, and the second one is African American (after the change in the parish demography)

West Pullman also has the old Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian school-church surviving - there, a Lithuanian cornerstone says in the old Lithuanian language that it is a "mokslainė" (today school is called "mokykla"). The church is no longer Catholic.

Old Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman which served as a school

Old Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of West Pullman which served as a school

Lithuanian cemeteries in southern Chicago

Deceased Chicago Lithuanians used to be buried in Lithuanian cemeteries since well before World War 1. There are two cemeteries: the Catholic St. Casimir and the National which originally started as non-Catholic but today includes many Catholics as well. Both cemeteries are notable for great numbers of grand tombstones, hundreds of them crafted in the mid-20th century by a famous tomb creator Ramojus Mozoliauskas. These tombstones are sculpture-like and are often adorned in Lithuanian symbols as Lithuanians felt extremely sad about the loss of their homeland to the Soviets and thus used Lithuanian symbolism lots. There are even direct references to the exile. Among the earlier tombstones it is interesting to see many surviving images of the deceased people, dating even to the pre-WW1 era, something that is far more rare in smaller towns, let alone Lithuania itself, where photography was still not that accessible back in those days.

Lithuanian coat of arms land art at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Lithuanian coat of arms land art at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Both Lithuanian-American cemeteries in Chicago arguably are both prettier and more extensive than any other Lithuanian-American cemeteries and are well worth to walk around even for non-Lithuanians. Both have more famous Lithuanians buried there than are buried in many of the cemeteries in Lithuania itself.

St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery is the larger and older one, established in 1903 at the extreme south of Chicago. So great it is that it has been included in the "199 cemeteries to see before you die" book alongside such world-famous "giants" as Paris's Per-Lachese or Arlington Cemetery.

St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery 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 an entire major city is buried here and everywhere the surnames are Lithuanian, some of them shortened or spelled in English. Also, not far beyond the main entrance, there is a Lithuanian coat of arms land art that still firmly marks the cemetery as Lithuanian. On the northeastern corner of the cemetery, there is also a Memorial for the 12 Lithuanian parishes of Chicago which has established the cemetery (as of 2018, only 6 of their churches are operational as Catholic churches and only 3 still offer Lithuanian mass). The memorial includes traditional Lithuanian roof-horses, sun-cross and an authentic bell of a Lithuanian church in its design.

Memorial of the 12 Lithuanian parishes that established the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Memorial of the 12 Lithuanian parishes that established the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Among the famous Lithuanians interred in the St. Casimir cemetery are:
*Lithuanian general Povilas Plechavičius (1890-1973) who moved to the USA as a refugee in 1949. He is famous for being the leader of the 1926 coup that has established Smetona's regime and later for his successful sabotaging of Nazi German plans by disbanding the Lithuanian soldiers after he learned that Nazi Germany planned to raise a Lithuanian SS division out of them (therefore, thanks to Plechavičius, there was no Lithuanian SS division, while there were Latvian and Estonian SS divisions).

General Povilas Plechavičius grave

General Povilas Plechavičius grave

*Lithuanian geographer Kazys Pakštas (1893-1960), well-known for his ideas to create a "second Lithuania" by acquiring and colonizing some land in Africa or South America. He expressed these ideas because he saw that Lithuania itself is in constant danger while the Lithuanian emigrants assimilate into foreign cultures; so, he wanted to create a land where Lithuanian culture could exist more safely and not assimilate. In his days (between WW1 and WW2) his ideas were seen as utopian, however, in the same fashion as Nicola Tesla, Pakštas gained much more attention later when his predictions of the occupation of Lithuania and assimilation of the Lithuanian diaspora did indeed come true.

Kazys Pakštas grave

Kazys Pakštas grave

*Lithuanian-American poet Algimantas Mackus (1932-1964), notable for his existentialist poems. He is considered a part of the so-called "landless" generation of authors that began their creations outside Lithuania but still considered Lithuania their sole homeland, which made their works permeated with indescribable longing for something lost.

Poet Algimantas Mackus grave in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Poet Algimantas Mackus grave in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

*Chicago-born Lithuanian archbishop Paul Marcinkus (1922-2006), who essentially served as a bodyguard for popes and saved lives of two popes. He also served as the head of the Vatican bank, although his tenure there was marred in scandals. Even then he is said to have secretly come to his childhood Lithuanian church of St. Anthony in Cicero to hold mass there. Unlike many other graves in the cemetery, Marcinkus's grave is rather modest.

Archibishop Paul Marcinkus graveArchibishop Paul Marcinkus grave

Archibishop Paul Marcinkus grave

*Antanas Vanagaitis (1890-1949), a Lithuanian musician who, after emigrating to the USA soon after World War 1, established a Lithuanian radio in Chicago and also created numerous famous Lithuanian songs.

Antanas Vanagaitis grave at St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Antanas Vanagaitis grave at St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Moreover, St. Casimir cemetery also became a major zone for important non-grave Lithuanian memorials. The most famous is the first-in-the-world memorial for Romas Kalanta that was built in 1979, the same decade as the young Kaunas guy self-immolated against the Soviet regime. The author was Ramojus Mozoliauskas and the donors were Riflemen (Šauliai) Union. The memorial is dedicated (in Lithuanian) to "Romas Kalanta and everyone who has died for Lithuanian freedom fighting the red tyrant" (i.e. the Soviet Union).

Romas Kalanta memorial at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Romas Kalanta memorial at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

In 1984, a memorial to Lithuania's sole saint (and patron saint) St. Casimir has been constructed, commemorating 500 years since his birth. The memorial has images of Vilnius, at the time beyond the Iron Curtain for the Lithuanian-Americans.

St. Casimir statue at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

St. Casimir statue at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

The cemetery also has a small memorial to Our Lady of Šiluva, Europe's first church-recognized Maryan vision (which happened in Lithuania).

Our Lady of Šiluva monument in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Our Lady of Šiluva monument in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

In the north side of the cemetery, there are large burial plots and memorials for particular people and organizations. There is a field where Lithuanian priests of Chicago are buried, next to the burial area for St. Casimir sisters and Lithuanian Jesuit fathers, all of them having neat memorials. Next to them stands a Memorial for the Darius-Girėnas post of the American Legion, which is a unique ethnically-based Lithuanian post in what is an American veteran organization. The memorial incorporates pieces of artillery.

Lithuanian priests memorial at the end of a long field in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago wher ethe Lithuanian priests are buried

Lithuanian priests memorial at the end of a long field in the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago wher ethe Lithuanian priests are buried

Jesuit Fathers memorial at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

Jesuit Fathers memorial at the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery of Chicago

St. Casimir Sisters memorial and burial site

St. Casimir Sisters memorial and burial site

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 Catholic communities in the St. Casimir Cemetery.

Art-deco-styled office of the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Art-deco-styled office of the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

The Lithuanian National Cemetery is located at a rather secluded spot and has many trees, making it double as a nice Lithuanian park. Many of the gravestones there are especially ethnic in design as they have been constructed by those who fled the Soviet occupation and were especially patriotic. The cemetery is open every day from 8AM to 5-6PM.

An old grave with image of the deceased in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

An old grave with image of the deceased in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Grave images at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Grave images at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

The National Cemetery starts with a pretty entrance square, surrounded by the cemetery gate, art-deco-styled cemetery office (some urns are kept inside the office) as well as the memorial to the founders of the cemetery (14 Lithuanian non-Catholic organizations), erected in 1982. All the cemetery directors are listed on this memorial as well.

Monument to the founders of the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Monument to the founders of the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

There are some 13500 burials in the National Cemetery. Among those buried here are:
*The 1925-1926 President of Lithuania Kazys Grinius (actually, he was never interred under the monument built for him and his urn was repatriated to Lithuania in 1994)

President of Lithuania Kazys Grinius monument

President of Lithuania Kazys Grinius monument

*Dr. Jonas Šliūpas, most famous in the USA as he agitated Lithuanians to separate from the Roman Catholic church, the idea that formed part of the drive to create ethnically-based cemeteries. He did, in fact, came back to Lithuania after the 1918 independence and served as a mayor of Palanga there; he died in Europe, but his body was still brought back to the USA where most of his major life works took place.

Jonas Šliūpas grave at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Jonas Šliūpas grave at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

*Marius Katiliškis, a famous Lithuanian writer.
*Kazys Bobelis, a Lithuanian-American who returned to Lithuania after 1990 to become a popular politician and a presidential candidate there.

Politician Kazys Bobelis grave

Politician Kazys Bobelis grave

*Jonas Budrys, a leader of the Klaipėda Revolt that attached Klaipėda to Lithuania in 1923.
*Adomas Varnas, the painter who designed the original (1922) Lithuanian Litas banknotes.

An interesting grave is that of Karlis Požėla where this Lithuanian boxing coach is buried with his most famous pupil, Maurice Tillet (French Angel) who was not a Lithuanian himself. The epitaph is "Friends whom even death couldn't part".

Maurice Tillet and Karolis Požėla mutual grave at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Maurice Tillet and Karolis Požėla mutual grave at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Additionally, the cemetery became a popular place to build general memorials to various Lithuanian groups.

On the rightwards path going from the entrance, you can see Darius-Girėnas post of American Legion monument that includes several pieces of artillery and is a focal point in Memorial day celebrations. The memorial looks quite similar to the St. Casimir cemetery one.

American Legion Darius and Girėnas post memorial in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

American Legion Darius and Girėnas post memorial in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Further on, there is a traditional wooden cross dedicated to 300000+ people expelled from Lithuania by the Soviet occupational regime in 1940-1941 and 1944-1953, commissioned by the Pakalka family in 1994. It is also notable for having attracted priests to bless it and the surrounding ground, this way effectively ending the belief held by some Catholics that National Cemetery is only for the non-believers. So-much-so that the Lithuanian Catholic organization Knights of Lithuania, as well as Boy scouts (2018, author Vilnius Buntinas) have also erected their memorials in this cemetery rather than St. Casimir's.

Memorial to the exiled Lithuanians in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Memorial to the exiled Lithuanians in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Additional memorials in the cemetery are dedicated to the Lithuanian Freemasons (with the leaders of the 1951 "Lithuanian craftsman club" listed on its back) and the author of Lithuanian National anthem Vincas Kudirka (1961).

Lithuanian freemasons memorial

Lithuanian freemasons memorial

Vincas Kudirka Memorial at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Vincas Kudirka Memorial at the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

Initially, the cemetery has been used by various non-Catholic groups, including leftists, National Catholics, Lutherans (especially the Tėviškė parish). Later on, the Catholics have gradually joined them and, with delituanization of the St. Casimir Cemetery, this became the sole truly Lithuanian cemetery in the Chicagoland (the administration is Lithuanian as well).

Among the early burials, the most controversial are the six gravestones with communist symbols as Lithuanian communists have also used the cemetery. Later on, as the Soviet occupation of Lithuania proved disastrous and Chicago became overflooded with new refugees from Lithuania who left everything to avoid living under the communist rule, the communist symbols were banned in the cemetery. Ironically, ~1990 as Lithuania was approaching independence, the cemetery was vandalized with Swasticas, equalizing Lithuanians buried there with Nazis.

A Soviet-symbols-clad memorial in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

A Soviet-symbols-clad memorial in the Lithuanian National Cemetery of Chicago

As times went on, the numbers of annual burials in the cemetery have decreased as significant numbers of the descendants of Lithuanians are of mixed ancestry and no longer seek to be buried in Lithuanian cemetery. Because of this, the cemetery has sold off much of its additional space for residential developments and survives on the money received in this sale. A part of the cemetery has been also defined as a park area meant for green burials.

The infamous Chicago legend of Ressurection Mary (about a ghost girl that appears to drivers) is also related to the Lithuanian cemeteries. One of the possible girls whose ghost supposedly haunts Chicago is Ona Norkus, buried in the St. Casimir Cemetery. However, when a film was made about the legend, the crew picked the Lithuanian National Cemetery for filming, presumably because of its rather secluded and wooded location.

Lemont and the current heart of Chicago Lithuanian community

In the deep southwest of Chicagoland lies the modern heart of the Chicago Lithuanian community. After the disintegration of Marquette Park, there is no longer any district where Lithuanians would make more than a few percents of the population. But in the automobile-loving USA driving 10 or 20 km is no obstacle.

Main sign of the Lithuanian World Center

Main sign of the Lithuanian World Center

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) while the America's largest Lithuanian-language school operates every Friday evening and Saturday, attracting some 700 kids. The center is usually open to everybody as there are many Lithuanian activities and possibilities inside with as many as 39 Lithuanian organizations having their hubs in its 14 000 square meters of space. Around the center, you'll rarely hear English language but people in the center can speak it.

As the World Center has been bought from non-Lithuanians (originally it served as a priest seminary), it is rather functional in style lacks any Lithuanian architectural details. However, that is more than compensated by the increasingly lithuanized interiors and Lithuanian activities.

Main ballroom of the Lithuanian World Center

Main ballroom of the Lithuanian World Center

At the heart of the World Center is Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis Catholic church which effectively serves as the US newest Lithuanian ethnic parish. Unlike most ethnic parishes, it has limited Lithuanian details due to its non-Lithuanian history, but Lithuanians tried to change that over the time, installing a Jurgis Matulaitis statue, Lithuanian carved wooden door, a memorial to the suffering of Lithuania, etc.

Lithuanian World Center chapel

Lithuanian World Center chapel

Jurgis Matulaitis at the Lithuanian World Center chapel

Jurgis Matulaitis at the Lithuanian World Center chapel

Among other key institutions, there are the numerous Lithuanain museums (open on weekends only or by appointment). The most impressive among them is the Museum of traditional folk art that probably have the best collection of Lithuanian folk art in America. There is a hall of wooden sculptures, some of which have political commentary (like a sculpture of Hitler and Stalin torturing Lithuania), while others are more traditional holy figures or devils. There is a corridor of wooden representations of the leaders of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. There are quality examples of Lithuanian folk costumes, verbos (that replace palms in the Vilnius region Palm Sunday) and looms used to weave textile.

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Lithuanian wooden arts at the Lemont museum

Near the entrance to the museum you can find Siela gallery which is used for temporary exhibits from Lithuanian artists, while one hall is dedicated to a more permanent collection of non-folk art.

Additionally, the surroundings of the World Center received numerous Lithuanian monuments. The most impressive collection of them is the Lemont Hill of Crosses inspired by the famous Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai, Lithuania. Currently, it has some 80 crosses, most of them of the traditional Lithuanian wooden form that is considered immaterial UNESCO world heritage. Like in the real Hill of Crosses, some of the crosses are erected by common people who do that in memory of their relatives, sometimes victims of the Soviet Genocide. Some of the crosses have been erected by organizations, such as the Lithuanian scouts. Some of the crosses have been moved in to the Hill of Crosses from various private yards of Lithuanian-Americans: for the refugee generation, it was common to erect such reminders of the homeland on their yard, however, their kids often want to redecorate the yard or, more likely, simply sell the house, so, they may donate the crosses to the Lithuanian World Center. Yet other crosses (or other memorials) have been built to commemorate particular events, for example, the battle of Žalgiris or the Christianization of Lithuania. Many crosses also have patriotic symbols on them, while one memorial built in 1998 has a poem "Not our land" on it about longing for the lost homeland.

Lemont Hill of Crosses entrance with the first three words of the Lithuanian National Anthem (Lithuania, our homeland) inscribed

Lemont Hill of Crosses entrance with the first three words of the Lithuanian National Anthem (Lithuania, our homeland) inscribed

Lemont Hill of Crosses

Lemont Hill of Crosses

Battle of Žalgiris (Grunewald) memorial at the Lemont Hill of Crosses

Battle of Žalgiris (Grunewald) memorial at the Lemont Hill of Crosses

At the center of the Hill of Crosses a 1917 bell is erected. The bell is from the Gary Lithuanian church in Indiana that has been closed. It is used as a symbol of the closed Lithuanian-American churches. At the entrance of the Hill there are three crosses with words "Lietuva, Tėvyne mūsų" (Lithuania, our Fatherland), which are also the first three words of the Lithuanian national anthem.

On the bottom of the Hill of Crosses stands the Memorial for Lithuanian partisans and people expelled to Siberia styled as a weeping mother of a victim of the Soviet regime and a bunch of fallen leaves. Built by one of the most productive Lithuanian-American sculptors Ramojus Mozoliauskas, it commemorates some 30 000 anti-Soviet guerillas who fell in the last-ditch attempt to restore free Lithuania (1944-1953) and up to 400 000 people expelled by the Soviets to Siberia, many of them to meet their deaths there. It was that Soviet genocide that caused so many Lithuanians to leave Lithuania as refugees in 1944 before the Soviet re-occupation; ultimately, most of those refugees ended up in the USA and it was them who eventually were the driving force behind the creation of the Lithuanian World Center in Lemont.

Mother of a partisan memorial next to the Lithuanian World Center in Lemont

Mother of a partisan memorial next to the Lithuanian World Center in Lemont

At the entrance of the Lithuanian World Center itself, there is a composition of three Lithuanian chapel-posts (koplytstulpiai).

While the Lithuanian World Center is the most famous Lithuanian site in Lemont by far, it was actually not the first one. Lithuanians were buying real estate in Lemont sometime before that already, and so did the Ateitininkai Lithuanian Christian organization. The Ateitininkai Home feels more like a palace of a large landowner in the suburban England. In fact, it was built in 1952 as a palace of a millionaire Schmidt who made his fortune through war industry; according to Ateitininkai members, even the US president Dwight Eisenhower was a guest at the palace back then; the palace then had a bar and even a bowling alley in the basement. The palace was acquired by Ateitininkai in 1978, under an initiative of 10 Lithuanian doctors who all immigrated to the USA as refugees in the 1950s.

Ateitininkai Home

Ateitininkai Home

Serene hall of the Ateitininkai Home

Serene hall of the Ateitininkai Home

Ateitininkai is a Lithuanian Christian organization, one of many Lithuanian organizations that were destroyed by the Soviet regime only to be reborn in the USA. Ateitininkai Home is used for various organizational activities, meetings of Ateitinkai kids, as well as rentals for weddings which helps sustain the palace. Given the patriotic and religious nature of the organization, it has collected Lithuanian and Christian artifacts in its halls over the time. Two large traditional Lithuanian chapel-posts and one cross have been erected in front of the palace, most are relocated from other places where they were in danger of destruction. One of them, a metal chapel-post (koplytstulpis) has been relocated from a now-closed Lithuanian Farmstead in Marquette Park (originally designed by famous architects Mulokas and made by A. Janonis in 1973). Another chapel-post, originally created for a private home of Dr. Adomavičius in 1966 and relocated after that home was sold, has been dedicated to the Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisan Juozas Lukša-Daumantas and repaired by a "Godmaker" A. Poskočimas. Yet another cross is a donation of Antanas Poskočimas (1983) and renovated by Dainius Kopūstas (2014); it represents a traditional Lithuanian roadside cross.

A chapel-post (koplytstulpis) dedicated to Juozas Lukša-Daumantas at Ateitininkai Home

A chapel-post (koplytstulpis) dedicated to Juozas Lukša-Daumantas at Ateitininkai Home

Jonas Mulokas chapel-post at Ateitininkai Home

Jonas Mulokas chapel-post at Ateitininkai Home

The alley leading to Ateitininkai home has a Lithuanian sign "A. Pargausko alėja".

Famous Lithuanian burials outside Chicago Lithuanian cemeteries

Most famous Lithuanians were buried in the Lithuanian cemeteries - however, not every one of them. Interesting Lithuanian graves elsewhere includes that of a science fiction writer Algis Budrys (Algirdas Budrys, incorrectly spelled as Algidras Budrys on the grave plaque) in the Maryhill Polish cemetery. He wrote in English, so he is among the Lithuanians that are more famous in the USA than Lithuania itself.

Algirdas Budrys grave in Chicago (inscribed with a mistake)

Algirdas Budrys grave in Chicago (inscribed with a mistake)

Then there is a mysterious 19th-century grave of Dzialinskis-Kenkelis in the Oakwoods cemetery that claims that the person who is buried there was the Great Bannerbearer of Lithuania. He is also called to be Djialinski of Szodeiken, while his wife supposedly was Isabelle Djialinska, Countess of Szodeiken and also a princess of Czartoryski family.

Dzialinskis-Kenkelis grave

Dzialinskis-Kenkelis grave

The grave has long been a mystery to local Lithuanians. As Lithuania did no longer exist at the time Dzialinskis-Kenkelis was born, it is unclear whether the "titles" written are meant to be the titles somebody from his family had before the collapse of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1795), or were they titles he held during the anti-Russian uprising in 1863. Given the lack of information about this person in Lithuania itself, it is very possible he actually just impersonated to be somebody of importance when in the United States - something allowed by the vast distances, limited communications at the time and thus an inability of any American to check his stories. In any case, the grave is interesting and its existence was even romanticized during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania as the grave provided a kind of a link between the Lithuanian-Americans and the glorious pre-modern Lithuanian history.

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 with nothing Lithuanian remaining in the surrounding district).

The site of St. Michael Lithuanian church in North Chicago

The site of St. Michael Lithuanian church in North Chicago

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.

Telshe Yeshiva of Chicago

Telshe Yeshiva of Chicago

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.

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West Frankfort area, Illinois

West Frankfort area community of Lithuanian miners is unique among such large communities in that it did not establish it sown church, suggesting its heavily leftist leanings.

Still, Lithuanians were keen to lay their dead among co-nationals, so they established at least three Lithuanian cemeteries.

The largest among them is West Frankfort Lithuanian cemetery which is also the best kept one, having its own board. The most impressive sight there are lots of photos of the Lithuanians who are buried there: it seems West Frankfort used to have popular photographers even 100 years ago and most people would put the portraits on their gravestones. Most of the portraits survive well enough to be visible. There is a stone sign near the entrance signifying that its a "Lithuanian cemetery founded in 1914".

Commemorative stone of the West Frankfort Lithuanian cemetery

Commemorative stone of the West Frankfort Lithuanian cemetery

The second largest cemetery is located in Shakerag Rd. near Johnston City. It is called Lithuanian-Masonic Shakerag Cemetery due to a unique arrangement where the same cemetery is shared by Lithuanian miners and non-Lithuanian Freemasons. The Freemason section is a little better kept and some Lithuanian gravestones are destroyed but others remain intact, laden with long Old Lithuanian inscriptions about the life histories of those buried there ("died in a mine explosion" and similar). The cemetery is hard to find as it is separated from the road by private property (which can be walked around, however, although the path is not immediately clear). It should not be mixed with another Masonic cemetery nearby that is easily accessible but has no Lithuanian graves.

Shakerag Masonic-Lithuanian cemetery (view towards the Lithuanian side)

Shakerag Masonic-Lithuanian cemetery (view towards the Lithuanian side)

The third Lithuanian cemetery is located in Ledford near Harrisburg. This Ledford Lithuanian cemetery (also called "Old Catholic Cemetery") barely looks like a cemetery at all: it is just a little-trodden path into the woods and in those woods, you can see numerous overgrown and, in many cases, vandalized Lithuanian graves dating to ~1910s. It takes time to even see most of them (but Harrisburg library has a book about everyone buried in the town if there were newspaper obituaries). The cemetery is long since unused and not mentioned in any sources. There are snakes and ticks in the area.

Ledford Lithuanian cemetery, overgrown with forest

Ledford Lithuanian cemetery, overgrown with forest

Vandalised grave at the Ledford Lithuanian cemetery

Vandalised grave at the Ledford Lithuanian cemetery

In fact, most of the locals at West Frankfort "Destination Lithuanian America" team has met did not know the Ledford cemetery location at all, and none of them knew the Shakerag cemetery. This makes it possible that there are far more such abandoned Lithuanian cemeteries in the area.

Currently, the Lithuanian life of West Frankfort has largely dissipated. As Lithuanians faced discrimination in the beginning due to their unwillingness to join the union strikes, many Lithuanian families did not pass on their language and customs. In the 2018, the only people who "Destination Lithuanian America" expedition discovered as speaking more Lithuanian than a couple of words were in their 90s. West Frankfort (and possibly other of the area's towns) had a Lithuanian Hall where the Lithuanian festivals, singing and dancing used to take place (closed ~1983 as the immigrant generation passed away), however the meager wooden building, now used as storehouse, does not have anything to distinguish its Lithuanian history.

Lithuanian Home of West Frankfort

Lithuanian Home of West Frankfort (now closed)

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St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois

St. Louis is one of the great historic metropolises of the USA which were developed in the 19th century while gradually settling the Western plains of the American continent.

Mississippi River which straddles the city served as a premodern freight highway. Industry developed along it attracting European migrants, including Lithuanians.

East St. Louis Lithuanian church

Church of Immaculate Conception at East St. Louis (1509 Baugh Ave) is one of the best examples of Lithuanian-American national romantic architecture. It has been designed by Jonas Mulokas, its stained-glass windows created by V. K. Jonynas (year 1956), for whom it was the first such major work. Together these two authors created the post-WW2 style of Lithuanian churches where they sought to represent their lost homeland as best as they could (after all the post-WW2 migrants have been forced from their country by Soviets rather than emigrating on their own will).

Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church of East St. Louis is among the best examples of Lithuanian-American search for a modern ethnic style. Google Street View.

East St. Louis Lithuanian church exterior (after the tower was temporarily removed in 2018)

East St. Louis Lithuanian church exterior (after the tower was temporarily removed in 2018)

The forms of the church aren't resembling any single historical style but they are not modern either. Even the Christian church elements have been "ethnicized" here: the cross is mixed in form with sun and moon (inspired by peasant or even pagan Lithuanian symbolism), the front side has bas-reliefs in the form of crosses of Vytis and towers of Gediminas, the main entrance incorporates Vytis, while the tower is inspired by Baroque although not copying it directly (this is symbolic as at the time Baroque was regarded to be the most Lithuanian of Western styles due to its prevalence in Vilnius church architecture). There are ethnic wooden carvings above doors.

Inside, the altar is also decisively ethnic Lithuanian, carved from wood.

The interior of the church with a Lithuanian-folk-woodcarving altar

The interior of the church with a Lithuanian-folk-woodcarving altar

There are 55 stained glass windows, most of which have Lithuania-related topics. The southern wall is adorned by 8 stained-glass windows of Mary-related places of Lithuania, with reimaginations of the local paintings of Mary in the foreground and famous buildings in the background (the northern wall is likewise covered with 8 windows with Maryan sites outside Lithuania). There are also historical scenes, such as the Baptism of Mindaugas (first king of Lithuania).

Stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary of the Gate of Dawn (vilnius, left) and the miraculous Virgin Mary of Trakai (right)

Stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary of the Gate of Dawn (vilnius, left) and the miraculous Virgin Mary of Trakai (right)

Stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary of Krekenava (left) and the Virgin Mary of Žemaičių Kalvarija (right)

Stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary of Krekenava (left) and the Virgin Mary of Žemaičių Kalvarija (right)

Baptism of Jesus (left) compared to Baptism of King Mindaugas (right). While Baptism of Jesus may be seen as the beginning of the worldwide Christian community, the baptism of Mindaugas began the Lithuanian Christian community and, according to some interpretations, the Lithuanian nation

Baptism of Jesus (left) compared to Baptism of King Mindaugas (right). While Baptism of Jesus may be seen as the beginning of the worldwide Christian community, the baptism of Mindaugas began the Lithuanian Christian community and, according to some interpretations, the Lithuanian nation

Especially related to Lithuania are the stained-glass windows in the top arches, where historical Lithuanian personalities (both religious and secular) and coats of arms of the Lithuanian cities are presented. There you may find images of the Patron of Lithuania St. Casimir, first king Mindaugas, the "national poet" Maironis, grand duke Vytautas (who expanded Medieval Lithuania the furthest), activist against Russification of Lithuania bishop Motiejus Valančius, founder of Vilnius University Protasevičius.

Stained glass windows of Vytautas the great (right) and the Lithuanian Coat of arms (left) by V. K. Jonynas

Stained glass windows of Vytautas the great (right) and the Lithuanian Coat of arms (left) by V. K. Jonynas

Stained glass windows of the national poaet Maironis (left) and the Kaunas city coat of arms (right) by V. K. Jonynas

Stained glass windows of the national poaet Maironis (left) and the Kaunas city coat of arms (right) by V. K. Jonynas

There are so many ethnic Lithuanian details that it is impossible to list every one and the church could serve as a kind of repository of the Lithuanian history, as nearly every wooden or metal decoration follows a Lithuanian folk pattern or design, or uses the traditional Lithuanian symbols.

Lithuanian ethnic woodcarving inside the East St. Louis church

Lithuanian ethnic woodcarving inside the East St. Louis church

The front wall of the church includes two traditional Lithuanian crosses f Vytis (in darker bricks), two Columns of Gediminas (in darker bricks, on the corners), while the door has a metal image of the Lithuanian Coat of Arms

The front wall of the church includes two traditional Lithuanian crosses f Vytis (in darker bricks), two Columns of Gediminas (in darker bricks, on the corners), while the door has a metal image of the Lithuanian Coat of Arms

The parish is much older than the church itself, established in 1895. Its first church has been constructed in 1897, enlarged in 1928 and destroyed by fire in 1943.

Since the year the current church was built East St. Louis became an infamously unsafe district, declining in population from ~80 000 to ~20 000. Despite that, the church remained open, even though 11 of 13 Catholic churches in the area have been closed by 2018. Its location next to a highway attracts attention and even new parishioners, as the members of the parish have told "Global True Lithuania". Nevertheless, the church also had some problems: two of the Lithuanian sun-crosses that have adorned the roof had to be removed after there was an attempt to steal them and put in a safer place near the basement stairs. In the basement, one can find a parish hall where the Lithuanian activities, as well as post-Mass events, take place, as well as a small parish museum. There, you can also see the images of the way the church had to look like as designed by an American architect L. Prens. While even that design included some Lithuanian features (as was likely requested by the Lithuanian parish), altogether it looked much more like a regular church of the era. Architect Prens died, however, and the order has been entrusted to Mulokas and Jonynas who ethnicized the entire design of the church. Only the basement (opened in 1945 as a church while construction continued) was built according to the Prens design.

Lithuanian details in the church basement that now serves as a hall for after-mass socialization, including the Lithuanian activities

Lithuanian details in the church basement that now serves as a hall for after-mass socialization, including the Lithuanian activities

The original project of the church by Prens (left) and the altered one by Mulokas (right)

The original project of the church by Prens (left) and the altered one by Mulokas (right)

East St. Louis Immaculate Conception church looks is similar to the All Saints Lithuanian church in Chicago and also has similar elements to the Nativity BVM church of Chicago (the last of them being created by the same tandem of designers).

In the empty lot next to the East St. Louis Lithuanian church, a Lithuanian school used to stand. It was opened in 1934, closed in 1968 and burned (arson suspected) in 1976.

Between the former school and church, a sculpture of Our Lady of Šiluva was erected in 1951, which still stands. Rituals of crowning the sculpture used to be performed by the schoolchildren.

Our Lady of Šiluva shrine

Our Lady of Šiluva shrine, covered by a traditional Lithuanian metal cross of the type common at the historic Lithuanian cemeteries (especially in Lithuania Minor)

Collinsville and its Lithuanian Lutheran church

Further east the suburb of Collinsville has a small white church built by Lithuanian Lutherans in 1903, known as the Jerusalem Lutheran church (305 Collinsville Ave).

Collisville Jerusalem Lithuanian Lutheran church

Collisville Jerusalem Lithuanian Lutheran church

This is one of merely 3 Lithuanian Lutheran churches in the USA, two other ones standing in Chicago. The building is small and wooden. It still has Lithuanian names of the sponsors inscribed on its stained glass windows, among them "Shimkus" (relatives of the US congressman Shimkus).

Stained-glass windows inscriptions with Lithuanian names at the Collinsville church

Stained-glass windows inscriptions with Lithuanian names at the Collinsville church

The church has been also organized by the victims of Russian occupation but the earlier Imperial (1795-1915) rather than the Soviet one (1940-1990). The pastor Keturakaitis who established this church previously worked as book smuggler in Lithuania, importing Lithuanian books into Russian-occupied Lithuania at the time the Russian regime banned Lithuanian language (and serving in prison for that). He lived in Tauragė, an area that used to be near the border of the Russian and German empires and had many Lutherans. It were precisely the Lutheran areas of Lithuania that gave most emigrants for the Collinsville coal mines and even before Keturakaitis came they used to have Lutheran worship in their homes or other churches.

A fraktur-script book at the Jerusalem Lithuanian Lutheran church at Collinsville

A fraktur-script book at the Jerusalem Lithuanian Lutheran church at Collinsville. Fraktur used to be used in Lithuania Minor where most Lutheran Lithuanians lived, while the traditional Latin scipt was used by Catholic Lithuanians. After the Soviet genocide has wiped out the Lithuania Minor in the 1940s, Latin script became the sole remaining script in use among Lithuanians, making this book hardly readable to modern-day Lithuanian Lutherans

The parish reached the high point after World War 2, when the community has sponsored arrival of the refugees from Lithuania who fled the Soviet occupation. Most refugees sought that the church would become associated with the Lithuanian Lutheran church, however, while many older parishioners preferred a continuing Missouri Synod affiliation, leading to a dispute among the "old" and "new" parishioners. The dispute ended up in favor of Missouri Synod, however, most of the proponents of the Lithuanian Lutheran church then left the parish, attending only the ethnic Lithuanian but not the religious festivals. Some of them still supported the parish, though, but the number of parishioners declined since, sometimes joined by non-Lithuanians.

Collinsville Lithuanian church interior

Collinsville Lithuanian church interior

Even though in the 2000s only some third-to-half of the congregation is of Lithuanian heritage, the parish sponsored a construction of a Lutheran church in Palanga, Lithuania then.

Lithuanian heritage in downtown St. Louis

St. Louis metropolis straddles across two states as the Missouri/Illinois borderline here follows the Mississippi river. Both the aforementioned Lithuanian communities are located on the Illinois side but the Missouri side (which also has the St. Louis downtown) also had its own Lithuanian church dedicated to St. Joseph, acquired from Protestants in 1916 in the historic Lafayette Square district famous for its turn-of-the-century architecture (address: corner of Park Avenue and MacKay Place). Small, looking as if built of stones, the church has been closed in 1970 when Lithuanians left the then-poor neighborhood.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church at St. Louis, Missouri

St. Joseph Lithuanian church at St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is also famous for its City Museum. For kids, it may seem to be a large playground while for adults it is a work of art and a memorial for the declining American cities. Much of its interior is filled with the details of demolished pretty buildings and closed institutions. Among the main details is the St. George bas-relief that used to be above the main entrance to the Chicago St. George Lithuanian church, demolished in 1990.

St. George bas-relief of Chicago St. George Lithuanian church at the City Museum of St. Louis, Missouri

St. George bas-relief of Chicago St. George Lithuanian church at the City Museum of St. Louis, Missouri

City Museum at St. Louis, Missouri

City Museum at St. Louis, Missouri

Source on Lutheran church.

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Springfield, Illinois

That Lithuanian history of Springfield (the capital of Illinois) is immortalized in one of just a few memorial plaques for Lithuanian-Americans that is located on the corner of 7th and Enterprise streets (near Enos park).

Lithuanians in Springfield commemorative plaque

Lithuanians in Springfield commemorative plaque

The initiative to build the plaque rested with Sandy Bakšys. She wanted in that way to immortalize the story of Lithuanians and the Lithuanian club which has been withering at the time as Lithuania was again out of media attention and the new generations often had a more diluted Lithuanian ethnicity.

It was that rebirth of Lithuania which united Springfield Lithuanians once again and made them to establish a Lithuanian Club in 1988. Currently, this community has one of the more informative websites and due to its activity, the memorial plaque has been erected.

Springfield once boasted a St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian church (built in 1909 on the corner of 8th and Enos streets, not far away from the plaque). It was simple and towerless, surrounded by various Lithuanian clubs and collectives. Despite the opposition of the parishioners in has been closed in 1972 and torn down in 1976 (replaced by a parking lot). It was the final ethnic parish of Springfield. After that, Lithuanian life went off the radar for more than a decade until the club was established.

The place where St. Vincent De Paul Lithuanian church of Springfield used to stand

The place where St. Vincent De Paul Lithuanian church of Springfield used to stand

The Lithuanian commemorative plaque is located not exactly on the church site because that site looked nicer and because there was more agreement of neighbors. The historic Lithuanian district was near the church and near the plaque, however, later many Lithuanians moved to other districts and that also contributed to the decline of the church as they joined the churches in their "new" districts.

A long-time US congressman senator Richard Durbin (born to a Lithuanian mother) has lived in Springfield. He supported the memorial plaque and visited Lithuania on numerous occasions, supporting its independence before 1990.

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Waukegan, Illinois

Waukegan city north of Chicago has a Lithuanian Hall (constructed 1929, 901 S Lincoln Ave) that had been once used for Lithuanian events and meetings of three Lithuanian organizations. Since ~1985 it serves Hispanic immigrants and is known as "La Hacienda Del Norte". There are no signs proving its Lithuanian history, as the "Lithuanian hall" sign is covered by the "Hacienda del Norte" sign.

Former Lithuanian club (now Hancienda del Norte)

Former Lithuanian Hall (now Hancienda del Norte)

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church stands to the north of Lithuanian hall. In 1896 this parish was established as joint Polish-Lithuanian, however, Poles were detached as the numbers of Lithuanians increased by 1903. The parish became the center of life in what was a Lithuanian district; for instance, when Lithuanian would be buried, church bells would ring for each year he lived. The current building dates to 1938 (the previous one burned down in 1933). After the consolidation of parishes in 1991 and 2009, the church has been closed, despite (or perhaps because of) the Lithuanian parish having significant funds while the other local communities lacked them. It is now used for charity giveaways and is stuffed with charity goods.

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church in Waukegan

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church in Waukegan

The interior of St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church of Waukegan today

The interior of St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church of Waukegan today

Next to the church, there is a red-brick St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school building where generations of Lithuanians used to receive all their education at. The school has been closed before the church but the cornerstone still remains, with inscription (in Lithuanian) "Šv. Baltramiejaus mokykla A.D. 1912". That building is also used for charity purposes.

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school

There is another Lithuanian inscription in the once-Lithuanian part of Waukegan that reads "Petroshius Memorial Funeral Home". As the inscription was made permanent in bricks, even though the owners and the name of the funeral home have changed, the inscriptions still remain.

Petroshus Funeral Home sign

Petroshus Funeral Home sign

The Roman Catholic church has closed all the consolidated churches and instead bought a larger Lutheran church, where people from all the closed churches were expected to go to. Catholic details have been brought into that Lutheran church from all the closed churches and stained-glass windows were moved-in from the Lithuanian church at the beginning of the 21st century, thus Lithuanian inscriptions being still visible in the new church that is known as the Holy Family church. That said, stained-glass windows were too many and too large for the new church, therefore many haven't been installed or the Lithuanian inscriptions of donator's names cut off (but they are all listed on a plaque near the entrance).

Lithuanian stained-glass windows at the Holy Family church in Waukegan

Lithuanian stained-glass windows at the Holy Family church in Waukegan

Lithuanians were among the largest communities of the pre-WW1 and interwar industrial Waukegan (together with Finns and Slovenes). Unlike other communities, they were not divided among religious and non-religious. However, as the industries in Waukegan closed the town effectively became a suburb of Chicago and is currently inhabited mostly by Latin Americans. Many tombstones of the cemeteries most Lithuanians were buried at.

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Rockford, Illinois

Rockford, Illinois's third largest city, has the Rockford Lithuanian club (716 Indiana Ave). It is located in the southern part of the city that was once populated by Lithuanians.

Rockford Lithuanian club. Usually, the Lithuanian flag also waves

Rockford Lithuanian club. Usually, the Lithuanian flag also waves

Today, however, the club became multi-ethnic. Nevertheless, it proudly displays its history in the form of Lithuanian coats of arms, flags and flag colors, images of Lithuania and the club history.

The building is two-floored with the main hall on the second floor while the bar located at the ground floor level. The bar is now the most lively part of the club, open four days a week.

The underground bar of Rockford Lithuanian Club

The underground bar of Rockford Lithuanian Club. There are lit patterns in the colors of the Lithuanian flag

The club now has ~250 members while it had ~500 in its heyday. Most members are of European but not Lithuanian heritage. Most of them are over 50 years old as such clubs do not appeal to the youth. The district is now Black-majority.

Data about Lithuania is posted on the bulletin boards of the club so its members would learn more about Lithuania. Among that data, we have discovered print-outs from the True Lithuania website.

Data about Lithuania is posted on the bulletin boards of the club so its members would learn more about Lithuania. Among that data, we have discovered print-outs from the True Lithuania website.

Lithuanian Club also owns a Lithuanian Park in Southern Rockford with its Lithuanian sign. Both the club halls and the park are rented for activities. The park also has bees and Joninės used to be celebrated there well after the club became non-Lithuanian-majority as even the current non-Lithuanian members try hard to keep the club's Lithuanian history alive and learn about Lithuania.

Rockford Lithuanian park (this sign is more than one mile after driving past the gate)

Rockford Lithuanian park (this sign is more than one mile after driving past the gate)

The importance of Lithuanians in Rockford is also marked by the fact that Rockford ethnic heritage museum (1129 S. Main Street) has dedicated one of its six galleries to Lithuanians (the other five are dedicated to far larger US minorities: Blacks, Irish, Italians, Hispanics, and Poles). The museum is volunteer-run and opens just a day per week for excursions. Each hall has its president and includes various artworks from the country in question.

Rockford Ethnic heritage museum

Rockford Ethnic heritage museum

Rockford Ethnic heritage museum Lithuanian room

Rockford Ethnic heritage museum Lithuanian room

Recently, the museum has acquired an impressive mansion of a local 19th-century elite nearby: it is not Lithuanian but it shows the glamour the employers of Lithuanians lived back then. The massive factory where many Lithuanians worked now stands abandoned next to the Ethnic heritage museum.

An abandoned factory near the Rockford ethnic heritage museum

An abandoned factory near the Rockford ethnic heritage museum

Recently, the Lithuanian room has been kept by Ann Keraminas who also created many drinking straw ornaments for the museum, a peculiar Lithuanian-American tradition that Lithuanian-Americans created after being unable to find real straws in urban America.

Drinking straw ornaments by Anna Keraminas at the Rockford ethnic heritage museum

Drinking straw ornaments by Anna Keraminas at the Rockford ethnic heritage museum

Rockford Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church (617 Lincoln Avenue), constructed in 1911 (cornerstone lists 1929), has been transferred to Blacks in 1985 and to Hispanics in 1992. Currently, most of the masses there are celebrated in Spanish. The church has no external Lithuanian details.

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of Rockford

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church of Rockford

At one time, the Rockford Lithuanian community was so important that the key national revival figures visited here on the eve of the 1918 independence.

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Westville, Illinois

In the early 20th century Westville was a coal mining town. The majority of its population of 2500 were ethnic Lithuanians according to some sources. After the mines were closed, many of them left to Chicago. However, Lithuanians make up 4,7% of the local population of 3000 even today.

The most Lithuanian site in the city is undoubtedly the Lithuanian National Cemetery (est. 1909). There, on many graves, you could still find long Lithuanian inscriptions from more than a century ago. The cemetery is especially Lithuanian with three Lithuanian flags waving.

One of the entrances to the Westville Lithuanian cemetery

One of the entrances to the Westville Lithuanian cemetery

Some of the oldest graves at the Westvillle Lithuanian Cemetery

Some of the oldest graves at the Westvillle Lithuanian Cemetery

The cemetery office has originally served as a coal mine building before being moved there. ~5 people are still buried there every year while some 1000 are buried in total.

Sign at the Westville Lithuanian Cemetery office

Sign at the Westville Lithuanian Cemetery office

There are several memorials in the cemetery. The non-Lithuanian World War 2 veterans memorial has been built in 2008, while a small 2002 memorial is dedicated to Mike Laitas, a 30-years-long volunteer who kept the cemetery. As such cemeteries receive no government support, they depend on such volunteers to continue their existence.

Mike Laitas memorial at the Westville Lithuanian cemetery

Mike Laitas memorial at the Westville Lithuanian cemetery

The Memorial to the Holy Cross church reminds of the church that was established in 1914 in a bought-out Presbyterian building. This was a Lithuanian national Catholic church, not recognizing the authority of the Pope. It was this church that established the Lithuanian cemetery of Westville and, although it has been closed in 1960, its history still lingers. The memorial to it has been constructed in 2004 as the caretakers of the cemetery brought in the church bell they discovered somewhere as well as the cornerstone of the church.

Memorial for the Lithuanian National Catholic church at the Westville Lithuanian Cemetery

Memorial for the Lithuanian National Catholic church at the Westville Lithuanian Cemetery

One of the most famous leaders of the Holy Cross National Catholic church was priest Pranas Mikalauskas (1889-1933), buried in a heart-shaped lot in the middle of the cemetery. His "fame" came from his death which was possibly either a murder or a suicide. If it was a murder it was unclear by whom and possible suspects have included mysterious men from Chicago, his own estranged congregation or Roman Catholics. A short book has been published on the Lithuanian interreligious conflicts of the era: "A Short History of a Big Lithuanian Row in Westville, Illinois".

Priest Mikalauskas grave

Priest Mikalauskas grave

Priest Mikalauskas grave (close-up)

Priest Mikalauskas grave (close-up)

On the original site of the Holy Cross Lithuanian church, a residential home now stands, with only the former pathway reminding that a church used to stand there.

Still-remaining stone path that used to lead to the now-demolished Lithuanian National Catholic church of Westville

Still-remaining stone path that used to lead to the now-demolished Lithuanian National Catholic church of Westville

The main adversary of the National Catholic church in the battle for Lithuanian souls was the Roman Catholic church of Ss. Peter and Paul, established in 1897 (therefore, one of the oldest Lithuanian churches in the USA). It has been also since closed (in 1989) and demolished, leaving an empty lot.

Lithuanian Ss. Peter and Paul church during demolition

Lithuanian Ss. Peter and Paul church during demolition

Site of the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church

Site of the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church

Lithuanian Roman Catholics also had their own Ss. Peter and Paul cemetery (est. 1904). The cornerstone of the church has been located there, near the center. Some of the statues that used to stand in the churchyard have been relocated to the north of the cemetery but they lack Lithuanian details. In general, that cemetery looks much less Lithuanian than the other one, although it has many Lithuanians buried there as well.

Graves at the Westville Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Cemetery

Graves at the Westville Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Cemetery

Cornerstone of the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church

Westville is said by the locals to have been included in the Guinness World of Records for the vast number of its per-capita bars and pubs. Numerous of these pubs were operated by Lithuanians.

The Depot museum at Central Westville has a few Lithuanian-related materials. It generally hosts memorabilia of the town.

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Spring Valley, Illinois

Spring Valley is one of the most Lithuanian towns in Illinois. It has a Lithuanian church and two Lithuanian cemeteries. According to some sources, it had 40% of Lithuanians at one point and the entire north side was Lithuanian.

Spring Valley Lithuanian Liberty cemetery (est. 1914) is among the most famous Lithuanian sites in Illinois, albeit for the wrong reasons. Supposedly, it is haunted: strange events usually happen at the crypt of three butcher brothers Massock (built 1920). Supposedly, even murders took place there while visitors often see a man with an axe; one side of the crypt feels warmer to the touch than the other side; there has been blood pouring out of crypt and such.

Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery of Spring Valley

Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery of Spring Valley

While locals the author of this site Augustinas Žemaitis met are skeptical of these stories, what is true is that sometime in the 1960s the local youth have robbed a skull from the crypt and drove around the town with it. There was other vandalism too, e.g. somebody once sacrificed a dog there, so police are watching the area. Some locals told that even though the cemetery itself might not be haunted, there may have been "something bad" there from the older times.

The Lithuanian Liberty cemetery indeed looks quite creepy, as it is overgrown and many graves are overturned. It is difficult to find its entrance but the Massock crypt is visible from the road. The ~3 m high main cemetery memorial with cemetery name "Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery Incorporated 1914" stands upright. The cemetery was established by the non-believers and "liberty" likely means liberty from the church. The fact that many communists were likely buried there also may give chills to the modern day people who know the later Lithuanian history.

Massock mausoleum at the Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery of Spring Valley

Massock mausoleum at the Lithuanian Liberty Cemetery of Spring Valley

In total contrast to the Lithuanian liberty cemetery, the town's St. Anne Catholic Lithuanian cemetery (est. 1912) that covers a hill is well-maintained and a nice place to walk. It has numerous large memorials, including two main cemetery memorials. One of them (erected 1992) incorporates a sculpture from now-closed Lithuanian St. Anne church, with an image of that church underneath. On that memorial, seven Lithuanian priests of the St. Anne church are also listed. Another memorial is a cross at the center, with the Lithuanian societies that donated it listed.

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian cemetery new monument

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian cemetery new monument

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian cemetery

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian cemetery

The St. Anne Lithuanian church is one of the oldest Lithuanian-American churches, constructed in the 1897. Its cornerstone has a pre-modern Lithuanian-American inscription "Lietuwiszka bazrimoka Szw! Onos. Budawota dien. 26 liep 1987 m." (Lithuanian St. Ann church opened in 1897 06 26"). Stained-glass windows with the names of Lithuanian sponsors also remain inside. The church was closed in the early 1990s to the dismay of local Lithuanians, some of whom stopped going to the Catholic church at all afterward.

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian church

Spring Valley St. Anne Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Spring Valley Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Spring Valley Lithuanian church

There are a few Lithuanian-related exhibits in the small Spring Valley Historical Society museum

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Kewanee, Illinois

Kewanee has an old Lithuanian wooden church of 1915, built by and for the local Lithuanian factory workers. Nothing Lithuanian remains there, though, with even the cornerstone plastered off by the later Black-majority church that used to own the building (the new words "Church of God in Christ 1982" are chiseled on the plaster). That church folded as well and the building is left as it was during its last mass, with all the benches and even musical equipment still inside. In the interior, though, nothing reminds that it was a Lithuanian church either.

Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch

Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch

Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch cornerstone, plastered over and chiselled anew by the new owners, the African American church

Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch cornerstone, plastered over and chiselled anew by the new owners, the African American church

Since some 2010 the church has been for sale, although high asking price did not attract potential buyers.

Abandoned interior of the Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch

Abandoned interior of the Kewanee St. Anthony Lithuanian crhuch

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in western Midwest

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Western Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana).

More info in Lithuanian heritage in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin.

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