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).
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.
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.
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 inhabittants 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 seemd 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.
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 understood 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 succesful) campaigns to invite Lithuanian nuns to teach at a local school and replace a Polish priest by 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 USA allowed the persecuted Lithuanian refugees to imigrate Omaha community temporarily housed them in the church cellar.
A new school building has been constructed in 1953. But the American-born generations shown 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 dissapointed; especially so after Stravinskas spent the parish fund that was saved up in order to prove bishop that the parish is financially solvent (in 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 intiative Omaha twinned with the city of Šiauliai in Lithuania.
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.
Additional reading: Joseph F Rummel, George Jonaitis, George Mikulskis, Joseph Jusevich Mūsų šventas lietuviškas žodis: Šv. Antano kultūrinės vienovės troškulys [anglų k.].
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. First weekend of October is Lithuanian fair there since 1986.
San Fernando area has two streets named after Lithuania: Lithuania Dr and Lithuania Pl.
Riverside National Cemetary 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.
Rhode Island is the smallest US state. Providence is its only conurbation. Like other New England cities it has a Lithuanian community. St. Casimir church is its hub. Unlike in other states there were never any more Lithuanian churches in Rhode Island and this one still continues to celebrate mass in Lithuanian. ~3500 Lithuanians live in Rhode Island today, no longer concentrated in any single district. Lithuanian social clubs have been closed.
Despite a small Lithuanian community Rhode Island is unique for having Lithuanian indpenence 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 ofthis state with appropriate exercises in public places".
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 a Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church (2705 S. 14th St.) and cemetery.
Kenosha has a St. Peter Lithuanian church (2224 30th Ave) - the current building dating to 1966.
In Milwakee a building of St. Gabriel Lithuanian church still stands (but it is closed).
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.
One of the northernmost US states Maine has been chosen by Lithuanian Franciscans who fled the Soviet genocide in their homeland in 1947. The monastery they established in Kennebunk town back then still thrives. It occpies a 1908 Tudor-style manor originally built for industrialist A. Rogers (architects Green and Wicks). After Lithuanian Franciscans acquired the building they constructed a chapel (its nice expressionistic stained glass windows, metal decor and bas-reliefs have been designed by famous Lithuanian-American interior designer V. K. Jonynas). Other famous Lithuanian-American artists worked there as well: Jonas Mulokas, Vytautas Kašuba, Alfredas Kulpa.
The manor (now monastery) covers an area of 19 ha. Secondary manor buildings have been converted into a Franciscan guest house and a Lithuanian restaurant. These buildings have been used in the manor era as stables, later as a seminary and a school. Many of the guest house and restaurant employees come from Lithuania and many visitors are Lithuanians as well. The surrounding park has many religious sculptures and a nearby beach.
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, modelled after a similar one in Vilnius.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Sioux City was the second westernmost city in the world to have a Lithuanian church (after Los Angeles).
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.
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.
Not far away from the location of the church, on the corner of 7th and Enterprise steets (near Enos park) a memorial plaque has been built in 2012 with the following text on it, telling the story of Springfield Lithuanians: "LITHUANIANS ARRIVED EN MASSE DURING SANGAMON COUNTY’S COAL BOOM. NUMBERING SEVERAL THOUSAND WITH THEIR FAMILIIES BY 1920, THEY FLED POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS REPRESSION, CONSCRIPTION, POVERTY, AND A TOTAL BAN ON THEIR LANGUAGE IN THE CZARIST RUSSIAN EMPIRE. IN 1908, AT 8TH AND ENOS ST., THEY BUILT THEIR “NATIONAL” CATHOLIC CHURCH, ST. VINCENT DE PAUL’S, WHICH FOR 63 YEARS WAS A FOCUS OF LITHUANIAN LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY. IN 1917, THE CHURCH WAS CALLED THE MOST IMPORTANT “MELTING POT” IN THE CITY WITH 1,200 SUNDAY WORSHIPERS. IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS, COAL MINE CLOSURES, AND ASSIMILATION TOOK THEIR TOLL ON LOCAL EUROPEAN ETHNIC GROUPS AFTER 1920. HOWEVER, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL’S ONLY GREW WHEN LITHUANIA WAS ANNEXED BY THE SOVIET UNION IN 1940 FOLLOWING 22 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE. WITH FREEDOM IN THE HOMELAND AGAIN EXTINGUISHED, LITHUANIAN IDENTITY ABROAD ASSUMED A MORAL IMPERATIVE. NATIONAL FEELING ALSO WAS REINFORCED BY A LOCAL INFLUX OF WORLD WAR II REFUGEES UNDER THE U.S. DISPLACED PERSONS ACT OF 1948. AND, IT PERSISTED DECADES AFTER ST. VINCENT’S BECAME SPRINGFIELD’S LAST “NATIONAL” CHURCH TO CLOSE IN 1971. IN 1988, A DARING “SINGING REVOLUTION” IN LITHUANIA (1987-91) INSPIRED 439 LOCAL LITHUANIAN-AMERICANS TO FORM A NEW CLUB TO CELEBRATE THEIR HERITAGE. LITHUANIA WAS RESTORED TO INDEPENDENCE WITH THE BREAK-UP OF THE SOVIET UNION IN 1991.
SPONSORED BY THE BAKŠYS, CHERNIS, COLANTINO & URBANCKAS FAMILIES; LITHUANIAN-AMERICAN CLUB; IN MEMORY OF MARIJA JOMANTIENE, MECYS & ANTANAS VALIUKENAS, VITA & DARIUS ZEMAITIS."
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.
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".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).