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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 US metropolises and the heartland of US independence war (some Lithuanians, deeply pro-freedom, also joined the fight for the US cause there).

The extensive Boston Lithuanian community and its heritage, however, 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 two churches and a massive club.

After the Soviet occupation of Lithuania halted free Lithuanian cultural life there, Boston became important for Lithuanians worldwide as Boston was the site where the world‘s first Lithuanian-language encyclopedia was published. After the 1990 independence, new immigrants from Soviet-ravaged Lithuania helped to save the Boston Lithuanian institutions from extinction such as happened elsewhere.

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 cuisine restaurant in New England („Lithuanian Kitchen“), open in weekends only (you need to ring a bell, but everybody may come in and non-Lithuanians taste the great Lithuanian meals there too. 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. Some of the premises are rented out, helping to pay for the club‘s existence. The credit union is open every day save for Sundays and by ringing a bell there, you may also check the interior of the club.

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).

World‘s first Lithuanian encyclopedia publication sites

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 building where the first Lithuanian encyclopedia was published

The building where the first Lithuanian encyclopedia was published (as it was shown by the local Lithuanians)

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

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 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 church in 2004. The closure ultimately did not happen. 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

Close to the church is St. Casimir street.

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 and has been recently transformed into "affordable housing" by the "Just a Start Corporation". This corporation acquired the building in 2007. A municipal commission formed in 2009 deemed it to be of great significance as an example of Mission Style / Arts and Crafts (created by famous Maginnis and Walsh company) and for its possible inspirations in the Gothic architecture of Lithuania. It asked not to alter facades (was unaltered) and not to remove religious references where possible (crosses were however removed and frescoes whitened); 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 hos-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 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

Vilna Shul synagogue

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 museum which offers a chance to return back in time to the era when Jewish communities were poor.

Vilna Shul synagogue in Boston

Vilna Shul synagogue in Boston

Other Boston Lithuanian sites

Boston also has a Saturday Lithuanian school. However, it operates on rented-out premises of a regular Christian school. It was one of the first such schools to be established after World War 2 by the refugees from the Soviet occupation who established a network of such schools quickly after immigrating in order to ensure that their children do not forget the Lithuanian ways. However, as the school has changed sites and has no own property, it is not a Lithuanian site per se.

In the suburb of Norwood, a former Lithuanian church has been converted into apartments. Nothing Lithuanian remains there.

Norwood Lithuanian church

Norwood Lithuanian church

The Monument for Lithuanians who died in World War 2 has been relocated from a place in front of the church to the Highland Cemetery. It includes St. george (the patron saint of the former church and Lithuania) as well as a list of Lithuanian veterans.

Lithuanian WW2 veterans memorial in Norwood

Lithuanian WW2 veterans memorial in Norwood

 


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 Boston Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America 2017 expedition diary

Destination America map

2017 09 22: Boston still has active Lithuanian church, a Lithuanian bank (credit union) and a Lithuanian club. Some of these, as well as the Lithuanian school, we will visit tomorrow.

2017 09 23: we have spent the morning in Boston, tasting the great food of America's rare remaining Lithuanian restaurant, entering the Lithuanian church and more (wasn't easy outside the mass - but thanks to the Boston Lithuanians, it was possible).

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 22-23.

Destination - America 2017 team leader Auigustinas Žemaitis with Boston Lithuanians at the Boston Lithuanian school

Destination - America 2017 team leader Auigustinas Žemaitis with Boston Lithuanians at the Boston Lithuanian school

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 2 Comments

Brockton, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

Brockton also has a Lithuanian monastery and a cemetery.

Lithuanian village of Brockton

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

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

Brockton Lithuanian church

Brockton Lithuanian church

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

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

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

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

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

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village

Lithuanian Plaza memorial in the Brockton Lithuanian Village

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Tukis playground with memorial for WW2 Lithuanian veterans in the foreground

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

Memorial to Lithuanians who died in World War 2

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

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village

The Lit bar in Brockton Lithuanian Village

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

The former St. Casimir Convent in Brockton Lithuanian village

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

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

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

Brockton Lithuanian convent, cemetery and its monuments

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

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

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

Lithuanian details (coat of arms) inside the convent

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

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

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

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

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Nun graves at the Convent Lithuanian cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Priest Urbanavičius grave in the Convent cemetery

Lithuanian memorial at Avon

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

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

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

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

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

 


Map of the Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Brockton Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map

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

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 23.

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

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

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 9 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

Massive 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, but the St. Casimir‘s bust on the facade remains with the Lithuanian words „St. Casimir, pray for us“.

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.

Former members of the parish (established in 1894) maintained a large informative website dedicated to the church which was created for an unsuccessful struggle against merging their parish with English-speaking St. John parish (now offline).
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. Today, however, it is a school for difficult children.

Worcester Lithuanian school.

An old Massachusetts tradition is to call intersections as „squares“ named after World War 2 veterans who lived in the area. As every Lithuanian church centered a small Lithuanian district, so there are at least three Lithuanian-named squares in the vicinity of St. Casimir: Miglauckas, Kirminas, and Maleskas.

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-White, unlike that of the 1900s. Vietnamese-Americans have one thing in common with Lithuanian-Americans however: many of them immigrated after their country has been overrun by a communist invasion.

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 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, this likely influencing the prevalence of the Lithuanian language and Vilnius-related symbolism.

Gediminas street sign.

Another testament to that is 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 has Lithuanian inscriptions and the names of the veterans are written in Lithuanian, with Lithuanian characters and without the changes imposed by the US immigration authorities.

Memorial for Lithuanians die din WW2.

Not far away from the Our Lady of Vilnius church is the building of Lithuanian 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.

The former Lithuananian club in Worcester.

Maironis Park in Shrewsbury

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).

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 wooden walls. These were painted by a Lithuanian-American Rūkštelė who lived within the premises while he worked.

Some of the Lithuanian scenes at the Maironis Park hall.

Next to Maironis park stands a Memorial for those who died for 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.

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

 


Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map
Late in the day, we visited Worcester, where a large Lithuanian club Maironis Park remains while two massive Lithuanian churches were closed. One of them remains Catholic though; transformed into a Vietnamese one, it is still named after the Our Lady of Vilnius and all the Lithuanian artwork survives. We have encountered more pleasant surprises in Worcester, e.g. squares named after numerous Lithuanian war veterans and a massive Lithuanian Maironis club.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 21.

Destination America expedition leader Augustinas Žemaitis with Vito Zenkus. a Lithuanian from Worcester

Destination America expedition leader Augustinas Žemaitis with Vito Zenkus. a Lithuanian from Worcester

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts 5 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. 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 constructed two churches (both now closed).

The first one was the usual Roman Catholic St. Francis (94 Bradford Street), currently used as a Christian Belessini Academy (Lithuanian mass was transferred to Corpus Christi parish in 35 Essex street). Nothing outside reminds of its Lithuanian past, although a Lithuanian stained-glass window and a plaque with church history remain inside (which is closed to visitors).

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 has acquired it in 1917. This has been 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 (it is 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 prie-modern Lithuanian words, as well as Anglicized or Polonized Lithuanian surnames (as was common in the early 20th century when US migration specialists would set the orthography of an 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 interments and Lithuanians given 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-in-America area where, near Forrest lake, entire district has its streets named in Lithuanian. There are Palanga, Varniai, Kaunas, Luoke streets (all named after Lithuanian cities), as well as Birute street (named after a Duchess of Lithuania) and Vytis street (Vytis being the Lithuanian Coat of Arms). This was the former resort area owned by the St. Francis church, which the Roman Catholic church had swiftly sold for residential construction after disestablishing the parish. 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. 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 days).

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 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 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. A square there is surrounded by the flags of every nation from where a significant part of the Lowell population came, including Lithuania.

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 on 1911 it has been closed on 2003 and transformed into apartments. The cornerstone retains an inscription „St. Joseph‘s Lithuanian R. Cath. Church 1911“, however.

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 is still adorned by a Lithuanian flag and a pre-modern Lithuanian abbreviation of its name DLKV (it is unclear for how long as the building will become a laundry). 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 the Lithuanian-Americans. It was sold due to high costs (~14000 USD / year) becoming unbearable for a senescent community.

Grand Duke Vytautas Club in Lowell

Grand Duke Vytautas Club in Lowell

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 ghetto and the church is now abandoned and derelict. It is possible to look inside through the broken windows and still see some surviving stained glass windows, but nothing else reminds the church‘s Lithuanian history.

Haverhill Lithuanian church

Haverhill Lithuanian church

The ravaged interior of the Haverhill Lithuanian church

The ravaged interior of the Haverhill Lithuanian church

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

 


Destination America 2017 expedition diary

We have explored the Merrimack Valley, the mills of which provided jobs to many thousand of Lithuanians. Small cities of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill supported entire Lithuanian clubs and churches. Lithuanians were important in the wider American history too, with one of them killed due to an infamous strike. The are also has many Lithuanian-named streets: Palanga, Varniai, Birutė...

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 23.

Destination - America team together with Jonas Stundžia at the Lawrence Lithuanian cemetery

Destination - America team together with a local Lithuanian historian Jonas Stundžia (right) and Mary Ann Kaslow (left) at the Lawrence Lithuanian cemetery

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Massachusetts, USA 13 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 2 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 No Comments