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Massachusetts

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

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

Boston Lithuanian club

Boston Lithuanian club. US and Lithuanian flags wave at the entrance

In turn of the 20th century, Massachusetts Lithuanian communities also began in what were then industrial towns: Brockton and Worcester.

Lithuanian Village was one of the hearts of Brockton and famous for its celebrations eagerly followed by non-Lithuanians as well. It has impressive 4 memorials for perished Lithuanians, 3 of them for Lithuanians who died for Lithuania's freedom.

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

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

Worcester was the smallest US city outside Pennsylvania to have more than a single Lithuanian church, both of them especially impressive. It also hosts Maironis Club that has pretty Lithuanian art in its interior.

Our Lady of Vilna Lithuanian church in Worcester.

Merrimack river valley and its long-gone textile industry made another Lithuanian heartland in towns of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill, each of them having at least one Lithuanian church, club and cemetery.

Entrance arch of the Lithuanian national cemetery

Entrance arch of the Lithuanian national cemetery in the Merrimack Valley

Beautiful Lithuanian church exists in Athol which, together with Gardner, formed yet another Lithuanian "colony" as they were called in the early 1900s. There are several Lithuanian clubs tehre too and everything, including the church, still operates.

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

There are less Lithuanian institutions left in these towns today, however, as the community has not been replenished by new immigrants in 1950s and 1990s as was the case with Boston. Most Lithuanian churches have been closed in late the 2000s and sold to other denominations. They still stand however as do various monuments related to Lithuania. Some locations have names relating to Lithuania.

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

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

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

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

The map

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination Lithuanian America 2017" expedition (click the link):

Interactive map of Massachussetts Lithuanian sites
 


Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 1 Comment

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was one of the first American great cities and the heartland of US independence war.

While some Lithuanians, deeply pro-freedom, also joined the fight for the US cause in Boston, the extensive Boston Lithuanian community and its heritage dates to the late 19th century when the city was 5th largest in the USA. Its numbers mushroomed in some 1904. There were so many Lithuanians that a demonstration at Boston Commons urging the USA to recognize newly independent Lithuania attracted 5 000 in the year 1919. Lithuanians then have established three churches and a massive club. Much of the Lithuanian community was concentrated in South Boston, where the Lithuanian settlement area was about 1 mile in diameter, requiring a 30 minutes walk from one side to another.

After the Soviet occupation of Lithuania halted free Lithuanian cultural life in Lithuania, Boston became important for Lithuanians worldwide as Boston was the site where the world‘s first Lithuanian-language encyclopedia was published. Many of its publishers were recent refugees who escaped Lithuania in 1944. With Boston remaining an important and rich city, the community was once again replenished by Lithuanian post-independence economic migrants, helping retain the Lithuanian institutions.

Lithuanian club in South Boston

In South Boston, traditionally the heartland of Lithuanian community, there is a massive four-floored Boston Lithuanian Citizen's Club (368 West Broadway). It has been acquired in 1949 from a bank, and much of the building interior remains authentic (stair balustrades, etc.).

Boston Lithuanian club

Boston Lithuanian club. US and Lithuanian flags wave at the entrance

In its basement is the only Lithuanian restaurant/bar in New England („Lithuanian Kitchen“), open in weekends only (you need to ring a bell, but everyone is welcome). The walls have memorabilia of Boston Lithuanian sportsmen.

Inside the Boston Lithuanian restaurant

Inside the Boston Lithuanian restaurant

The upper floors house a Lithuanian credit union (that offers credits, credit cards and more to people of Lithuanian heritage) and a auditorium where Lithuanian band gigs take place. Additional hall is located on the 4th floor, opened in 2020. Some of the premises are rented out, helping to pay for the club‘s existence.

Inside the Lithuanian Credit Union

Inside the Lithuanian Credit Union

In general, the club and the Lithuanian institutions there are increasingly run by new (post-1990) immigrants to the USA who in Boston seem to get well with the previous generations. Every institution, however, has many Lithuanian details in its interior (images, artworks), some of which date to much older times (e.g. a 1968 plaque listing Lithuanians who donated for elevator renovation at the ground floor).

Where the World's first Lithuanian encyclopedia was published

South Boston also once housed the Publishing house of the Lithuanian Encyclopedia, still commonly referred to in Lithuanian as the „Boston encyclopedia“. Nothing Lithuanian remains in any of the multiple places of publication, however. The most impressive and historically important among those is a building right across the street from the Lithuanian club where the first five volumes had been published in 1953-1955. Owned by a Lithuanian businesswoman Ivaškienė, this building continued to be a hub for Lithuanian activities afterwards as well.

The building where the first Lithuanian encyclopedia was published

The building where the first volumes of Boston's Lithuanian encyclopedia was published

The encyclopedia has been published in 1953-1966. This 37 volume work is still the largest encyclopedia ever published in the Lithuanian language. At the time Lithuania had been occupied by the Soviet Union, there was no state funding for the work and many sources were very hard to access, making the job undertaken by some 200 Lithuanian-American authors even more tremendous. The authors wished that their encyclopedia would be used in Lithuania even after its liberation. Indeed, that's what happenend: only in 2015, 25 years after independence, did free Lithuania completed publishing its new encyclopedia.

In 1970-1978 the same Boston authors translated the Lithuania-related articles to create 6 volume English "Encyclopedia Lituanica", still the most comprehensive English work on Lithuania.

South Boston Lithuanian church

The last remaining open Lithuanian church in Boston is also located in South Boston, 75 Flaherty Way. Built in 1901, it is dedicated to St. Peter. The parish was established in 1896 through a hard struggle as the Irish community then dominated South Boston and Irish bishop Williams opposed the move.

Boston St. Peter Lithuanian church

Boston St. Peter Lithuanian church

In 2008, the parish had 1000 member families, 100 of them newly immigrated and 900 descendants of earlier immigration "waves". Lithuanian and English mass are both celebrated.

The church interior is authentic. It has many Lithuanian details, including the stained-glass windows with Lithuanian donators marked on them. Over the time, the Lithuanity of the interior increased as the community sought to mark its roots: for example, Lithuanian names of the saints were inscribed under the frescos of these saints in addition to the English names. The candles that may be lit for donations are painted in the colors of the Lithuanian flag. At the entrance hall, three new Lithuanian stained-glass windows were installed with Lithuanian slogans about Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, while the paintings of Our Lady of Šiluva (Virgin Mary appearance in Lithuania) and St. Casimir (the only Lithuanian saint) were hanged.

The interior of the Boston Lithuanian church

The interior of the Boston Lithuanian church

Lithuanian details inside the Boston Lithuanian church

Lithuanian details inside the Boston Lithuanian church (flag, the candle-flag, the sun-crosses, etc.)

One of the vault saints with both his Lithuanian and English names

One of the vault saints with both his Lithuanian and English names

Like many historic Lithuanian-American churches, Boston‘s St. Peter‘s „Lithuanian cathedral“ is two floored, with the first floor dedicated to secular affairs and also holding many Lithuanian memorabilia.

The church is locked outside of the mass, but even outside there are many Lithuanian details, such as the Lithuanian-flag colored wall at the parking lot, as well as the improvised Hill of Crosses - a collection of crosses under the church entrance aimed to remind the world-famous Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, Lithuania. While the original Lithuania's Hill of Crosses received its millions of crosses from people who clandestinely protested against the Russian and Soviet occupations and anti-Catholic regimes, the Boston‘s „Hill of Crosses“ was created as a protest against the planned closure of the Lithuanian church in 2004. The closure ultimately did not happen, likely thanks to massive and public Lithuanian protests. Many of the crosses, ranging in size from very small to ~2-meter height, have traditional Lithuanian designs (sun-cross).

The Hill of Crosses at the Boston St. Peter Lithuanian church entrance

The Hill of Crosses at the Boston St. Peter Lithuanian church entrance

In 2022, a plaque "St. Peter Church, Built by Lithuanian immigrants 1904" was added to the building's facade, making the church's roots even more prominent.

While back in 1900s, the 3000-strong church stood in the middle of Lithuanian-inhabited neighborhood, that all changed in 1941, when this neighborhood was demolished and replaced by housing projects which still surround the church. Not only were the Lithuanian people relocated away from their church, but the district became very dangerous and the church suffered from crime. Back then, Lithuanians floated ideas to close the church down, joining to the other Lithuanian church at East South Boston instead. Ultimately, however, the church survived, and limited gentrification has taken place since. A Lithuanian school that used to stand beside the church was demolished, however, to make way for a parking lot for parishioners who by now lived further away and had to use cars to the Mass.

Lithuanian street names in South Boston

South Boston has numerous streets and intersections named after Lithuanians.

Next to the St. Peter's church is St. Casimir street. Named after the most famous Lithuanian saint, this name was suggested by priest Žukas of the Lithuanian church when the later district was undergoing redevelopment.

Several surrounding intersections are named after Lithuanian veterans of the US army, including Stanley C. Mosiulis Square, Joseph P. Shliazhas Square, and, most famously, Stephen Darius Square, named after Steponas Darius, who became famous after becoming (together with Stasys Girėnas) the first Lithuanian pilots to cross the Atlantic ocean (before tragically crashing over Poland). Each of these squares is marked by a plaque. Stephen Darius also had a Lithuanian American Legion post named after him which sponsored the square name.

Stephen Darius square

Stephen Darius square

The lost Lithuanian buildings of South Boston

What impressive Lithuanian heritage still survives is but a shadow of the extent of Lithuanian sites that South Boston once boasted. Lithuanian institutions have acquired numerous buildings over the time, however, as they did not construct them themselves, these buildings lacked Lithuanian architecture. All these buildings eventually closed and nothing reminds of Lithuanian history there.

*Lithuanian National Society House (full name National Lithuanian Society of America Boston Chapter House) that was opened in an acquired building in 1951. The acquisition was funded by a Lithuanian-American businessman Jonas Kasmauskas who had immigrated in 1901 but most of the participants were recent Soviet Genocide refugees who had fled Lithuania in 1944. It boasted elaborate patriotic interior with busts and statues of many Lithuanian heroes (Grand Duke Vytautas, president Smetona), as well as national symbols and slogans. This interior was created by a refugee artist Viktoras Andriušis, originally a scenographer of Lithuania's main theater, and built by Lithuanian volunteers who had to start by cleaning up the burned out building interior. However, as the "refugee generation" began passing away, the National Society House closed in 1986 and the interior was destroyed or relocated to museums. Currently, the building serves as apartments.

The former Lithuanian National Society House

The former Lithuanian National Society House

Lithuanian National Society House interior (now destroyed), picture by Romas Šležas

Lithuanian National Society House interior (now destroyed), picture by Romas Šležas

*Lithuanian Alliance of America building, a local branch of a New-York-hubbed Lithuanian-American institution.
*Lithuanian chapel in east South Boston that served as Boston's first Lithuanian church. It was replaced by a new chapel after a fire in 1897. Priest Gricius who founded this church proved to be a divisive personality, however, which became a reason to establish St. Peter church in the 1900s. Ultimately, St. Peter became the primary Lithuanian church and since 1921, this "old church" served as a chapel of St. Peter Lithuanian parish as the Lithuanian district was too large to be served by a single church in a pre-automobile era. The chapel has been demolished since.
*Two Lithuanian schools in addition the St. Peter's parish school.

Cambridge Lithuanian sites

Previously, other Boston conurbation areas had their Lithuanian churches as well. Immaculate Conception church of Cambridge (432 Windsor Street) has been built in 1913. Despite still being a major Lithuanian hub, the church was closed in 2004 and transformed into "affordable housing" by the "Just a Start Corporation". This corporation acquired the building in 2007. A municipal commission formed in 2009 deemed it to be of great significance as an example of Mission Style / Arts and Crafts (created by famous Maginnis and Walsh company) and for its possible inspirations in the Gothic architecture of Lithuania. It asked not to alter facades and not to remove religious references where possible (crosses were however removed and frescoes whitened); for complying the building got a Cambridge Historical Commission's „Preservation award 2013“. The owners were, however, given a free hand in the interior which was entirely changed.

The Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church in Cambridge

The Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church in Cambridge

The main surviving Lithuanian artwork is the rather impressive Virgin Mary relief over the entrance, that includes prie-modern Lithuanian words „Lietuviu Rymo Kataliku Bažnyčia Nekalto Panos Marijos prasidejimo“ („Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church of Immaculate Conception). The church‘s Lithuanian roots (and its first Lithuanian pastor Krasnickas) are also mentioned in its cornerstone.

Lithuanian hos-relief on the Cambridge church of Immaculate Conception

Lithuanian hos-relief on the Cambridge church of Immaculate Conception

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

Peter Sarapas Square sign in Cambridge

Peter Sarapas Square sign in Cambridge

While the church was not designed by Lithuanians, the nearby rectory was. Built by architects Eugenijus Manomaitis in 1972, it incorporates Lithuanian elements on its roof.

Jewish-Lithuanian (Litvak) heritage in Boston

Lithuania's Jews also moved to Boston before World War 1 forming the community of "Anshei Vilner" (Yiddish for "People of Vilnius"). Their modest synagogue (Vilna Shul, erected 1919) was built near the Boston Commons. It was abandoned in 1985 after the Jews left the district but unlike many other similar buildings, it was saved from demolition. It has since been repurposed as a cultural center, offering various events including ~once-a-month history tours. The plaque mentions that it was founded by "Eastern Europeans".

Vilna Shul synagogue in Boston

Vilna Shul synagogue in Boston

Another Jewish-Lithuanian site is Meretz Cemetery in Woburn at the northern side of Boston. "Meretz" is a Yiddish name for Merkinė, a town of ~1700 people before World War 2. Incredibly, so many Jews migrated from this town to the Boston area alone that they established this rather large cemetery to bury their dead. On the gate, the dates 1893-1914 are listed.

Meretz Cemetery gate

Meretz Cemetery gate

While elsewhere in the USA Lithuanian-Jewish communities typically quickly integrated into the wider Jewish-American communities (no longer building anything related to their historic homeland of Lithuania), in the Meretz Cemetery, the descendants of Merkinė Jews built a unique memorial for their Merkinė brethren who perished in the Holocaust. Formed like a column, this is the only such memorial in the USA that commemorates Holocaust victims from a Lithuanian town in particular. If you know other such monuments, please write in the comments.

The lower part of the Merkinė (Meretz) Holocaust memorial

The lower part of the Merkinė (Meretz) Holocaust memorial

Putting these heritage sites together, Boston area arguably has more Jewish-Lithuanain heritage sites than any other city in America.

Lithuanian sites in Boston suburbs

In the suburb of Norwood, the local Lithuanian church was closed during the Massachusetts ethnic-church-closing-spree of 2004. It has been converted into apartments Nothing Lithuanian remains there.

Norwood Lithuanian church

Norwood Lithuanian church

A building next to the church served as the Lithuanian club has no remaining Lithuanian signs either. It had been closed even earlier, in 1978, after the floor partly collapsed in 1970s.

The former Lithuanian club of Norwood

The former Lithuanian club of Norwood

The Monument for Lithuanians who died in World War 2 still survives, however. Originally built back in 1949 in front of the church, it has been relocated to the Highland Cemetery after the church's closure. It includes St. George (the patron saint of the former church and Lithuania). The dedication is to the 152 Lithuanian-American veterans of the St. George Lithuanian church. 8 Lithuanians who were KIA are listed by their names, while the back side includes inscription "In faithful tribute to the Lithuanian veterans of Norwood".

Lithuanian WW2 veterans memorial in Norwood

Lithuanian WW2 veterans memorial in Norwood

In the suburb of Danvers there is a Polish Russian Lithuanian American citizens club (PRLACC) that sports all three flags (in addition to the American one) in front of its building. Its slogan "In Unity there is strenght" is inscribed on a nearby plaque. The tri-national club was formed in 1939 when the 1937-established local Polish club started accepting Lithuanian and Russian members. It was just on the eve of World War 2 which divided these nations further in Europe. The building was acquired in 1941 and has 2000 members with some 400 of Lithuanian, Polish, or Russian roots.

Russian, Polish and Lithuanian club of Danvers

Russian, Polish and Lithuanian club of Danvers

Brokcton may be considered a suburb of Boston, however, due to a huge Lithuanian history there we have covered Brockton Lithuanian heritage sites in a separate article.

 


Map of Boston Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Boston Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 12 Comments

Brockton, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

Brockton also has a Lithuanian monastery and a cemetery.

Lithuanian village of Brockton

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

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

Brockton Lithuanian church

Brockton Lithuanian church

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

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

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

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

The former Lithuanian village also has two more Lithuanian monuments, both reachable by a short walk from the church. One of them (also saved by the new owners of the nearby building where church‘s pastors used to live) is dedicated in 1962 to Mssgr. Francis W. Strakauskas, a Lithuanian priest of the church, whose image appears on the memorial. It declares the area a Lithuanian Plaza. Sadly, ~2020 the "Lithuanian Plaza" name was chiselled away, making it barely legible. The second monument is dedicated to the Brockton Lithuanians who fought for the USA in World War 2. At the top of its surname list is Watslo W. Tukis (Vaclovas Tukis). A nearby playground is named Tukis playground after him.

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village, with the name still fully visible in 2017

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

Unfortunately, no Lithuanian businesses remain in the Village. The one that survived the longest was The Lit pub, established in 1897 and closed ~2015 after more than a century of service that ended rather tragically as two murders took place here in 2010 and 2014.

One building that still has Lithuanian details is the St. Casimir Convent, which has a Lithuanian-styled sun-cross on top although is no longer serving its original purpose as a Lithuanian monastery.

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village in 2017 - already closed but its name still visible (removed since)

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

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

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

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

Brockton Lithuanian convent, cemetery and its monuments

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

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

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

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

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

St. Joseph manor entrance

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

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Lithuanian memorial at Avon

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

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

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

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

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

 


Map of the Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Brockton Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 58 Comments

Worcester, Massachusetts

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

St. Casimir Lithuanian area

For decades, the massive St. Casimir Lithuanian church (41 Providence Street) was the real hub of Worcester Lithuanian life. It took Lithuanians 13 years to build (1903-1916). It offered regular services from 1916 to 2009, whet it was controversially closed by the diocese. Final mass was held in 2010 for Lithuanian independence day and the building was sold in 2011 to charismatic Christians for 650 000 USD. Altair and other sacred items were removed beforehand, but the St. Casimir‘s bust on the facade remains with the Lithuanian words „St. Casimir, pray for us“. The grand stained glass windows with Lithuanian inscriptions were also fully retained.

St. Casimir church. Its massive size and a hilltop location shows the size of Lithuanian community Worcester once had.

The St. Casimir bust on the St. Casimir church.

St. Casimir church stained-glass window

St. Casimir church stained-glass window

Interestingly, one of the priests of St. Casimir drowned with Titanic while arriving in the USA. He is said to have acted especially heroically there, giving up his lifeboat seat and helping the dying passengers.

Not far away from the St. Casimir church stands the former St. Casimir Lithuanian school which has a bas-relief of Lithuanian coat of arms and a Lithuanian inscription with its name on its facade, making it one of the most Lithuanian-styled school buildings in America. The school was built in 1924, replacing the wooden "temporary St. Casimir church" that had been used by the parish in 1895-1916. The school had 505 students in 1927, taught by the Lithuanian Sisters of St. Casimir of Chicago. The numbers declined to 199 in the mid-1940s but then increased back to 350 as the Soviet Genocide refugees arrived. As the USA moved to public schooling, the parish school declined and was closed in 1986. The building is now used as a school for children who are unable to learn at regular schools.

Worcester Lithuanian school.

Vytis bas-relief on the school

Vytis bas-relief on the school

Lithuanian-named squares of Worcester

Worcester likely has more locations named after Lithuanians than any other US city! That is mostly due to a local tradition to name intersections after World War 2 veterans who gave their life for the USA. With so many Lithuanians living in the area, many of those veterans were Lithuanians. Also, a Lithuanian veteran club worked hard to sponsor these intersection name, most of them located in what was once the Lithuanian district around the St. Casimir church.

There are three Lithuanian-named squares on the Providence St south of St. Casimir: Miglauckas, Kirminas, and Maleskas.

Further on within the once-heavily-Lithuanian-populated area, there are more: Jurgelionis, Kamandulis, Kigas, Banis, Laukaitis, Skerniškis. Krasinskas Square is located in the western outskirts of the city. Every one of them is marked on this map).

Maleskas Sq. sign.

Kirminas Sq. sign.

Our Lady of Vilna Lithuanian area

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

Our Lady of Vilna church in Worcester. It is the last so-named church in the USA.

Despite the ethnic change, the impressive interior of the church remains staunchly Lithuanian. There are more Lithuanian inscriptions here than in nearly every other Lithuanian-American church (even the saints behind the altar have their Lithuanian names written near their images). Some Lithuanians still pray at the church, although its institutions (school, parish hall) are now mostly used by Vietnamese. Lithuanian visitors are welcome.

Our Lady of Vilna church interior.

Gediminas street still exists in church vicinity (named after Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, 1275-1341, traditionally held to be the founder of Vilnius). In fact, the entire hill the church proudly stands on used to be referred to as Gediminas hill (which is a locality in Vilnius). After all, the church was built in the times of Lithuanian-Polish conflict over Vilnius (1920s-1930s), this likely influencing the prevalence of the Lithuanian language and Vilnius-related symbolism.

Gediminas street sign.

Another testament to that was the memorial for 7 local Lithuanians who died in WW2 in front of the church. Those people died for the USA rather than Lithuania, yet the memorial also had Lithuanian inscriptions and the names of the veterans were written in Lithuanian, with Lithuanian characters and without the changes imposed by the US immigration authorities. However, the memorial was removed ~2022.

Memorial for Lithuanians die din WW2.

Not far away from the Our Lady of Vilnius church is the building of Lithuanian Naturalisation Club, which is adorned by bas-reliefs of both American and Lithuanian coats of arms. Worcester Lithuanians built everything in a way that even after losing their buildings the decor still reminds of the history. While the club itself had been established in 1908, it acquired the current building in 1964 and sold it in 1993.

The former Lithuananian club in Worcester.

Maironis Lithuanian Hall in Shrewsbury

The last remaining operating Lithuanian club of Worcester is Maironis Lithuanian Hall (52 South Quinsigamond Avenue) in Shrewsbury suburb. It is named after the famous Lithuanian patriotic poet of 19th-century national revival. This building rented out for celebrations but it also hosts some 6-8 annual Lithuanian events.

The building has a rather plain exterior as the historic club which stood here burned down several decades ago. The interior of its replacement, is, however, rather grand, as it includes Lithuanian paintings on its walls at the basement floor. These were painted by a Lithuanian-American Rūkštelė who lived within the premises while he worked. The first floor hall, on the other hand, is mostly used for rentals and is thus devoid of Lithuanian symbolism. This Hall used to be known as "Maironis Park" but had its name changed ~2022 to avoid misconception that it is a park rather than a building. Nevertheless, Maironis does indeed include extensive grounds for car parking, as well as a lakeshore, making Maironis convenient for outdoor Lithuanian celebrations such as the midsummer Joninės. This land was acquired by Lithuanians in 1923-1929.

Lithuanian scenes at one of Rūkštelė paintings (depicting, left-to-right, the Vilnius Cathedral, Kaunas city, and the grave of unknown soldier in Kaunas)

Lithuanian scenes at one of Rūkštelė paintings (depicting, left-to-right, the Vilnius Cathedral, Kaunas city, and the grave of unknown soldier in Kaunas)

Next to Maironis stands a Memorial for those who died for free Lithuania adorned in patriotic symbols (Columns of Gediminas, Vytis (the coat of arms), two Crosses of Vytis). Built in 1978, this memorial initially stood at the St. Casimir church. However, it was relocated after the church was sold in fear that the new owners would have destroyed it otherwise.

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom at Maironis park.

Historically, the eastern shore of Lake Quinsigamond hosted numerous additional Lithuanian clubs, often named "Parks". This included a Lithuanian Veteran club, Lithuanian leftist club (Olympia Park), Vytautas Park, and more. All of these clubs closed since, however, and the Lithuanian activities slowly retreated to Maironis, with the historic other club buildings either demolished or no longer visibly Lithuanian. After the closure of their own buildings, various clubs continued operation in Maironis premises.

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

 


>The map

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

Interactive map of Worcester Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 31 Comments

Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts

Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill are the towns of the Merrimack Valley, especially famous for its textile mills ~1900. The textile mills attracted many Lithuanians, making the area especially rich in historic Lithuanian sites.

Among the most unique Lithuanian sites in the area are the Lithuanian national cemetery (non-Roman-Catholic) and a district of Lithuanian-named streets. There are numerous Lithuanian monuments, Lithuanian churches (all closed) and Lithuanian cemeteries.

The flags over the Haverhill Lithuanian cemetery

The flags over the Haverhill Lithuanian cemetery, surrounding the memorial to Lithuanian immigrants.

The massive red-brick factories themselves are an impressive sight in many Merrimack valley towns. That's a sight that was unavailable in Lithuania itself of the era: it was precisely the Russian czar‘s decision to leave Lithuania an agricultural hinterland that made the Lithuanians who sought for industrial jobs to migrate away to places such as the Merrimack Valley.

A former textile factory in Lawrence

A former textile factory in Lawrence

Lawrence, the Lithuanian heart of Merrimack Valley

At the center of the Merrimack Valley stands its most Lithuanian city Lawrence (pop. 70 000). It is known as the "immigrant city" for the numerous early 20th-century European migrant communities.

Nearly every ethnicity built its own church in Lawrence (giving it an alias of „city of churches“). Lithuanians established two churches (both now closed).

The first one was the Roman Catholic St. Francis (94 Bradford Street), something usual for the Catholic-majority nation. Currently, the building is used as a Christian Bellesini Academy. Nothing outside reminds of its Lithuanian past. One stained-glass window from the church was moved to Central Catholic High School chapel where it is installed together with a plaque describing its Lithuanian history. After the closure of this church, Lithuanian community was joined to Corpus Christi parish in 35 Essex street; there, some Lithuanian activities still takes place and a replica of Our Lady of Vilnius painting hangs proud. That replica is historically important as it used to tour around the camps of Lithuanian refugees who had to flee the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1944.

St. Francis Lithuanian church of Lawrence

St. Francis Lithuanian church of Lawrence

The second Lithuanian church of Lawrence, constructed in 1855 (Garden Street 150), used to be owned by an independent Lithuanian National Catholic Church of Sacred Heart which had acquired the building in 1917. This is a unique denomination established in the early 20th century by Lithuanians which considered itself Catholic but denounced the authority of Roman Pope (thus they are not Roman Catholics). Lithuanian National Catholics had their cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania (still operational) and Lawrence was its only other longer-lasting parish. The former National Catholic church has been sold again in 2001 (to the Haiti Baptists), however, the plaque „Lithuanian National Catholic Church“ still remains near the top of the building‘s front facade (albeit bleached in the sun and barely legible).

Lawrence National Catholic church

Lawrence National Catholic church

Lawrence's Methuen suburb still has a Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery (est. 1917), the final resting place of the parish. They could have been buried neither in the unsanctified Protestant cemetery ground nor together with the papal followers, that's why they established their own cemetery. Some graves are especially old with pre-modern Lithuanian words, as well as Anglicized or Polonized Lithuanian surnames (such "surname shifts" were common in the early 20th century when the officials would decide upon the orthography of an illiterate immigrant's surname). The National Catholic cemetery has received a nice arch in ~1997 and a memorial to Lithuanians who fought for the USA in 2016 (with both Lithuanian and English inscriptions). ~100 Lithuanian US forces veterans are buried in the cemetery, their graves marked by the small US flags. A free-standing plaque explains the cemetery history, adorned in the Lithuanian flag motif.

Entrance arch of the Lithuanian national cemetery

Entrance arch of the Lithuanian national cemetery

World War 2 memorial for Lithuanian National Catholics war veterans of Lawrence area

World War 2 memorial for Lithuanian National Catholics war veterans of Lawrence area

The cemetery is supported and beautified by the money received from selling the church. At the center of the cemetery stands a Lithuanian National Catholic altar at which the National Catholic holy masses used to be held, followed by picnics. The altar consists of Jesus Christ statue; it has no Lithuanian inscriptions. Today, the cemetery also accepts Ukrainian internments and Lithuanians gave them some ground.

Lithuanian National Catholic altar at the Methuen Lithuanian National Catholic cemetery

Lithuanian National Catholic altar at the Methuen Lithuanian National Catholic cemetery

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

Postboxes with Birute and Palanga street names

Postboxes with Birute and Palanga street names

Lawrence is also famous as the first US city to recognize Lithuanian independence in 1990 04 03. This happened after a lobbying effort by the local Lithuanians and an unanimous vote. A plaque commemorating this has been installed in 2000 inside the pretty Lawrence City Hall in the downtown (first floor; accessible to all visitors during the working hours).

Plaque commemorating the independence recognition in Lawrence city hall

Plaque commemorating the independence recognition in Lawrence city hall

In a park on the other side of the street from the Lawrence City Hall stands the Bread and Roses Strike memorial which commemorates the 1912 strike of Lawrence textile workers that became famous for successfully achieving some of its goals. Among the strikers were Lithuanians; one of their names, Jonas Smolskas, is inscribed on the monument because he was one of three victims of the strike, beaten to death by the strike opponents for wearing a symbol associated with the strikers.

Bread and Roses strike memorial in Lawrence

Bread and Roses strike memorial in Lawrence

Both the Lawrence recognition of Lithuanian independence (including the plaque commemorating it) and the memorial for the strikers were inspired or funded by the local Lithuanian historian Jonas Stundžia, famous within the Lithuanian-American community, who has worked much to further the Lithuanian goals in the USA (his name is also engraved on the strikers memorial).

Plaque on the strike memorial with Jonas Smolskas and Jonas Stundžia mentioned

Plaque on the strike memorial with Jonas Smolskas and Jonas Stundžia mentioned

Lowell Lithuanian memorial, church and club

10 km further west from Lawrence along the Merrimack River lies the town of Lowell (pop. 100 000), a kind of Lawrence's twin in terms of its size, number of factories and number of Lithuanians.

In 2012, a commemorative stone to local Lithuanians has been unveiled near the Lowell municipal building. It includes a Lithuanian coat of arms, the Lithuanian word for Lithuania (Lietuva) and the engraving of an ethnic strip. It has joined numerous other such stones erected by other Lowell immigrant communities.

Memorial stone for Lithuanians near Lowell City Hall

Memorial stone for Lithuanians near Lowell City Hall

Lowell Lithuanians also had their church (dedicated to St. Joseph 151 Rogers Street). Built in 1911, it has been closed in 2003 and transformed into apartments. The cornerstone retains an inscription „St. Joseph‘s Lithuanian R. Cath. Church 1911“.

Lowell Lithuanian church

Lowell Lithuanian church

Cornerstone of the Lowell church

Cornerstone of the Lowell church. Cornerstones like that are often the final reminder of building's original purpose

Until 2017, Lowell had a Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas club named after the famous Lithuanian leader under whose rule Lithuania was the largest medieval European state. Opened in 1920, the club moved to its current location at 447 Central Street in 1966 and its entrance used to be adorned by a Lithuanian flag and a pre-modern Lithuanian abbreviation of its name DLKV. The club was established by the leftists as an alternative to the Lithuanian parishes (after all, the parishes themselves were like ethnic clubs to Lithuanians, as they had many secular activities). However, over the time such clubs would start cooperating with parishes, as the Soviet occupation of Lithuania and the Soviet genocide there discredited the Marxist ideas among Lithuanian-Americans. The clubhouse was sold due to high costs (~14000 USD / year) becoming unbearable for a senescent community. The building is now a laundry.

Grand Duke Vytautas Club in Lowell

Grand Duke Vytautas Club in Lowell (before the signs were removed)

Haverhill Lithuanian sites

Haverhill east of Lawrence is the smallest of the „Lithuanian“ Merrimack Valley towns.

Its best-surviving Lithuanian site is the Haverhill Lithuanian cemetery (est. 1921).

Old entrance stone to the Haverhill Lithuanian cemetery

Old entrance stone to the Haverhill Lithuanian cemetery

A Lithuanian flag perpetually waves above the cemetery together with the US flag. A Memorial for Lithuanian imigrants stands at their feet, erected in 2000 by the Gedymino club („Gedyminas“ being an old spelling of the Lithuanian Grand Duke‘s name today spelled as Gediminas). The cemetery itself is owned by the club and is notable by large land lots next to the graves, due to which there is little land for new burials.

Gedymino club memorial to the Lithuanian immigrants in Haverhill cemetery

Gedymino club memorial to the Lithuanian immigrants in Haverhill cemetery

Haverhill Lithuanians also had their own Lithuanian church. However, the district where the church stood became a so-called "ghetto" and the church was closed in 1998, then became abandoned and derelict after temporarily serving as a police precinct. It was demolished in 2019. During the "Destination Lithuanian America" mission in 2017 it was still possible to look inside through the broken windows and still see some surviving stained glass windows, but nothing else reminded the church‘s Lithuanian history.

Haverhill Lithuanian church

Haverhill Lithuanian church before its demolition

The ravaged interior of the Haverhill Lithuanian church

The ravaged interior of the Haverhill Lithuanian church (2017)

The church building was constructed in 1892, however, it was acquired by Lithuanians ~1910.

Other Merrimack valley

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

Map of the Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Merrimack Valley Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts, USA 20 Comments

Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts is the birthplace of Lithuania's national sport (basketball); the sport was invented by Dr. James Naismith in the local college. As such the city hosts the massive ball-shaped Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Among the many inductees of this ball-shaped building, there is also a Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis (2011), widely regarded to be the nation's best-ever basketball player, in addition to being the first European to be selected in NBA draft (as Lithuania was still occupied by the Soviet Union, Sabonis was precluded from leaving for several years). Šarūnas Marčiulionis, also a former NBA star, is another Lithuanian inductee (since 2014).

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

The interior of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the faces of all the inductees

Sabonis face at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Sabonis face at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

As every inductee, both Sabonis and Marčiulionis have their faces on the „dome“ of the ball-shaped building. Their careers are briefly described in the 3rd-floor gallery where all inductees are listed. In addition, Marčiulionis‘s jersey is hanging among the jerseys of the world‘s best point guards, while Sabonis‘s quotation is next to the main entrance to the hall (a rather simple one: „It‘s a dream of every player to play in the NBA“). Only a few players are honored this way, among them Wilt Chamberlain and other main stars.

Jersey of Šarūnas Marčiulionis at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Jersey of Šarūnas Marčiulionis at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

In general, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame offers many activities beyond the Lithuanian-related things. One may, for example, watch short films about the basketball history (including at least one where Sabonis is shown), try to comment a basketball game and listen to one‘s record, compare one‘s height and arms length to that of the various basketball players and so on. As the Hall is in America, NBA receives most of the attention, yet the international basketball also gets some.

By the way, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has another Lithuania-born inductee: Sara Berenson Abbot (1868-1954), who is a Lithuania-born Jewess (inducted in 1984). She is called the „Mother of women basketball“ as she has „updated“ the Naismith‘s game rules for women (at the time, men and women played according to greatly different rules, with Abbot‘s rules greatly limiting moving of the players). Abbot has been relatively unknown in Lithuania, however, as she did her inventions in the USA and did not participate in the Lithuanian activities there (she emigrated with her parents when she was just 7 years old and effectively cut any ties with Lithuania).

Description of Senda Abbot at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Description of Senda Abbot at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Springfield area also had a Lithuanian church: St. Casimir in Westfield (38 Parkside Av, construction started on 1917). Since its closure in 2003, it has been sold to the school system and used as a school for kids with ADHD. Even that school was closed in several years, and the church is now used as a warehouse of the school system. If you look through the glass of the main entrance, you may still catch a glimpse of surviving Lithuanian stained glass windows (with Lithuanian inscriptions) inside. Most of the interior is destroyed, however, and filled with various things; a statue of a saint outside is also removed.

Westfield St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Westfield St. Casimir Lithuanian church

St. Casimir name remained however as the parish was unified with St. Peter (Slovak) to form St. Peter's/St. Casimir's parish. The congregation now prays at the former Slovak church, however (24 State Street).

West of Springfield lies Stockbridge, notable for its Divine Mercy shrine. Divine Mercy is a Catholic tradition that originates in Lithuania. In addition to that, the shrine is led by Marianite priests who are inspired by the Lithuanian blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. His images, as well as those of Our Lady of Vilnius, are also prominent in the church there.

 


The map

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

Interactive map of Massachusetts Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

2017 09 21: We have also went to Springfield (MA), where the Basketball Hall of Fame has Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis inscribed.

2017 09 24: We have visited Westfield, where Lithuanian church became a warehouse, and Stockbridge, where Marian fathers (an order that would have died out if not Jurgis Matulaitis, a Lithuanian Blessed person) own a Divine Mercy shrine, where copies of the Lithuania‘s Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Vilnius paintings proudly hang.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 21, 24.

More info on the Destination America expedition

The man who approached the Destination America team at the Westfield church, offering to tell us some of its stories

The man who approached the Destination America team at the Westfield church, offering to tell us some of its stories

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts No Comments

Athol, Massachusetts

Athol (population 11 000) may just be a small town on the Massachusetts map. However, by the surviving Lithuanian sites, Athol area clearly ranks among the top Lithuanian zones of Massachusetts.

The most striking there is the Romance Revival St. Francis Lithuanian church, constructed in 1912-1920 and still operating (105 Main Street) and officially Lithuanian at the time when much larger cities have lost their Lithuanian churches.

Athol Lithuanian church

Athol St. Francis Lithuanian church

The church interior is especially decorated and impressive. It has many Lithuanian signs: on the impressive stained glass windows, on the frescos above the church, at the plaque in the memory of Jonas Vizbaras near the entrance, etc. By the number of Lithuanian inscriptions, it is among the leading churches in America, as much is explained in Lithuanian to the parishioners. While the interior looks especially expensive, only the altar table is actually marble, with much of the rest being wooden imitations.

The interior of Athol Lithuanian church

The interior of Athol Lithuanian church

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

One of many Lithuanian-language objects in the Athol church

One of many Lithuanian-language objects in the Athol church

While the church is open largely for the weekly mass alone, there is a 13,5 feet Lithuanian metal cross outside that may be seen by anyone who visits Athol. The cross is unique for being actually made of metal rather than wood, yet still bearing the traditional Lithuanian UNESCO-inscribed forms such as the Pagan-inspired sun around its center. The cross was created by Ramojus Mozoliauskas out of 4,5 tons of Corten steel in 1979. The nearby plaque declares it to be „an original work of art blending the modern and traditional spirits of the original wayside cross“. Among the listed reasons to erect it, a striking one is that crosses were quickly disappearing in Lithuania of the time due to the Soviet atheist persecutions, leading Lithuanian-Americans to seek to transplant the tradition to the USA.

The metal Lithuanian sun-cross in front of the Athol church

The metal Lithuanian sun-cross in front of the Athol church

The cornerstone of the church also has both Lithuanian and English inscriptions.

Athol also has a Amer-Lithuanian Naturalization Club (365 South St).

Athol Amer-Lithuanian naturalization club

Athol Amer-Lithuanian naturalization club

While the club today serves more as a multi-ethnic pub where patrons of various ethnicities are welcome, it still has many Lithuanian details in its interior, such as the Lithuanian National Anthem, the picture of Grand Duke Gediminas. The name is often shortened to „Lith Club“.

Lith Club Sign inside the Athol Lithuanian club

Lith Club Sign inside the Athol Lithuanian club

The reason for so many Lithuanians arriving at Athol, like in many more cases, was the agitation of those who already came there for their relatives and former neighbors to join them.

In the nearby Gardner, there is a Lithuanian Outing Association, a kind of club near the lake (23 Airport Rd). It is open in summers and Eastern European meals are sold there. The interior is also especially Lithuanian, bearing a flag, coat of arms, flag-colored tablecloths, maps and (the most interesting to an outsider) many images from the area‘s Lithuanian history. It also had a shrine to Our Lady of Šiluva that was destroyed by non-believer descendent of Lithuanians. However, Gardner Lithuanians never were united enough to build their own full church.

The tricolor interior of the Lithuanian Outing Association of Gardner

The tricolor interior of the Lithuanian Outing Association of Gardner

 


The map

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

Interactive map of Massachusetts Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

2017 09 24. We were even more surprised in Athol (MA), a town of merely 7000 inhabitants, we found an open Lithuanian church and a Lithuanian club. Both now include non-Lithuanians as members as well, some of whom we met. However, the church‘s decor is especially Lithuanian, and the club still has some Lithuanian details too, despite offering non-Lithuanian meals. We have also passed another working Lithuanian club in nearby Gardner.

2017 09 25. Further on, we have visited Westfield, where Lithuanian church became a warehouse, and Stockbridge, where Marian fathers (an order that would have died out if not Jurgis Matulaitis, a Lithuanian Blessed person) own a Divine Mercy shrine, where copies of the Lithuania‘s Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Vilnius paintings proudly hang.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 24-25.

More info on the Destination America expedition

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America together with the leaders of the Gardner Lithuanian club

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America together with the leaders of the Gardner Lithuanian club

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts, USA 3 Comments

Map of Lithuanian heritage in New England

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in New England (Connectictut, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire) and Quebec.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
Rhode Island, Quebec.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Quebec, Rhode Island 2 Comments