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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).

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

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

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

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

St. Francis church in Athol. Google Street View.

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

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 sport was invented by Dr. James Naismith in the local college. As such the city hosts the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Among the many inductees of this ball-shaped building there is also a Lithuanian Arvydas Sabonis, 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.

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

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Boston, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

Previously other Boston conurbation areas had their Lithuanian churches as well. Immaculate Conception church of Cambridge (432 Windsor Street) has been built in 1913 and has been recently transformed ionto "affordable housing" by the "Just a Start Corporation". This corporation acquired the building in 2007. 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 in Lithuania. It asked not to alter facades (was unaltered) and not to remove religious references where possible (crosses were however removed and frescoes whitened). The owners were however given a free hand in the interior which was entirely changed.

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

The Boston area's third Lithuanian church was the white St. Casimir in Westfield (38 Parkside Av). Since its closure in 2003 it has been sold to school system and used as a school for kids with ADHD. 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) and only the US flag remains waving.

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

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

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

Vilna Shul in Central Boston. Google Street View.

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Brockton, Massachusetts

Brockton currently houses a population of 90 000 but it was the world's main shoe manufactoring center in 1920-1935. Like other industrial towns of the era it attracted Lithuanians who established their own district Lithuanian Village. It was full of Lithuanian businesses: bakeries, shops, pharmacies. To this day in internet forums the inhabittants of Brockton remember it as the heart of their city. The centrepoint of life there used to be St. Rocco church (later renamed St. Casimir, established 19th century, rebuilt 1957, 214 Ames St.). Many Lithuanians graduated from its Parish school and nearby Franklin school. Community events (sport matches, gigs, picnics of surrounding Lithuanian parishes) used to be celebrated in Romuva park ("Romuva" means a Baltic pagan temple and is now used as a name for Baltic neo-pagan movement; in the time the park was established however it was likely not seen as a religious but rather as a historical/cultural name as evident by Christians using it).

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

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

Unfortunately other elements of Lituanity also decreased over the time. In 2009 the archdiocese of Boston went onto ethnic church closure spree and this included the St. Casimir church, heart of Brockton's Lithuanians. To the very day of closure Lithuanian priest used to hold Lithuanian mass there. In 1910 this church was the place where the Knights of Lithuania community was established. Under the slogan "For God and Motherland" it unites Lithuanian Americans from many states.

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

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

Most of the Brockton's Lithuanian bars and restaurants also closed down (in 2009 there was one bar The Lit left owned by a 75 year old Lithuanian woman) and the Romuva park feels abandoned. The once safe neighborhood is now inhabitted by other ethnic groups and plagued by drugs and crime; more often than not it is reffered to as "The Village" alone. Several generations old Lithuanian community however still remains in Brockton; some 2000 (1,4%) of town's inhabittants declared Lithuanian ancestry in 2010 census.

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

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

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Worcester, Massachusetts

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

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

St. Casimir Lithuanian church. After its closure Worcester became the first American city that had two Lithuanian churches to lack a single one. Google Street View.

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

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

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

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

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Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

Lithuanian National Catholic Church in Lawrence. Google Street View.

Lawrence's Lithuanian National Catholic Church building has been sold again (to the Haitian baptists this time). But the Methuen suburb still has a Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery, thhe final resting place of the parish. They couldn't have been buried neither in the unsanctified protestant cemetery ground nor together with the papal followers, that's why they established their own cemetery which has received a nice arch in 1997.

Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery in Methuen. Google Street View.

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

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

Lowell DLKV Lithuanian club. Google Street View.

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

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

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