Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide


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

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

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

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

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

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

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St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois

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

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

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

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

The forms of the church aren't resembling any single historical style but they are not modern either. Even the Christian church elements have been "ethnicized" here: the cross is mixed in form with sun and moon (inspired by peasant or even pagan Lithuanian symbolism), windows are formed as crosses of Vytis while the tower is inspired by Baroque although not copying it directly (this is symbollic as at the time Baroque was regarded to be the most Lithuanian of Western styles due to its prevalence in Vilnius church architecture). East St. Louis Immaculate Conception church looks is similar to the All Saints Lithuanian church in Chicago and also has similar elements to the Nativity BVM church of Chicago (all three have been created by the same tandem of architects/designers/sculptors and had even a master thesis dedicated to them in Kaunas university). Lithuanian mass is still held here every Sunday.

Further east the suburb of Collinsville has a small white church built by Lithuanian Lutherans in 1903, known as the Jerusalem Lutheran church (305 Collinsville Ave). It is still open although no longer Lithuanian. It has been also organized by the victims of Russian occupation but the earlier Imperial (1795-1915) rather than the Soviet one (1940-1990). The pastor who established this church previously worked as book smuggler in Lithuania, importing Lithuanian books into Russian-occupied Lithuania at the time the Russian regime banned Lithuanian language.

Collinsville Jerusalem Lutheran church

Collinsville Jerusalem Lutheran church. Google Street View.

St. Louis metropolis straddles accross two states as the Missouri/Illinois borderline here follows the Mississippi river. Both the aforementioned Lithuanian communities are located on the Illinois side but the Missouri side (which also has the St. Louis downtown) also had its own Lithuanian church dedicated to St. Joseph, built in 1915 in the historic Lafayette Square district famous for its turn-of-the-century architecture (address: corner of Park Avenue and MacKay Place). Small, looking as if built of stones, the church has been closed in 1970 when Lithuanians left the then-poor neighborhood.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church in Lafayette Square.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church in Lafayette Square. Google Street View.

Source on Lutheran church.

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Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha looks strange among the American cities with Lithuanian communities as it is far from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes where most Lithuanians settled.

However, it was not the location that used to attract Lithuanians but city size (and thus job opportunities). When the first Lithuanian wave of migration was gaining momentum in 1890 Omaha was the second largest US city this far west (after San Francisco). The "Manifest destiny" to conquer the "Wild West" has already been completed; the Native American lands were partitioned and White settlements established in many locations. However, most of them were small: even Los Angeles had merely 50 000 people (smaller than cities of Lithuania back in that era). However, Omaha had a population of 140 000 and thus dominated a massive region. It was growing swiftly as well: from 31 000 inhabitants in 1880 to 213 000 in 1915.

Still, the number of Lithuanians was only 400 thus the erection of a wooden church in 1907 had been a tremendous initiative. An initiative that seemed to be compulsory to every immigrant community of the era. South Omaha thus had 23 churches, most of them ethnic. Current St. Anthony Lithuanian church (5402 South 32nd Street) has been constructed in 1936.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church in Omaha (Nebraska). Google Street View.

Its establishment met opposition: the bishop proved to be extremely hard to convince that Lithuanians are a separate nation with their own language. He did not understand why Lithuanians could not pray at English churches like the Irish do. An urban legend(?) says that the bishop changed his minds after Lithuanians said: "Do you wish that we, like Irish, would lose our language?". Struggle for Lituanity continued even after the church was established. It included long (eventually successful) campaigns to invite Lithuanian nuns to teach at a local school and replace a Polish priest with a Lithuanian one. All this evidenced that the church became a kind of "Homeland outside homeland" rather than merely a place to worship God. It (or nearby localities) were used for watching Lithuanian movies, theater, listening to Lithuanian lectures, doing picnics. After Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union (1940) and the USA allowed the persecuted Lithuanian refugees to immigrate Omaha community temporarily housed them in the church cellar.

A new school building has been constructed in 1953. But the American-born generations showed less attachment to their old homeland and the church attendances dropped, the school was closed in 1980. But the holy mass is still celebrated in Lithuanian - something increasingly rare in the USA. An interesting moment in the parish history has been the appointment of a famous priest Peter Stravinskas in 2005. This Lithuanian author of various books has many followers in America (among non-Lithuanians) and the parish rapidly expanded as the followers moved in. Old parish members were disappointed; especially so after Stravinskas spent the parish fund that was saved up in order to prove bishop that the parish is financially solvent (in the USA many Lithuanian parishes were suppressed citing bad financial situation).

Omaha Lithuanian community is still active, it has ~250 members, some 100 actively participating. Under their initiative, Omaha twinned with the city of Šiauliai in Lithuania. In 2015, a joint initiative of the two cities was to create a Lithuanian sculpture garden "Path of the sun" in Lauritzen Gardens of Omaha.

Omaha has two Lithuanian bakeries, this mini-chain established by Vytautas and Stefanija Mackevičius in 1962. "Lithuanian Bakery and Kafe" is in 7427 Pacific St while "Lithuanian Bakery and Deli" is in 5217 S 33rd Ave. The latter has a Lithuanian-style wooden-looking house nearby.

A Lithuanian bakery in Omaha, Nebraska. Google Street View.

Additional reading: Joseph F Rummel, George Jonaitis, George Mikulskis, Joseph Jusevich Mūsų šventas lietuviškas žodis: Šv. Antano kultūrinės vienovės troškulys [anglų k.].

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Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is the only city on the US Pacific coast to have a sizeable Lithuanian community. This is because it is one of a few cities in the region which has been a metropolis even before World War 2.

Modest St. Casimir Lithuanian church (2716 St George St, constructed in 1941) is not only the center of Roman Catholic faith but also the center of Los Angeles Lithuanian community. Most of the community events take place here. Singers and artists who come from Lithuania also perform here. It also includes a Saturday school. A courtyard dedicated to Lithuanian American poet Bernardas Brazdžionis (famous for his patriotic works) boasts his statue. The first weekend of October is Lithuanian fair there since 1986.

St. Casimir Lifthuanian church (left) and the rectory (right) with Lithuanian Coat of Arms above the doorway. The complex also includes a large school which far surpasses the church itself in size. Google Street View.

San Fernando area has two streets named after Lithuania: Lithuania Dr and Lithuania Pl.

Riverside National Cemetery in southeastern LA suburbs has a grave of Frank John Lubin (better known in Lithuania by his birth name Pranas Lubinas; 1910-1999). A spectacular basketball player of his era he was the captain of US national team in 1936 Berlin Olympics. Afterwards, he returned to play for his homeland Lithuania and helped it to defend European champion title in Kaunas in 1939 serving both as captain and as coach. Basketball remained Lithuania's national sport ever since and Lubin(as) is considered to be the father of Lithuanian basketball. Due to the Soviet occupation of Lithuania (1940), he returned to the USA and served in the Air Force in World War 2, hence he is buried as a veteran. Section 50, Grave 5241.

6 800 Lithuanians live in Los Angeles (excluding suburbs). This is the 3rd largest such number in the USA (after Chicago and New York City).

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a small state, it has merely a million inhabitants. However, this region of New England used to be rich and attracted many Lithuanians ~1900; today there are around 7000 of them and the city of Nashua (pop. 85 000) is their heartland, having numerous Lithuania-related sites.

Nashua Lithuanian church

One apartment building in Nashua is called Casimir Place after the Lithuanian saint Casimir. This is because it has been built next to the former St. Casimir Lithuanian church, closed in 2002 (Temple St). To the very last day, it served Lithuanian-language mass and had flowers of Lithuanian flag colors surrounding its altar. The church building still stands and now also houses apartments. Inside, there are commemorative plaques about the Lithuanian church and Lithuanians, as well as many old pictures of it. The vault of the Lithuanian church was not destroyed as the attic is left unused; it is still visible through a ceiling glass from the corridor. Entering the church interior may need somebody of those who live there to let you into the building. The gothic revival building itself was not built by Lithuanians but rather acquired from another community.

St, Casimir Lithuanian church of Nashua

St, Casimir Lithuanian church of Nashua

The corridor on the second floor built in the church nave

The corridor on the second floor built in the church nave. Old images visible here on the walls show the church as it was.

Nashua textile mills

Pre-War Lithuanians (~1000) have been attracted to Nashua by its massive textile industry. Its golden era was short however as the Great Depression forced many mills to go bankrupt and the last one closed down in 1949. Some Lithuanians were already too rooted to move away however and ~700 still live in the city. Unlike many other post-industrial American core cities Nashua enjoyed a true renaissance and was not affected by the White flight. Even the "Money" magazine named it "The best American city to live" twice. Massive textile mills of the golden era where the forefathers of local Lithuanians worked at are now considered heritage and may still be seen near the town center (Main St, Franklin St, Factory St).

Nashua factories looking from the spot of "Diversity" statue

Nashua factories looking from the spot of "Diversity" statue at Front St (see below)

Nashua Lithuanian cemeteries

Nashua has two Lithuanian cemeteries. The Holy Cross Cemetery in Hudson suburb has a Lithuanian tricolor perpetually waving over it and the name "Lithuanian" prominently displayed. It was the Catholic cemetery and a memorial next to the flags is dedicated to the memory of those who served the country, the community, and the St. Casimir Lithuanian parish. Initially, the Catholic church was reluctant to establish a separate Lithuanian cemetery, but they did so after Lithuanians who sought their own cemetery established a Lithuanian Co-Operative Cemetery at Carmichal way (~400 graves) in 1928. In those days, cemeteries were a religious issue as well, as the Roman Catholic church insisted that Catholics be buried in the sanctified ground of the Roman Catholic cemeteries, however, some Catholics actually preferred cemeteries based on the ethnicity. After understanding that it will not stop the establishment of the ethnicity-based cemetery in Nashua, the Catholic church, therefore, saw it as important to also have a Catholic ethnicity-based cemetery.

Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery with the Lithuanian and American flags

Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery with the Lithuanian and American flags

Therefore, while beforehand there had been a dispute if Lithuanians need a separate cemetery at all, currently two Lithuanian cemeteries operate. The Co-Operative cemetery, however, has since been renamed "Pinewood cemetery" (in 2010), but its history is still reminded by a memorial. Only the American and New Hampshire flags wave there though. Like the Holy Cross Cemetery, however, it has many old Lithuanian graves.

A memorial commemorating the Lithuanian Co-operative cemetery

A memorial commemorating the Lithuanian Co-operative cemetery

Nashua Lithuanian sculptures and streetnames

Unlike many of the so-called Lithuanian "colonies" of the pre-war first wave, Nashua still has substantial Lithuania-related activities. A major reason for that is the Zylonis fund, created by a will of a Nashua Lithuanian in the 1970s. Its money is to be used to strengthen the Nashua-Lithuanian relations, attracting, for example, Lithuanian bands to concert ant Nashua. Nashua library too has Lithuanian books and hosts some Lithuanian events. Some Lithuania-related places have been on Zylonis Fund as well, including the sculpture "Talking Bush" by a Lithuanian sculptor Asta Vasiliauskaitė (E Hollis St) - the sculpture has no Lithuanian details, but the old age of the Lithuanian language is explained next to it (the plaque also cites the author: "I am pleased that many Lithuanians have found happiness in Nashua and in the United States. When a person is happy, he shines from the inside". Another sculpture by Lithuanians is Diversity next to where the factories are, created by the Nashua Lithuanians Woitkowski and Tomolonis.

Talking Bush statue by Vasiliauskaitė

Talking Bush statue by Vasiliauskaitė

Nashua has multiple locations named after their former Lithuanian owners. One of them is the Gelazauskas preserve west of the town, located on the land sold at under-market rates (200 000 instead of 2 800 000 USD) by the Gelažauskas family (while most Lithuanians came to New Hampshire to work at the factories, some, like Gelažauskas, eventually acquired land for farming, as land was always important in the Lithuanian culture and before World War 2 industrial jobs were still often seen only as a mean to earn money to buy land for farming, sometimes back in Lithuania, which was 70-80% rural; Gelažauskas family had a dairy farm on that land). A wooden plaque with its name marks the entrance to the preserve.

Gelazauskas preserve entrance

Gelazauskas preserve entrance

Another area with multiple Lithuanian names is a collection of Lithuanian-named streets after the members of a single family who lived there. Now the streets have detached homes. The names are Tomolonis, Vieckis, Mizoras, Monica, and Monias (the last two anglicized Lithuanian, the first three originals). The original owners of the farm there were Leon Vieckis and Monica Mizuras; their daughter Monica then married another Lithuanian Joseph Tomolonis, while their daughter Phyllis married Frank Monis.

Mizoras Drive, one of the Nashua Lithuanian-named streets

Mizoras Drive, one of the Nashua Lithuanian-named streets

Elsewhere, there is also Vilna street in Nashua, named after Vilnius (its old Russian name, still popular in English before World War 1 when most of the Nashua Lithuanians moved in).

New Hampshire Lithuanian sites outside Nashua

Manchester city north of Nashua has a street named after Lithuanian city of Kaunas.

Epping may lack a Lithuanian community but it has a famous grave: that of Jack Sharkey, a heavyweight world champion of boxing. He was a pure Lithuanian: “Jack Sharkey” was just a pseudonym based on the names of his favorite boxers, while his original name was Juozapas Žukauskas. Today, he is among the best-known people among the Lithuanian-Americans.

Jack Sharkey (Juozapas Žukauskas) grave in Epping

Jack Sharkey (Juozapas Žukauskas) grave in Epping

Map of the Lithuanian sites

Map of Merrimack Valley Lithuanian sites

Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map

Later, in New Hampshire, our team had to go on the „discovery mode“. While I learned the cemetery where the Lithuanian world boxing Champion Jack Sharkey is buried beforehand, it still took some time to actually discover his grave and mark down its exact coordinates.

In Nashua, we were met by the sociable mother and daughter Woitkowskis, who shown us more Lithuanian sites there than we initially knew, including a district of Lithuanian street names. In many cases, the locations are named not after some famous people, but rather after those who sold the land!

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 24.

Woitkowski family greets "Destination America" in their home

Woitkowski family greets "Destination America" in their home at Nashua

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Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest US state. Providence is its only conurbation. Like other New England cities, it has a Lithuanian community. Until being closed down in 2017, St. Casimir church was its hub. Unlike in the other neighboring states, there were never any more Lithuanian churches in Rhode Island and this one continued to celebrate mass in Lithuanian language until its closure. ~3500 Lithuanians live in Rhode Island today, no longer concentrated in any single district. Lithuanian social clubs have been closed.

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Next to St. Casimir church stands a memorial to the Lithuanians that commemorates all the groups of Lithuanian people the Providence Lithuanians though to be especially worthy of commemoration. Like many Lithuanian memorials in the USA, it is dedicated to "Lithuanians who fought and died for freedom and those who perished in labor and concentration camps during 50 years of Lithuania's occupation". It is also dedicated to the 5 Lithuanian men from the parish who perished while fighting for the USA in World War 2. And it is dedicated to "Lithuanian Americans who built St. Casimir's church and endowed it with strong faith and rich traditions". The monumental stone is crowned by a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross, mering the Christian and pagan symbolics.

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Despite a small Lithuanian community Rhode Island is unique for having Lithuanian independence day as an official holiday. The law § 25-2-28 "Lithuanian Independence Day" declares: "The sixteenth day of February shall annually be set aside as a day to be known as "Lithuanian Independence Day." The day is to be observed by the people of this state with appropriate exercises in public places".


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 Rhode Island Lithuanian sites


Destination America 2017 expedition diary

Destination America map

We've left Connecticut to Rhode Island and reached its capital Providence after dark. During "Destination America 2017", we always lacked time. We used to get up before the dawn, and we used to go to sleep after midnight (only by then we completed all the works). Still, I have scheduled everything in such a way that we would visit only certain places outside of daytime - ones that are not needed to be visited during the day.

Unfortunately, the Providence Lithuanian church was among such places. It had been closed, so no way to get inside at any time. It had been closed this year. "You are late just by a couple of months", we were told by the Lithuanian sisters in Putnam. From the outside, St. Casimir church still looked as it did for nearly a century, and a memorial for Soviet-persecuted Lithuanians still stood at its front. The great numbers of such memorials were a surprise for us in the USA, as many of them were not described anywhere so far (neither online nor in books) - unlike, for example, Lithuanian churches. Therefore, we didn't know about many of these memorials (including the Providence one) in advance.

After taking pictures of everything we had a dinner in a regular fast food restaurant and went to spend a night in a motel. Of course, we wrote down our findings of the day beforehand (when you hear 10-20 stories every day, you'd simply forget them if you wouldn't write them down immediately). We also published some information on Facebook. Such was the more prosaic side of "Destination - America 2017". Next day another state was waiting for us - Massachusetts.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 21.

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Wisconsin to the north of Chicago has some 10 000 Lithuanians most of whom are descedenents of those who arrived before World War 2 and the rest - shortly after World War 2. Therefore Lithuanian buildings of Wisconsin are old and in many cases closed. All of them are located in the old cities and towns on Lake Michigan shores.

Sheboygan had an Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church (2705 S. 14th St.) and cemetery. In its suburb of Kohler the Lithuanian Transatlantic flight pioneer Feliksas (Felix) Vaitkus is buried. He flew successfully from New York to Ireland in 1935, that way doing the first successful Lithuanian landing after the Transatlantic flight, something the pilots Darius and Girėnas had failed to do.

Kenosha has a St. Peter Lithuanian church (2224 30th Ave) - the current building dating to 1966.

Kenosha St. Peter Lithuanian church. Google Street View.

In Milwakee a building of St. Gabriel Lithuanian church still stands (but it is closed).

Former St. Gabriel Lithuanian church in Milwakee. Google Street View.

Milwakee Public Museum includes a "European village" exhibit full of houses that represent the European countryside cultures of 1875-1925 (at the time when European villagers would immigrate to Milwakee en-masse). Among the 33 cultures represented the Lithuanian ethnicity is exhibited as well.

Racine once had a St. Casimir church. It has been closed down in 1998 (merging it with Irish, Slovak, German and Polish parishes). The building (815 Park Ave) currently serves as a baptist chapel.

Former St. Casimir church of Racine. Google Street View.

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Washington (State)

Washington State like all the US Pacific Coast has little Lithuanian heritage as there have been almost no old Lithuanian communities.

One exception is the Roslyn Lithuanian cemetery. Being the only Lithuanian cemetery west of Mississippi it became a kind of pilgrimage site for some Lithuanian immigrants there. Celebrations of Vėlinės (the traditional Lithuanian day of the dead) are commonly held there, symbolically memorizing the graves of loved-ones left back in Lithuania. They are attended by the fairly recent Lithuanian community of Seattle as well as the Lithuanians of Oregon.

Currently, Roslyn has just 800 inhabitants but back in 1910, it has been a major mining center attracting numerous immigrants. Instead of establishing cemeteries solely along the religious/parochial lines (as have been common) 20 small cemeteries have been erected in Roslyn. Some of them are dedicated to different ethnicities: in addition to the Lithuanian cemetery there are also Polish, Croatian, Serbian, Slovak cemeteries. In 2010 a small memorial has been constructed at the Lithuanian cemetery for 16 000 USD.

In the Seattle itself the Lithuanian community, lacking their own building, meets at the Latvian House as Latvians are a "brother nation".

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Maine has one of the prettiest and most popular Lithuanian locations in the USA: the Lithuanian monastery and park in Kennebunk resort.

A chapel for those died for Lithuanian freedom glowing in the night at the Kennebunk Lithuanian park

A chapel for those died for Lithuanian freedom glowing in the night at Kennebunk Lithuanian park

The calm town attracted the attention of Lithuanian Franciscans who fled the Soviet Genocide, arriving there in 1947. They acquired a 1908 Tudor-style manor originally built for industrialist A. Rogers (architects Green and Wicks) for their monastery, which still operates although is no longer the hub of Lithuanian Franciscans as that has relocated back to Lithuania after its independence. In 1953, the Kennebunk Franciscans attached a nice chapel to the manor. Its pretty expressionist stained-glass windows and metal decor were created by a famous Lithuanian church interior designer V. K. Jonynas. The windows are especially Lithuanian, as both the inscriptions and the depicted scenes are related to Lithuania (the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, the only Lithuanian saint Casimir, the coat of arms of Vilnius, etc.).

Lithuanian monastery palace

Lithuanian monastery palace

Monastery chapel stained-glass windows with St. Casimir and the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius (famous for its Virgin Mary painting)

Monastery chapel stained-glass windows with St. Casimir and the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius (famous for its Virgin Mary painting)

The former manor grounds were effectively turned into a Lithuanian park (19 ha) which now attracts many American tourists as well. In addition, to calm walking paths with nice river views, it has an impressive Stations of the cross chapel for those who died for Lithuanian freedom by another Lithuanian-American star-architect Jonas Mulokas. It is part of his attempt to create a new architectural style that would be both modern and Lithuanian. The materials are thus modern, however, the design evokes village belfries of the lost Lithuania. The sculptures of the chapel are by Vytautas Kašuba, a famous Lithuanian-American sculptor.

The close up of the Jonas Mulokas's chapel, with a  dedication to those who died for Lithuanian freedom visible in the center

Jonas Mulokas chapel from a closer location. Under the cross the inscription says 'In memory of those who died for freedom of Lithuania'

The park is teeming with more Lithuanian artworks: a wooden Lithuanian chapel-post that came from EXPO 1939 New York Lithuanian pavilion (this is a unique form of Lithuanian folk art), a sculpture by V. K. Jonynas from the EXPO 1964 Vaticanian pavilion that shows Triple church: triumphant (in paradise), fighting (on Earth), and suffering (in hell). The common Lithuanian interpretation is, however, that the "suffering church" was a depiction of the situation in the Soviet-atheist-occupied Lithuania at the time, when many churches and all the monasteries were closed, and the religious people persecuted (often killed, exiled or imprisoned) - inspiring the relocation of Lithuanian Franciscans to America in the first place.

Triple church by V. K. Jonynas

Triple church by V. K. Jonynas

Another large artwork by Jonas Mulokas is his Lourdes (a manmade cave with a Virgin Mary statue, 1953), crowned by a Lithuanian mini-chapel. The wall of the chapel includes a prayer inscription asking the Virgin to defend the Fatherland. Lithuanian coat of arms is also depicted. Undoubtedly, the "Fatherland" in this case is Lithuania rather than the USA, as back in the 1950s, the Lithuanian Soviet-Genocide-refugees felt that they could return soon once Lithuania is liberated and that their stay in the USA would be temporary (unfortunately, Soviets proved to stay much longer than they expected and only a few did actually return after the 1990 independence). The Lourdes used to serve as an altar for an outside mass; however, the mosquitos drove the believers away and now the mass is held in the monastery chapel.

Kennebunk Lithuanian Lourdes

Kennebunk Lithuanian Lourdes

One may also stay within the Franciscan park as the Franciscan Guest House operates here. It has 65 rooms and is the most Lithuanian hotel in the USA. Numerous Lithuanians work there, there are many Lithuanian inscriptions and adverts. The guests may freely take English descriptions of all the artwork in the park. The guest house is located less than a mile from both the beach and the Kennebunkport resort center, making it a pleasant hike. The Lithuanian park itself includes nice walking paths with river views, non-Lithuanian artworks too (e.g. the native saint Kateri Tekakwitha sculpture).

A river view from a walking path within the Kennebunk Lithuanian park

A river view from a walking path within the Kennebunk Lithuanian park

The Guest House was constructed in 1959 as a Lithuanian gymnasium (high school) and it has replaced the manor stables. However, the gymnasium closed down in 1969 as there were few Lithuanians in the region. This meant that the students had to move in on a boarding-school-basis from Chicago, Boston, New York, and elsewhere, which proved unpopular. After all, the monks themselves would likely have not chosen Kennebunk for their monastery if not the negative attitudes of the local bishops towards the Lithuanian "refugee monks" in the more Lithuanian areas of the USA. Still, the situation may came out to be better, as Kennebunk is a very calm place popular among tourists, far from the urban areas and the associated negativities (high crime, ghettos, etc.) which have "consumed" numerous Lithuanian sites in America (as the "white flight" led to their abandonment).

Kennebunk Lithuanian guest house guests are greeted in Lithuanian language as well

Kennebunk Lithuanian guest house guests are greeted in Lithuanian language as well

The entire Lithuanian complex of Kennebunk has been funded by Lithuanian-Americans whose surnames now are inscribed on many of its objects. Today, however, the area attracts non-Lithuanian-Americans as well, perhaps the most so among the Lithuanian-American sites of New England. It is even described in the "Lonely Planet" books. G. W. Bush Sr. is said to have visited the site regularly as he has a house in Kennebunkport. By the way, when Lithuania fought for its freedom restoration in 1990, the Franciscans organized a march from the monastery to the Bush's house (he was president back then), asking for his support.

The plaque of the sponsors of the Kennebunk Lithuanian Lourdes

The plaque of the sponsors of the Kennebunk Lithuanian Lourdes

After Lithuania became independent (1990) and opened up, the Lithuanian activities in Kennebunk declined somewhat as the Lithuanian Franciscans have moved their hub back to Lithuania. Parts of the Lithuanian religious activities have folded earlier, e.g. minor seminary in the 1960s and the recollections house in the 1970s. However, the Lithuanian atmosphere remained, the Lithuanian monuments were restored in 2004. At its apex, some 30 Lithuanian Franciscans lived in the monastery. At the beginning of the monastery (and now) merely four. The Guesthouse is overlooked by the secular people since 2001.

V.K. Jonynas artowk in the monastery chapel

V.K. Jonynas artowk in the monastery chapel

Much further north in Maine, in the Alexander Art Trail of wooden sculptures created by a Latvian artist Roland Paegle and his wife Grazina there is also a sculpture of Lithuanian goddess of forests Medeinė, modeled after a similar one in Vilnius.


Map of Maine Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Maine Lithuanian sites


Destination America 2017 expedition diary

Destination America map

When I saw the Kennebunk Lithuanian site the first time, my heart was happy. This is how all the Lithuanian-American places could look like, instead of slowly disappearing! After arriving at the Guest House, we barely found a place to park a car. The director explained that usually there are even more cars, however, at that time one student group arrived in the bus.

Far in the park, we could see the nicely-lit Mulokas's Lithuanian chapel and Lourdes, mystically glowing in the dark. The American students were walking around, reading the dedications to Lithuania and mentioning Lithuania in their silent conversations. Some of them, perhaps, heard its name for the first time, some others heard about the occupation of Lithuania and the dangers to Lithuania for the first time. Perhaps this will stay somewhere in the corner of their memory. The Guest House reception is full of English booklets describing what, how, and when was built in the park and what are the meanings of that.

The most important fact is, perhaps, that the Lithuanian complex may this get revenue to support itself. Even though many employees have been hired from Lithuania (one guy through Work and Travel, two women come there every summer for decades) there are non-Lithuanian Americans as well, including the director. The survival of it thus depends less on the goodwill of some 'old' Lithuanian-Americans, the ranks of whom become scarce.

Lithuanian Franciscan activities in Kennebunk may have declined and could decline further. As the Fr. Jonas Bacevičius told "Destination - America", the novitiate has been relocated to Lithuania according to the wishes of the superiors (after all, Lithuania became independent, the Soviet occupation and atheism has ended so there were no reasons to expand in exile). However, the Lithuanian Franciscans are still very active in America although they are getting older (the bishop Baltakis is 92 already). Some of the monastery programs, e.g. the icon-painting-workshops, are now presided by Lithuanian Franciscans arriving from Lithuania.

Still, in Kennebunk, you may feel that nothing will be quickly lost. Lithuanian masterpieces will continue to make visitors happy in the 21st century as well, even if these visitors will be different. Although Kennebunk never had an "old" Lithuanian community, the monastery actually attracted lay Lithuanians to the area as well. In the morning mass, we met a Lithuanian who relocated to Chicago and a 31-year-old immigrant from Lithuania who established the Maine Lithuanian community.

Elsewhere, Lithuanian-American communities may be getting old and dying off, while here a new-generation-inspired community of ~35 people was created. Would this have happened if not the Lithuanian park? Fr. Bacevičius told about an Italian who was so enthralled by the monastery that he decided to join the Lithuanian Franciscans even though that required learning Lithuanian. "In Kennebunk, you couldn't speak Lithuanian expecting that no one will understand" - we were told by the aforementioned vice-leader of the local Lithuanian community while taking the walk in the monastery woods.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 23-24.

Augustinas Žemaitis with Jonas Bacevičius at Kennebunkport monastery

Augustinas Žemaitis with Jonas Bacevičius at Kennebunkport monastery

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Agricultural Minnesota has been too far west of the main pre-WW1 American industrial cities where most Lithuanians settled. Thus the local Lithuanian community established 1922 was too small to continue working after 1970 (re-established 1991). There are no Lithuanian churches, halls or other such buildings.

However there is a village Wilno called so after the Polish name of Lithuanian capital Vilnius. This is one of quite few settlements named after Lithuanian cities. The village has been established in 1883 by Polish immigrants; they could have been Polish-speaking Lithuanians as the village main street also has a Lithuanian-themed name Kowno (after Kaunas, Lithuania's 2nd largest city). If you have information on the first citizens of Wilno write a comment. The village of merely few houses is outflanked by the gothic revival St. John Cantius church (3069 Kowno Street, built 1902), nicknamed "cornfield cathedral" (it has stained glass of Lithuania's patron saints St. Casimir and St. George but this is likely due to similar Polish-Lithuanian histories). Wilno is known to be an epitomic Polish agricultural community (something that Lithuanians did not establish, preferring industrial labor).

A map of Wilno, Minnesota with Kowno street marked

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Over the recent century Americans have been attracted to Florida in large numbers.

Most of Florida's Lithuanians arrived there after living in other states (rather than directly from Lithuania). After earning money in northern cities ~1970s some of them began exhchanging their former homes into ones at the Floridan seaside. There Lithuanians have attempted to recreate what they left in New York, Chicago or Boston: Lithuanian religious and secular activities. However, the era of great buildings were already passed by therefore the Floridan Lithuanian heritage is more modest.

Some 32 000 Lithuanians call Florida home today (only Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts and New York have more). Such growth in Lithuanian numbers coincided with gerneral growth of Floridan population. In 1900 (when Lithuanians were already arriving en masse to America) Florida had merely 500 thousand people while today it hosts 20 million (in comparison Pennsylvania, the top Lithuanian destination during the first migration wave, only grew from 6 to 13 million during the same era).

Saint Petersburg has a Lithuanian Catholic mission and a Franciscan monastery located in St. Pete Beach island (555 68th Ave). Lithuanian holy mass are held there. They are also held in the nearby multi-ethnic Most Holy Name of Jesus church on the other side of bay in Gulfport (5800 15th Ave S). Unlike in the rest of the USA, Florida have more churches where mass is held in Lithuanian than there are Lithuanian parishes. That's because Lithuanians were no longer building their own churches by the time they moved into Florida. Instead, they would arrange Lithuanian mass in existing local churches.

Lithuanian Catholic Franciscan mission in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Google Street View.

In 1964 Lithuanians built their own club in St. Petersburgh (4880 46th Avenue North). It is a single-floored edifice with multiple halls, adorned by a large columns of Gediminas symbol. St. Petersburgh and its suburbs has ~3000 Lithuanians, and St. Pete Beach with environs has ~2% of its population Lithuanian.

Lithuanian club in St. Petersburg. Google Street View.

In the rest of Florida Lithuanians mostly live in coastal towns and resorts as well. The communities exist in Daytona Beach, Miami, Sunny Hills, Cape Coral, Pompano Beach, Palm Beach (if you have information if any Lithuanian heritage there, please write in comments and the article will be updated).

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Sioux City, Iowa

Sioux City (Iowa) had its own Lithuanian St. Casimir church (2524 Leech Ave) among its early 20th century imigrant heritage when the Missouri River served as America's main highway and the cities on its banks swelled from factory workers.

Sioux City St. Casimir church had enough architectural value to be inscribed into the National Register of Historic Places on 1998. Originally funded by 1000 local Lithuanians (in 1915) in a place near city stockyards the church was designed by a famous Prairie School architect William L. Steele who decided to build the iconic domed tower on an otherwise simplified gothic revival building. William L. Steele was also responsible for the Woodbury County Courthouse building.

Historic image of Sioux City's St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Historic image of Sioux City's St. Casimir Lithuanian church.

The church interior has also been impressive, created by a Lithuanian-American Adolfas Valeška ~1950. Like many new members of the congregation at the time he was a Lithuanian artist on the run from Soviet genocide and censorship. He is also known for having created props for Chicago Lithuanian opera.

Sadly, the NRHP inscription did not save the church from the diocese-induced demise. Wishing to do away with the ethnic parish the Diocese of Sioux City forbade accepting new members ~1990 (even though the parish was solvent), held the final mass on 1998 and torn down the historic church building on 2007. Only the old priest's house remains on the site while the church itself has been replaced by a modern single-floored detached dwelling. The Valeška's interior decorations and even the dome have been saved however through the ardous work of the local Lithuanians.

The site of St. Casimir church in Sioux City

The house that replaced St. Casimir church (left) and the surviving rectory (right). Google Street View.

Sioux City was the second westernmost city in the world to have a Lithuanian church (after Los Angeles).

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The population of Texas skyrocketed recently (from 9 000 000 in 1960 to 26 000 000 today) and Lithuanians were among many migrants the state attracted. Many of them are Lithuanian Americans who moved in from the north. These are however new trends and the massively growing Texan cities lack old Lithuanian churches, schools or memorials.

However it has been little known that the first Lithuanians moved in to Texas in mid-19th century, soon after the Mexican-American war. They moved in from then-German-ruled Lithuania Minor rather than the Russian-occupied and more economically backwards Lithuania-proper (where serfdom still existed and migration was thus hampered). Having been raised in a German-dominated society these Lithuanians then integrated into German American communities (although their surnames still told of their Lithuanian origins). Together with Germans they also shared a migration goal: to find empty land lots in Texas, after a long journey by ship and then on foot into the interior.

Some descendents of the early Lithuanian Texans funded a memorial plaque in Yorktown after they had learned of their origins through genealogical research. This is one of just a few Lithuanian-related plaques in the USA and, interestingly, it is located in a town where 2001 census counted 0 Lithuanians (37% report German ancestry). The plaque reads: "Lithuanians in Texas. Among the many European immigrants arriving in Texas in the mid-19th century was a small group of Lithuanians who settled in the Yorktown vicinity of De Witt County. Due to their eventual assimilation with the numerous German immigrants in the area, the Lithuanians and their contributions to the history of this region were overlooked for generations. Records reveal that the first Lithuanian family to settle in this area probably was that of David and Dora (Scholze) Stanchos. They arrived about 1852, making them among the earliest documented Lithuanian immigrants to America. By 1874 they were joined by about 70 more immigrants, most from the province of Gumbinnen in what was then part of east Prussia. Leaving their homeland for a variety of religious and political reasons, the Lithuanians arrived in Texas primarily through the ports of Galveston and Indianola. Establishing farms in the area, the Lithuanians became American citizens and contributed to the history and culture of this area. Men from the community fought on both sides of the American Civil War. A small graveyard south of Yorktown known as Jonischkies Cemetery contains the interments of many of these early settlers.".

Notes: the original Lithuanian surnames of David and Dora Stanchos were likely Dovydas Stančius and Dora Stančienė. The original versions of other anglicized or germanized Texan Lithuanian surnames are: Kirlikas (Kirlikcs), Mertinas (Mertine), Lundšėnas (Lundschen), Ragošius (Ragoszus), Joniškis (Jonischkies), Gelžius (Gelszus), Lenkaitis (Lenkeit), Mastaitis (Mosteit), Vaičys (Weichies), Vaišvila (Weischvill), Gudaitis (Guddaitis).

Gumbinnen is the German name of a town known in Lithuanian as Gumbinė. In 1945 this town and surrounding areas were occupied by the Soviet army, its inhabittants (both Germans and Lithuanians) murdered or expelled and then replaced by Russians. The town was renamed Gusev after a Russian communist who died there.

A film about the old Texas Lithuanians.

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Springfield, Illinois

Chicago is both the largest city of Illinois and the largest city of Lithuanian Americans. However, Springfield (the capital of Illinois) also has some Lithuanian history.

Springfield once boasted a St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian church (built in 1909 on the corner of 8th and Enos streets). It was simple and towerless, surrounded by various Lithuanian clubs and collectives. Despite the opposition of the parishioners in has been closed in 1972 and torn down in 1976 (replaced by a parking lot). It was the final ethnic parish of Springfield.



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

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

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Waukegan, Illinois

Waukegan city north of Chicago has a Lithuanian Hall (constructed 1929, 901 S Lincoln Ave) that had been once used for Lithuanian events and meetings of Lithuanian organizations. Since ~1985 it serves Hispanic immigrants and is known as "La Hacienda Del Norte".

Former Lithuanian Hall in Waukegan. Google Street View

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church stands to the north of Lithuanian hall. In 1896 this parish was established as joint Polish-Lithuanian, however Poles were detached as the numbers of Lithuanians increased by 1903. The current building dates to 1938 (the previous one burned down in 1933). After cosolidation of parishes in 1991 and 2009 the only external inscriptions outside the building are now English and Spanish, naming the location "Holy Family Parish".

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church in Waukegan. Google Street View

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

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Rockford, Illinois

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

Lithuanian club in Rockford. Google Street View

The importance of Lithuanians in Rockford is also marked by the fact that Rockford ethnic heritage museum (1129 S. Main Street) has dedicated one of its six galleries to Lithuanians (the other five are dedicated to far larger US minorities: Blacks, Irish, Italians, Hispanics and Poles).

Rockfor Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church (617 Lincoln Avenue), constructed in 1911, has been transferred to Blacks in 1985 and to Hispanics in 1992. Currently most of masses there are celebrated in Spanish.

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church in Rockford. Google Street View

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Westville, Illinois

In the early 20th century Westville was a coal mining town. The majority of its population of 2500 were ethnic Lithuanians. After the mines were closed, many of them left to Chicago. However, Lithuanians make up 4,7% of the local population of 4500 even today. The town has a Lithuanian cemetery (Cemetery Rd., Unionville; est. 1909 m., entrance is marked by words "IN MEMORY OF MIKE "RED" LAITAS"). Old tomstones have many archaic Lithuanian inscriptions (such as "Iliarus Urniezius mire 29 Rugsejo turedamas 66 metus amziaus paejo is Laumenu kaimo Kaltinenu parapijos, Taurages apskricio. Lai buna lengva sios salies zemele ilsetis. Mire 20 rugs. 1920 m.", translation: "Iliarus Urniezius died on the 29th of September at 66 years of age; he came from Laumėnai village of Kaltinėnai parish, Tauragė district. Let the ground of this country be easy for him to rest! Died 20 Sep. 1920").

Despite its very small size Westville had two Lithuanian churches. Unfortunately, both have been destroyed. Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic church was built 1897, closed 1989. Holy Cross old-style Catholic church (they did not recognize the decisions of Vatican I) was established in 1914 (in a former presbyterian church, 221 W. Main St., closed ~1960, demolished ~2000, the bell moved to Lithuanian cemetery while the former parish house now used as a residence). A short book has been published on the Lithuanian interreligious conflicts of the era: "A Short History of a Big Lithuanian Row in Westville, Illinois". It also describes a suicide / murder of priest Mikalauskas.

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Spring Valley, Illinois

Spring Valley Lithuanian Liberty cemetery (est. 1914) are infamous in Illinois as a haunted place. Supposedly strange events usually happen at the musoleum of three butcher brothers Massock (built 1920). Supposedly, even murders took place there while visitors often see a man with an axe.

Spring Valley also had a St. Anne Lithuanian church (closed ~1960).

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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.

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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

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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

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