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Pennsylvania is the home to the world's oldest Lithuanian overseas community, started in ~1865 by coal miners. 82 000-strong it is also the second largest in the USA.

The strongest presence of Lithuanian heritage is in the parts of eastern Pennsylvania known as the Coal Region. Coal, the oil of 19th century, was discovered there in the 1860s. People from poor European regions were recruited for hard and dangerous work (10 hours a day, 6 days a week, 25 ct wage per hour) living in the newly erected towns. Lithuania was at the time occupied and heavily persecuted by the Russian Empire, giving rise to emigrants known as "grynoriai" ("Free Air Men") for whom the conditions in Pennsylvanian mines were far better than persecution back in their agricultural homeland, where the Lithuanian language had been banned and serfdom abolished only recently (1861).

Map of Pennsylvania with Coal Region shaded in red and main Lithuanian locations marked. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Coal Region ran out of coal but the towns remained, in many of them Lithuanian population still ranging between 5% and 35%. There are lavish Lithuanian churches built of the hard-earned money by the early settlers and large Lithuanian cemeteries with their typical massive tombstones. Out of ~45 churches, only 20 to 10 survived the parish consolidations. Lithuanian mass is no longer celebrated and Lithuanian dedications (Our Lady of Šiluva, Our Lady of Vilnius, St. Casimir, St. George) are largely removed where they existed, especially during the church closure spree of ~2008. After all, the Coal Region Lithuanian communities, unlike those in major cities, were not replenished by new immigrants and English language became dominant in the communities over some 4-5 generations. However, Lithuanian inscriptions, Lithuanian history-inspired church interiors and exteriors still remain where the churches are still used for religious purposes. It should be noted that Lithuanian church attendances were growing until at least 1980, contrary to regional trends.

Lithuanian mass is still held in state's largest city Philadelphia, St. Andrew church (19th and Wallace Sts). Another Lithuanian church dedicated to St. Casimir (324 Wharton Street) has been attached to St. Andrew parish in 2011 but remains in operation. The third Lithuanian church, St. George, stands at 3580 Salmon St. It is double floored with school at the first floor.

Philadelphia also hosts the Lithuanian Music Hall (2715 East Alegheny Avenue), a comprehensive Lithuanian institution which includes a restaurant, reading room, language courses, folk art exhibition, cultural center and annual Lithuanian fairs ("Mugė"). The building was constructed in 1908 when various Lithuanian clubs merged.

In addition to the usual Roman Catholic churches, there is a schismatic Lithuanian National Catholic Church in Scranton, working together with similar Polish and Slovak churches.

The most Lithuanian town in the USA is also in the Pennsylvanian Coal Region. This is Shenandoah where 14,65% inhabitants consider themselves Lithuanians today. In the turn of the 20th century, it used to be called "Vilnius of America". Here the world's first Lithuanian novel was printed ("Algimantas" by V. Pietaris in 1904 when Lithuanian language was still banned back home), Lithuanian miner orchestra and other cultural institutions, newspapers, existed. Shenandoah had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years. The most imposing piece of Lithuanian heritage was the massive gothic revival St. George church (1891), the heart of oldest Lithuanian parish in the Americas (est. 1872). The church was recognized by the Pennsylvanian history museum commission to hold a historical value of state and national significance. Despite protests by local Lithuanians it was closed and demolished by the diocese in 2010. The town itself is also undergoing depopulation. According to Ripley's in the early 20th century it was the most densely populated place on earth. By 1910 it had 25774 people, only 11073 remained in 1960, while 2010 census counted merely 5071. This fate is shared by the entire area as it lost 30% of its population in 1930-2010 while the entire USA gained 130%. Abandoned mines where Lithuanians and others worked so hard are now off the beaten path tourist attractions.

1950s postcard of Shenandoah churches (Lithuanian St. George church on the right).

The 20 miles wide area surrounding Shenandoah hosts many Lithuanian villages. In Seltzer (pop. 307) Lithuanians make 27,46%, in New Philadelphia (pop. 1616) - 16,97%, in Cumbola (pop. 382) - 15,06%. Lithuanian populations surpass 9% in the area's towns of Minersville (pop. 4686), Mahanoy City (pop. 5725), Barnesville (pop. 2076), Frackville (pop. 8631). All these locations are in top 20 US locations by the share of Lithuanians. Among these 20 as much as 16 locations are in Pennsylvania, 15 in the Coal Region.

These areas also host the annual Lithuanian Days which is the longest running ethnic festival in the USA (every August since 1914). It outlived two parks it was previously held at (Lakewood and Rocky Glen) and was moved to Schuylkill Mall. Lithuanian arts, crafts, dances, cuisine, and customs are celebrated and proceeds go to Lithuanian causes. Before World War 2 the event used to attract some 25 000 participants and the mines were closed for that day.

Pittston (pop. 37883), the suburb of Scranton, hosts 4,15% Lithuanians, making it the largest share of Lithuanians in a US city of comparable size. Scranton is in the Northern Coal Region where the cities are larger.

Not far south of Scranton, there is Lake Kasulaitis, likely the location furthest from Lithuania to be named after a Lithuanian surname. The Lithuanian Book of Records mistakenly gives this title to Čiurlionis mountains in Franz Joseph Land, Russia (~3500 km away), but Pennsylvania is twice that far (~7000 km).

Kasulaitis is also among a minority of surnames among those of Lithuanian Pennsylvanians which are still written as they are written in Lithuania. By the time immigration to Pennsylvania took place, there was no standardized Lithuanian orthography yet and the immigration service transcribed the surnames using various orthographies, including English, Polish or created ad hoc; they either added or removed word endings at will. Therefore in the Shenandoah Lithuanian cemetery, you may see surnames such as Bakszis and Bakszys (the modern Lithuanian spelling is Bakšys), Kutchinskas and Kutchinsky (modern Lithuanian: Kučinskas), Abrachinsky and Abraczinsai (modern Lithuanian: Abračinskas).

The fourth major Lithuanian area in Pennsylvania is located in Pittsburgh, where the Coal Region coal used to be turned into steel. Pittsburg has Lithuanian communities, cemeteries, and churches (both closed). Back in 1930 three Pennsylvanian cities were among the US top ten by the total number (rather than percentage) of ethnic Lithuanians: Philadelphia (3rd), Pittsburg (8th) and Scranton (10th).

Additional sources:
Popalis family website (Lithuanians from Shenandoah). Includes Shenandoah and local Lithuanian history.

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Shenandoah and southern Coal Region, Pennsylvania

Attention: this article is undergoing a major overhaul after the "Destination America" project when volunteers visited and pictured nearly every site mentioned in this article as well as discovered many additional Lithuanian sites in the area. The article will be updated with much new information and images before the 14th of December, 2017!

The Southern Coal region of Pennsylvania is also known as "Little Lithuania". It's not only that many Lithuanian Americans inhabit its towns - this region had been especially important for Lithuanian cultural history. Almost every town here has (or had) a Lithuanian church, cemetery, and club. The surrounding countryside is full of derelict closed coal (anthracite) mines which lured all those Lithuanians in during the 1860s-1910s era. Currently, the local Schuylkill county is the most Lithuanian one in the entire USA, with Lithuanians making 6% of local population.

Shenandoah - American Vilnius

The heart of the region is Shenandoah (pop. 5500) that used to be nicknamed "Vilnius of America". Even today it is ~12% Lithuanian. The heart of Lituanity here used to be a twin-towered St. George church, the oldest Lithuanian church in the entire continent (built in 1891), full of Lithuanian art paid for by meager coal miner salaries. It was even recognized as heritage yet after a controversial process and many protests the diocese decided to tear it down. Lithuanians who collected money to save the church decided to spend it on a commemorative plaque for the Shenandoah's "Little Lithuania" (Main and Centre streets corner).

The nickname is not an overstatement as the town had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years. More than that: the first Lithuanian-language novel in the world "Algimantas" has been published in Shenandoah in 1904. The reason for this (as well as Lithuanian migration to Coal Region in general) was that Lithuanians back home were discriminated under the Russian Imperial rule with their language banned between years 1865 and 1904.

Back then Shenandoah was a much larger town than it is today, with a population of 20 000 (some say 40 000), a quarter of them Lithuanians. "Ripley's Believe it or Not" claimed Shenandoah to be the world's most densely populated locality.

Shenandoah St. George Lithuanian church on a historic postcard (left) and the empty lot today (right).

Such decline has been common in all the regional towns: they lost at least half of population since 1930 while some even lost three-quarters. Perhaps this helped to save the Lithuanian culture - there are comparatively few new migrants (Blacks, Latin Americans), therefore the old communities continue to dominate culturally. When there are so many Lithuanians the probability of having a Lithuanian husband or wife is also not that small so there are 100% Lithuanians up to 3rd, 4th and further generations of immigrants.

Still what exists today is far under what existed in 1898 when Shenandoah Lithuanians owned 59 Taverns, 17 shops, 5 meat markets, 8 stonemasons, 3 barber shops, 4 tailors, 1 blacksmith, 5 mortuaries, 5 stables and 2 publishers!

The glory of the era may be glimpsed in six Lithuanian cemeteries of the town. St. George is the oldest one with burials 1892-1934. Later Lithuanians have been buried in Our Lady of Calvary, Lady of Lourdes, Lady of Fatima and Lady of Dawn cemeteries. A small and old Liberty Cemetery of the Supreme Lodge of Lithuanians in America served the similarly named local organization; it has ~50 of its members buried. Most of the Shenandoah cemeteries are in the Shenandoah Heights suburb.

Lithuanian towns that surround Shenandoah

Merely a few miles separate Shenandoah from some other "Lithuanian" neighboring villages and towns. However, Lithuanians moved in here at the time when the world could have only dreamt about automobiles and that distance was still too big to travel on foot. Therefore every town had its own Lithuanian church commissioned. All of them small, with a single tower or towerless. When there were so many Lithuanians the ethnic traditions were easier to safeguard and even ~1970s the attendances of Lithuanian churches were increasing (those of other ethnic parishes were already declining). Even at ~1985 some Lithuanian parishes constructed new church buildings (thus although all the parishes are ~100 years old some churches are new). However ~2008 the dioceses decided to abolish most of the ethnic parishes and close their churches down. After all, Lithuanian masses had been abolished quite long ago in all of them: 3 or more generations have passed since the coal miner immigrants, thus the bishop thought there is no reason to keep multiple open churches in small-and-diminishing towns/villages. However, the churches with their old Lithuanian inscriptions, paintings, decor are also important culturally and historically. Therefore their communities defend them at all costs. Even though the language had been largely forgotten, other Lithuanian traditions (crafts, dances, food) are cherished. The southern coal region hosts Lithuanian Days since 1914 - this is the oldest ethnic festival in the USA. It is also mentioned in the new commemorative plaque. Currently, the event takes place in Schuylkill Mall; before the Lakewood Park closed it used to take place there (1922-1984).

In the same way as Shenandoah is important to Lithuanian literature, Mahanoy City (pop. 4 000 today, 16 000 in 1910) should be known to every fan of Lithuanian music. The coal miners of years gone-by have established the world's first Lithuanian wind instrument orchestra ("Mainerių orkestra"). The town has a 1923 St. Joseph Lithuanian church. Unlike in the other towns, the Mahanoy City parishes have been amalgamated into this church in 2008 so it continues to be open, albeit renamed after Mother Theresa of Calcutta who visited it in 1995.

Maizeville village had the USA's sole Our Lady of Šiluva church (14 North Nice Street), named after the oldest church-recognized Marian vision in Europe that took place near the village of Šiluva in Lithuania. It has been constructed in 1967 after the old one burned down. The old church has been named St. Louis as is the local Lithuanian cemetery - however, the parish, even though already dominated by American-born Lithuanians, decided to adopt a more Lithuanian name. Maizeville and the nearby Gilberton lost extremely many people even by Coal Region standards: in 1910 they had a population of 5500 yet only 750 live there today. Maizeville still has an Our Lady of Siluva Boulevard (actually a small side-road).

Our Lady of Šiluva church in Maizeville. Google Street View.

Girardville's (pop. 1500 today, 5000 in 1930) St. Vincent de Paul church is one of the final 3 remaining Lithuanian churches in the southern Coal Region of Pennsylvania. First mass has been celebrated in an opera theater at 27 E. Main St. (as the town turned into a village it became a cinema, roller skating hall and finally has been demolished). Current brick English gothic revival church has been built in 1926, its lavish interior simplified in 1978. Although no Lithuanian mass has been held for long the parish celebrates its Lithuanian minority heritage. The official website declares that "our roots will always be in Lithuania", there are some Lithuanian phrases even if most of them seem to be Google-translated.

To churches, two fates: the Girardville one (right) is still Lithuanian, while the Mahanoy City one is multiethnic. Both of them are old, built while the original immigrants were still alive. Google Street View.

Another still open Lithuanian church is Annunciation BVM in Frackville (pop. 4000 today, 8000 in 1930). A Lithuanian inscription still greets at the door and while the building itself is modest parish has an entire complex of other buildings. Next door stands a Lithuanian Museum and Cultural Center (est. 1982) with artifacts of the 19th-century Lithuanian immigrants and Lithuanian crafts. It is unclear how long will this all survive as the three local ethnic parishes have been unified in 2013. West Pine Street has an Annunciation BVM Lithuanian cemetery.

Frackville Lithuanian church and parish buildings. Google Street View.

Further south: Lithuanian heritage at 209 road

209 road ~15 miles south of Shenandoah has much of Lithuanian heritage in the towns along it.

Tamaqa town has the third still open Lithuanian church (St. Peter and Paul, 307 Pine St.). Tamaqa is one of the larger towns in the area with 7000 inhabitants (13 000 back in the "golden days"). In its southern part at Owl Creek Road, there is Lithuanian cemetery.

Tamaqa Lithuanian church. Google Street View.

The same cemetery was also jointly used by a parish ~5 miles east in Coaldale based in a white Ascension church (227 Second street). This church has been closed while the town itself lost nearly three-quarters of its population decreasing from 7000 to 2000 people.

Shenandoah is the most Lithuanian US town among those above 5000 inhabitants but if you count all villages with population above 1000 the New Philadelphia has that title. ~25% people there are Lithuanians (more than of any other ancestry). In 1910 when the village was double in size there was a confrontation between two ethnicities: Lithuanians and Irish. Both established a church and both remained open nearly until today. Unfortunately, in 2008 the Lithuanian Sacred Heart church was closed (its building constructed in 1984). Massive Sacred Heart Lithuanian cemetery still exists.

Minersville (pop. 4000 today, 9000 in 1930) Lithuanian parish of St. Francis of Assisi has been also condemned but its people achieved an impressive victory in Vatican. After their complaint, Vatican recognized that bishop illegally closed down their church. Unfortunately, the bishop refuses to concede and decided to reopen the church merely symbolically (for a single holy mass celebration annually).

St. Clair town (pop. 3000 today, 7000 in 1930) also saw its Lithuanian church (St. Casimir, 441 South Nicholas St.) closed down recently. St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery remains.

Among the closed-down churches, the fate of Branchdale Out Lady Star of the Seas Lithuanian church is somewhat merrier. The only church of a 400-strong village has been purchased in 2011 by a music teacher from Philadelphia. He permits sermons of all Christians here and also organizes concerts and other events. He said that he pitied for an important village building that got closed and plans to acquire more churches in the region.

Branchdale Lithuanian church should remain an important cultural center. Google Street View.

Brockton is too small a village to be incorporated but even here Lithuanians had their St. Bartholomew church (214 E Green Street). Now it is closed though the St. Bartholomew cemetery survives.

Lithuanian heritage west of Shenandoah

Mt. Carmel township (pop. 6 000 today, 18 000 back in 1930) still has a Lithuanian Social Club (309 S. Oak St.) with a door painted in Lithuanian tricolor. There is also a massive Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery (south of town, Cemetery road). It was named after a Lithuanian church, closed in 1992. Marija Kaupas, a Lithuanian nun worked here (she is on the route of canonization and a street has been named in her honor in Chicago).

Lithuanian Social Club of Mt. Carmel, est. 1926 Google Street View.

In Marion Heights even further west the Lithuanian church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been transformed into an Easter Rite Catholic (Ukrainian) church: stained glass windows have been removed and an iconostasis moved in, while the tower has been crowned by a dome. It is now hard to recognize the church's Lithuanian roots. The similarly-named Lithuanian cemetery has remained. In general, it is easier for Ukrainians to protect their religious heritage - even though they are also Catholic, they have a different rite thus the dioceses are unable to amalgamate their parishes into non-Ukrainian ones.

Shamokin town has been famous for the America's first Lithuanian publishing house (which published Lithuanian-English dictionary by Markas Tvarauskas). It also had a Lithuanian St. Michael Archangel church (Cherry St.) that was closed in 1995 and demolished in 2015. Its Lithuanian club still functions as a pub.

Lithuanian heritage east of Shenandoah

The area's largest town east of Shenandoah is Hazleton (pop. 17 000 today, 38 000 back in 1940). Its brownish Sts. Peter and Paul's Lithuanian church used to be an extensive multiple building complex. Unfortunately, it all has been sold in 2010 by the diocese. Hazleton Lithuanian cemetery is at the Cemetery road / E Broad corner.

McAdoo (pop. 2000 today, 5000 back in 1930) had a wooden St. Casimir Lithuanian church near the Cleveland and Adams street corner (a residential house now occupies the place). It is interesting that this church has been born out of anti-Catholic sentiment as its builders planned to stay independent of Vatican. However after the works had begun in 1928 they disagreed among themselves and were short on money, therefore went back to Catholicism. The completed church then served as Catholic as Catholic although the congregation was never big enough to support a separate parish.

Although Kelayres (pop. 500) is nearly joined to McAdoo it had a separate Immaculate Conception Lithuanian church, which has been sold by the diocese in 2010 to serve as a residential home.

The hard labor conditions in the mines led Lithuanians to protest but back then the worker's rights weren't that much protected. This had some tragic outcomes: a few Lithuanians have been killed by police in 1897 when they stroke and illegally marched in Lattimer town. 19 workers died that day and they are commemorated by a plaque in Harwood which declares that the victims were "Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks". A bigger memorial stands at the place of the massacre; a victim list there has a single obviously Lithuanian surname but more people may have been Lithuanians as in that era Lithuanian language was not standardized yet and surnames changed after migration. Lattimer massacre became well known in the USA and it caused the trade union ranks to swell. In spite of this many Lithuanians who disliked the local conditions left the Pennsylvanian coal region for surrounding states, e.g. Upstate New York.

The map of Lithuanian locations in Southern Coal Region Pennsylvania.

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is among the "most Lithuanian" cities of USA and has the fourth largest total number of ethnic Lithuanians after Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (~6000)

It has 3 great Lithuanian churches, pre-war art nouveau Lithuanian halls, a synagogue named after Vilnius, and an abandoned Lithuanian cemetery in its suburbs.

Lithuanian Music Hall in Philadelphia

The prettiest and the last one surviving among Philadelphia's Lithuanian clubs is its especially old (erected 1906) Lithuanian Music Hall, also known as Lietuvių namai ("Lithuanian House") in Lithuanian language and "Big Lit" in English (2715 E. Allegheny Ave). It is a separate red brick building inspired by art nouveau.

Lithuanian Music Hall in Philadelphia.

Inside, there are three halls, of which the upper floor one is the most impressive. It is named after M.K. Čiurlionis, Lithuania's most famous painter. Previously, it had full arched windows, but those have been partly bricked up during the shortage times.

In the basement, the Hall has an exhibition of Lithuanian folk arts (Surdėnas Lithuanian cultural center, etsablished in 1980). You may also see authentic heating system from the pre-WW1 era in that room.

The hall hosts many Lithuanian activities and an annual fair. To this day, it also hosts Lithuanian concerts of the musicians arriving from Lithuania.

Kanklės (traditional Lithuanian musical instrument) is the symbol of the Hall, adorning its entrance.

Kanklės detail at the Lithuanian Music Hall.

The surronding district is mostly Polish (still strong on that identity). Poles too, however, come at the Music Hall's fair.

Lithuanian Naitonal Hall in Philadelphia

The second Lithuanian Club of Philadelphia, known as the Lithuanian National Hall, used to be located close to 2nd Avenue. Its building still stands and the name is still chiseled in stones but it has been remodeled into apartments (the Lithuanian Club closed in 1984). In a way it's going back to the roots as when the Hall was completed in 1900 it also included apartments. Afterward, the expanding Club needs and rental halls had pushed the residential use out.

Lithuanian National Hall in Philadelphia.

St. Andrew: the grandest of Philadelphia's Lithuanian churches

Philadelphia still has all three of its Lithuanian churches open.

Towered neo-romanesque St. Andrew Church (1913 Wallace St.) still hosts Sunday mass in Lithuanian. The building has been acquired from Protestants in 1942 after the Great Depression and War shattered hopes of the parish to erect its own new building.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church in Philadelphia.

St. Andrew has a grand interior, the most impressive among the Philadelphia's Lithuanian churches.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church in Philadelphia (interior).

Despite its non-Lithuanian origins, St. Andrew church has many Lithuanian details, ranging from a freestanding wayside cross outside, to a true "Shrine of Lithuanian history" inside.

On that shrine, one may see a railroad going towards a cross, which is a symbol of the Soviet Genocide (1940-1953) when hundreds of thousands Lithuanians, some third of them children and babies, were forced into cattle carriages and moved to the ice-cold Siberia where many of them died due to cold, hunger, forced labor and other reasons.

There is also a cross with the victims of January 13, 1991 massacre, a final Soviet bid to stop Lithuanian independence. Lithuanian civilians were stopping the tanks with their bodies then and many died. Vilnius TV Tower, one of the key locations Soviets attempted to take over, is also painted there. There is also the Our Lady of Vilnius in a folk-craft-inspired wooden frame and a Lithuanian flag.

Soviet Genocide is an important topic here, as much of the congregation has originated in the refugees who fled Lithuania before the Soviet re-occupation in 1944. These refugees always saw themselves as exiled people, as staying would have meant death to nearly all of them (or another exile to Siberia, a much worse location).

St. Andrew 'Shrine of Lithuanian history'. From left to right: American, Lithuanian, and Vatican flags; the Soviet Genocide painting; the Mary painting in a folk-craft frame; the TV tower painting; the cross with images of those killed in January 13, 1991.

The church also has Lithunian religious images. Over the altar, Lithuanians Mečislovas Reinys (a Lithuanian priest killed for refusing to collaborate with the Soviets) and Marija Kaupaitė (the venerable founder of a Lithuanian-American nun order) are painted. Near the altar, Jurgis Matulaitis, a beatified Lithuanian has his image in a large folk-art frame. Outside, there is a Lithuanian wooden cross.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church in Philadelphia Mečislovas Reinys and Marija Kaupaitė over the altar, with a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross in between.

There are still some curious details left from the Episcopal era, such as numbered pews (in Episcopal church, they used to be rented to families but in the Lithuanian church, anybody is free to sit anywhere). Before using this church, the Episcopals had a small church nearby which is also Lithuanian-owned and used as a parish hall and Vincas Krėvė Saturday school where Philadelphia Lithuanian kids learn their language and culture.

Exterior of the former Episcopal church (now St. Andrew parish hall and Vincas Krėvė school).

St. Andrew Lithuanian church in Philadelphia parish hall.

There are Lithuanian details even in the sacristy of St. Andrews. Lithuanian cross stands outside.

Lithuanian details at the sacristy of St. Andrew.

St. Casimir: the most Lithuanian church in Philadelphia

While St. Andrew Lithuanian church has many Lithuanian details, it couldn't compare with St. Casimir Lithuanian church of Southern Philadelphia (324 Wharton Street).

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. A Lithuanian tricolor is waving nearby.

There, the Lithuanian details are nearly countless. At the entrance, a Lithuanian quote "Izenk geras, iseik gerensis" ("Enter a good person, leave a better one") greets the people. Inside, the stations of the cross are all done on Lithuanian designs, there are paintings like the opening of St. Casimir's grave in Vilnius Cathedral, there are stained glass windows of Marija Kaupas and much more.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Philadelphia stations of the cross, with Lithuanain inscriptions and Lithuanian traditional ornamentation. A Lithuanian tricolor is waving nearby.

In fact, nearly everything here has a relation to both religion and Lithuania. For example, among the images of the saints, blessed people and the venerable, many are either from Lithuania or Lithuanian-Americans. The Lithuanian atmosphere was supported by priest Burkauskas, a long-term Lithuanian priest in the church.

Altar of the St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. The slogoan on tops, surrounded by two Lithuanian flags, declares: 'St. Casimir. Wonderful on earth, more wonderful in heaven.'

Outside, there is a traditional Lithuanian chapel-post and the inscription at its bottom even describes it as having both Christian and Pagan motifs. This is a fact, as the Lithuanian folk motifs (such as the sun often found on the traditional crosses) are undoubtedly pagan-inspired even though undeniably Christian today. Yet, few churches dare to reognize this. However, Lithuanaian-American churches are built on two pillars, religious and ethnicity, and that ethnic pillar includes the non-Christian Lithuanian history as well.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Philadelphia entrance. A Lithuanian tricolor is waving nearby.

St. Casimir is the oldest Lithuanian church (parish established in 1893) but the current building was erected after a fire in 1930. In 2007 its 100-year old school has been closed while in 2011 the parish has been amalgamated with St. Andrew. It is still the easiest among the Philadelphia's Lithuanian churches to visit, as the Holy Mass is held there everyday (come around the mass time).

St. George: the church of blue-collar Lithuanians

St. George Lithuanian church (3580 Salmon Street) has two floors, the first of them built for a school and still used as such. Non-Lithuanian kids predominate now, but the entrance still has Vytis (the Lithuanian Coat of Arms) on it and there are other Lithuanian details inside. Stations of the cross have Lithuanian inscriptions, there is a medal to the king Jogaila and much more.

St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia.

The St. George church building was erected in 1920, with school being preferred to a tower. The former church building stand nearby, now serving as a parish hall.

St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. Entrance with the Lithuanian Coat of Arms.

Traditionally, St. George church used to be frequented by the blue-collar Lithuanian workers (in contrast to St. Andrew, which was a domain of intellectuals, especially the Soviet-Genocide-refugees). Therefore, it is the most modest among the three Philadelphia Lithuanian churches. Still, it has nice Lithuanian-donated stained glass windows with donors names under them.

St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia interior.

The bottom of St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia stained glass windows with Lithuanian donors marked.

Vilna Congregation (Vilnius synagogue) in Philadelphia

A rather unique Lithuania-related site is the Vilna Congregation, named after Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (Vilna being its old Russian name). This is a synagogue located in a house once owned by a Jewish person from Vilnius. He promise dto God that should his business succeed, he'd donate his home for the religion (and this is what happened).

Vilna Congregation synagogue in Philadelphia (exterior).

Eventually, the original "People of Vilnius" who worshipped there have left the area and the synagogue is now kept by the Chabad Lubavitch movement. While it has few worshippers, the rabbis seek to keep it open and are trying to add a ritual bath there.

Vilna Congregation synagogue in Philadelphia.

The word "Vilna" is still visible on numerous locations inside. The synagogue, however, has collected donor plaques from the area's other synagogues, so, not every plaque is originating at Vilna Synagogue. There is also the establishement charter on the second floor, as well as newspaper clippings about the synagogue's history and the images of the synagogue founders who came from Vilnius.

Vilna Congregation synagogue in Philadelphia plaque with 'Vilna' name mentioned.

The synagogue is usually closed outside of prayer times.

Bensalem abandoned Lithuanian cemetery

The saddest Lithuanian site in Philadelphia is the abandoned Lithuanian cemetery at Bensalem suburb (est. 1926). Once owned by the unique and independent Lithuanian National Catholic church, the cemetery became abandoned after most Lithuanians returned from that church to the Vatican-led Roman Catholic church.

Bensalem Lithuanian cemetery entrance.

Currently, the cemetery is so overgrown that it requires a painful pushing through spiky plants to access some of the graves (what you see near the road is just part of the cemetery; the other parts are deeper into the forest). Still, that makes the cemetery unique and interesting to those who like such abandoned sites.

A grave deep inside the Bensalem Lithuanian cemetery.

Recommended literature: "Where Have All the Lithuanians Gone? A Study of St. Casimir’s Lithuanian Parish in South Philadelphia"

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is among the US cities that have the most ethnic Lithuanians. The community here is especially old, dating to ~1870 - although those who associate Lithuanian ethnicity with the language may be disappointed as the community now primarily speaks English.

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Hall

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Hall

In 1930, Pittsburgh had ~4000 Lithuanians and it was the 8th US city by this number. Currently, there are ~6000 people of Lithuanian ancestry, making up ~0,65% of total population. This percentage is the largest among all the US cities of such size (Pittsburgh has a population of 736 000). Most Lithuanians came to work at the steel mills that made Pittsburgh famous. This industry used coal in metallurgy, much of it mined by the Lithuanians of Shenandoah and Scranton.

Lithuanian media has recently capitalized on the remarkable geographic similarity of Lithuania's second largest city Kaunas (left) and Pittsburgh (right). Both maps have north at the top. Bing Maps.

South Side Pittsburgh Lithuanian sites

Many Pittsburgh Lithuanians used to live on the South Side of Pittsburgh and the red brick Lithuanian Hall still stands there with a stylized Lithuanian coat of arms (Vytis) proudly hanging above its entrance. A commemorative plaque declares that the building was constructed in 1870 and rebuilt in 1908. The building was sold in 2014 and the Lithuanian Citizens’ Society of Western PA moved to their other property in Jefferson Hills (see below). In its later years, the South Side building was supported by hosting multiethnic bingo games, but the legalization of casinos effectively killed the bingo business.

 Vytis of the Lithuanian Hall in Pittsburgh

Vytis of the Lithuanian Hall in Pittsburgh

The South Side of Pittsburgh also had the largest and oldest Lithuanian church in the city: St. Casimir‘s. A Protestant building at this location was acquired by Lithuanians in 1893 but soon it became too small and was replaced by the current massive one (uniting red bricks with the Baroque revival) in 1902. In 1992, the church was closed and the interior pews, organ and other artifacts moved to Holy Trinity Church in Pilviskiai, Lithuania. The interior was then inhabited by a single family (they used only a small part of the premises, leaving the rest untouched) until 2017 when its conversion to apartments began.

South Pittsburgh St. Casimir Lithuanian church

South Pittsburgh St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Next to St. Casimir church there is the former St. Casimir school; its name is recollected by the fact that it is called „Casimir apartments“. The school has an inscription over its front entrance „St. Casimir High School“ (in English). Likewise, the church cornerstone has an inscription indicating its original purpose, however, it is in Latin rather than Lithuanian.

Casimir Lithuanian school

Casimir Lithuanian school

Moreover, South Pittsburgh still has a building of Polithania bank, which was a bank for Poles and Lithuanians. At that time, the local banks used to avoid giving credit to immigrants, facilitating the need for immigrants to create their own banks. Currently, a dentist is operating in the former bank. However, the over-entrance sign still remains.

Plithania Bank in Pittsburgh

Polithania Bank in Pittsburgh

Lithuanian Classroom at the Cathedral of Learning

The Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh, one of the most famous buildings of Pittsburgh, has a Lithuanian Nationality Class among its many nationality classrooms (located on the 1st floor, on the left from the Bigelow Blvd entrance).

Lithuanian classroom back

Lithuanian classroom back

The back wall of the Lithuanian Nationality Class is proudly covered by a copy of the famous "Karalių pasaka" ("Tale of Kings") painting by symbolist M. K. Čiurlionis. Wooden blackboard sides and furniture are of traditional Lithuanian folk style. Heaters have rue (Lithuanian national flower) details while ceiling moldings are filled with names of the famous Lithuanians, mostly the Lithuanian national revival heroes (the author of first Lithuanian-language history of Lithuania Daukantas, the patriarch of the nation Basanavičius, the author of the national anthem Kudirka, the author of first Lithuanian book of fiction Donelaitis...).

Lithuanian classroom front

Lithuanian classroom front

Other accents of the Lithuanian classroom are the „School of Sorrows“ statuette (representing the secret teaching of the Lithuanian language to kids in the later 19th century when the occupying Russian Empire banned the Lithuanian language) and the linen „wallpaper“ (linen having a strong cultural importance). Both of these have been secured by plexiglass after vandalism and thievery attempts.

Radiator rues in the Lithuanian class

Radiator rues in the Lithuanian classroom

It is difficult to list all the symbols of the classroom as nearly everything could be considered a Lithuanian symbol there.

The Cathedral of Learning is an impressive gothic revival/art deco skyscraper (42 floors) dating to 1926-1934. Its massive central hall looks like a real cathedral nave. It is surrounded by some 30 (and growing) nationality classrooms, each of them a small tasteful museum glorifying a particular nation (unlike in museums, however, nearly every detail here has some purpose). They have been crafted, furnished and still are supported by the respective ethnicity; a single classroom now costs up to 1 million USD to construct. The Lithuanian classroom was designed by Kaunas architect Antanas Gudaitis (who received this honor after a competition) and it was opened in a sad era: October 1940 when Lithuania had been recently occupied by the Soviets. Due to this, the original „School of Sorrows“ sculpture did not reach the USA and disappeared (it was recreated locally).

Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning

The Lithuanians became one of the first Pittsburgh ethnicities to have their classroom in the Cathedral (with just Scottish, Russian, German, Swedish, Chinese, Czechoslovak, Hungarian, American and Polish classes created in the initial 1938-1940 period). All the classrooms may be explored when they are not used by the university. The entry is free on weekdays outside of tours.

Pittsburgh outer districts Lithuanian churches and clubs

The Pittsburgh outer districts and suburbs are full of Lithuanian churches, all established ~1900-1910. Many of the buildings were acquired from Protestants, therefore, they lack Lithuanian details or cornerstones. Unfortunately, many Lithuanian churches were closed by 1993. As the city population decreased and the immigrants became English-speaking after multiple generations, the former ethnic Catholic parishes were consolidated into a single church. All of the Lithuanian churches have been closed and sold for non-Catholic use, thus condemning the Lithuanian interior. Most of the buildings remain but little reminds one of their Lithuanian histories today.

St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian church in Esplen was closed in 1993 but by then the parish was already a shadow of its former self. The main church building of 1903 was closed in 1962 and sold in 1970 (since demolished after numerous arsons). The cornerstone of that old church still remains, however, at a corner of a small warehouse-like basement-only building (inscription in Latin).

The remains of St. Vincent de Paul church

The remains of St. Vincent de Paul church

After the main church was closed, the mass was celebrated in a former parish school (Tabor St.) that already lacked children. After the parish closure, it became a pastoral center but was closed and sold to the Sons of God church in 1997. The remains of the „St. Vincent De Paul“ name are still visible in the building, but no Lithuanian inscriptions exist.

Vincent De Paul school that later was a church

Vincent De Paul school that later was a church

The former citizens of Esplen remember the district as full of Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans but today many of its buildings are abandoned, only ~300 people live there.

Some smaller Lithuanian parishes were closed even earlier for a variety of reasons. Ascension Lithuanian parish of northern Pittsburgh once used a single-floored church was acquired from Presbyterians in 1906, however, was demolished in 1962 to make way for an industrial zone.

The suburb of Braddock suburb followed the rhythm of a local U.S. Steel plant. During the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s, many workers moved away. The local parishes were consolidated in 1985 and the St. Isidore Lithuanian church (built 1918 on Talbot and 7th corner) was closed. Now it serves as the First Church of God in Christ (non-Catholic). As the building had been acquired from another community, it has only an English inscription on its cornerstone („1901 Erected to the Glory of God”).

Braddock St. Isidore Lithuanian church

Braddock St. Isidore Lithuanian church

St. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church in the suburb of Homestead also became a victim of the steel industry, albeit in a different fashion. Constructed in 1901 it was demolished ~1941 when it blocked the way for the expansion of a nearby steel mill that was needed to meet the needs of World War II. The parish was still lively and acquired a new (1929) building from the Reformed Christians in 1941 (this church closed in 1992, with its building sold for 20,000 USD to the Apostolic Faith Assembly; the building still stands at 1321 Mifflin St. after recently changing hands again for a mere 1 dollar, being acquired by the Higher Call church. All this shows the deterioration of the district).

Homestead Lithuanian church

Homestead Lithuanian church

In the suburb of Bridgeville, St. Anthony Lithuanian church closed in 2007 after the collapse of the local industry. The building had been acquired from Methodists in 1915 and expanded ~1970 after it has been saved from demolition due to highway construction. The parish was closed in 1994, however, the church stayed open for more than a decade after that. It has been demolished since.

The suburb of Duquesne never had a Lithuanian church, however, it had a Lithuanian club. As the area is now depressed and little development takes place there, the long-closed club still has its name plaque up and visible.

Lithuanian club of Duquesne

Lithuanian club of Duquesne

Lithuanian club of Duquesne (close-up)

Lithuanian club of Duquesne (close-up)

The only Lithuanian building still operating in the near suburbs of Pittsburgh is the Lithuanian Country club. It is the home of the Lithuanian Citizens’ Society of Western PA. Despite the name, it is not a golf club but rather a location where Lithuanians may spend time in the country area. The club has rather massive landholds, although much has been sold over the time. The two remaining buildings host things removed from the Lithuanian Hall on the SouthSide of Pittsburgh. A local urban legend says that Darius and Girėnas spent a night in the other building (a barn) while visiting Lithuanian communities in the U.S. to raise funds for their flight to Lithuania. On the exterior, there is nothing Lithuanian there.

Pittsburgh Lithuanian club interior

Pittsburgh Lithuanian club interior

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Country Club barn

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Country Club barn

Pittsburgh Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse and Academy

For 93 years before 2015, Pittsburgh also had a grand St. Francis Convent of Lithuanian nuns.

However, in 2015, the youngest among them were in their 60s; unable to care for the 13 ha land with the motherhouse and chapel, they sold it. In 2017, the motherhouse was demolished, only the former academy school remains (without Lithuanian details). A nearby private road is still named "Chesna drive".

School of the former Lithuanian monastery

School of the former Lithuanian monastery

Chesna Drive

Chesna Drive

Lithuanian cemeteries in Pittsburgh area

Pittsburgh's largest Lithuanian cemetery was owned by the St. Casimir parish. It is located at Whitehall on Hamilton Road and near the former Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse. The most impressive monument in the cemetery is the Nuns memorial (1938) with a statue of an angel and Lithuanian inscriptions. Symbolically, after the destruction of the motherhouse, the motherhouse cornerstone was laid there. Another key monument is a belfry of Our Lady of Fatima (1954) at the entrance, where all the Pittsburgh Lithuanians who fought for the USA during WW II are listed (240 of them, and those are just members of St. Casimir parish). The Lithuanian inscription on it declares: „Let the echo of this bell lead the soul to eternal life“.

Pittsburgh St. Casimir cemetery Nuns' memorial

Pittsburgh St. Casimir cemetery Nuns' memorial

Lithuanian belfry in St. Casimir cemetery

Lithuanian belfry in St. Casimir cemetery

A smaller Lithuanian cemetery exists in the suburb of West View, accessed by a small road off of Bellevue Rd near Perry Hwy (Rt 19). The entrance plaque there reads "Lithuanian Cemetery Association, incorporated June 14, 1919" signifying that this cemetery used to be associated just with ethnicity rather than Catholic faith. This cemetery was also used by the leftists, there is a rather unique Memorial to the Lithuanian workers; after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, the leftist ideas became rare among Lithuanians and many of the „Lithuanian workers organizations“ (such as the Lithuanian Workers Association that erected the particular memorial) faded into obscurity.

Lithuanian national cemetery of Pittsburgh

Lithuanian national cemetery of Pittsburgh

Lithuanian workers memorial

Lithuanian workers memorial

Both cemeteries are surrounded by trees and cover a slight slope. Lithuanian inscriptions ("motina" ("mother"), "brolis" ("brother"), "amžiaus 28 m." ("aged 28"), etc.) are more common at the old graves (especially pre-WW II). Pittsburgh cemeteries also tend to have a great amount of surviving old portrait images.

An old Lithuanian grave

An old Lithuanian grave

Surviving images of long-dead people in the Lithuanian cemeteries

Surviving images of long-dead people in the Lithuanian cemeteries

Lithuanian churches and clubs in the towns around Pittsburgh

Interestingly, there seem to be as many surviving Lithuanian locations in the small towns around Pittsburgh (especially Bentleyville and East Vandergrift) as in the Pittsburgh itself.

Bentleyville has a Lithuanian club (nothing Lithuanian is visible from the outside save for the name; inside is accessible to members-only). The proper address is 217 Main St. but it stands next to Lithuanian Street. There is also Wilna street (named after Vilnius) and Abromaitis Street (named after a Lithuanian priest who has helped establish the local Polish-Lithuanian parish), making it an impressive list of three Lithuanian-related street-names in a village of 2500. The former Polish-Lithuanian St. Luke church was merged into Ave Maria parish in 1994 and again into St. Katharine Drexel parish in 2017, but in all cases, it remained an open church. Given its bi-ethnic (before the Slovaks separated, tri-ethnic) history, there is nothing Lithuanian inside, however.

Bentleyville Lithuanian club

Bentleyville Lithuanian club

Abromaitis street in Bentleyville

Abromaitis street in Bentleyville

Behind the church, there is the St. Luke cemetery. The Lithuanian graves there are further from the church. Like in other Pittsburgh area cemeteries, old portrait images of those buried are often well preserved.

Bentleyville St. Luke church and cemetery

Bentleyville St. Luke church and cemetery

In a similar case to parish consolidations to that of Bentleyville, the East Vandergrift Lithuanian church of St. Casimir (which used to be Lithuanian-only, not bi-ethnic) has been also renamed in 1985 (to Our Lady, Queen of Peace), but survived as a Catholic church. The former Polish and Slovak parishes have been added to it (the Polish church burned down beforehand) in what is now a village of just 600 people. The church is thus small. Out of the Lithuanian period, just the stained-glass windows remain, and those are rather modest compared to most Lithuanian-American churches (some have Lithuanian sponsor names at their bottom). Much else has been remodeled and the front of the church was rebuilt after the parish consolidation.

East Vandergrift Lithuanian church

East Vandergrift Lithuanian church

East Vandergrift Lithuanian stained glass inscription

East Vandergrift Lithuanian stained glass inscription

There is also a Lithuanian club in front of the East Vandergrift church, now doubling as a members-only pub but decorated with Vytis and Lithuanian colors. The facade inscription on it says „Club of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas near the St. Casimir Lithuanian church, 1908-1915“.

East Vandergrift Lithuanian club

East Vandergrift Lithuanian club

St. Joseph Lithuanian church in the suburb of Donora operated in a former Presbyterian building acquired in 1906. It was the Pittsburgh area's first Lithuanian church to be closed; this happened in 1963 when there were just 13 families left in the parish.

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Du Bois, Pennsylvania

Although DuBois is a rather small city (pop. 20000), it has an especially old St. Joseph Lithuanian Church that was founded in the 19th century. The current Romance Revival building was erected in 1924 (State St and South Ave corner). Inside there are pretty stained glass windows with the names of Lithuanian donors and a tricolor waving near the altar. In the basement, there is a massive parish hall where the secular Lithuanian activities take place.

DuBois Lithuanian church.

The interior of DuBois Lithuanian church.

In 2012, after some older Lithuanian parishes were closed, the DuBois church became the oldest surviving Lithuanian parish in the Americas. However, the Holy Mass is no longer held there since early 2017, with the church open only for rites (such as weddings & funerals). It is also open everyday for private prayer, making it rather easy to visit. At night, the facade is nicely lit.

The bottom of the stained glass window with the name of the organization that sponsored it written.

DuBois Lithuanians are traditionally buried in a separate St. Joseph Lithuanian cemetery. The cemetery has wooden freestanding stations of the cross (a unique arrangement) that mark the cemetery quarters. Each station has a name of a Lithuanian donor on them (some stations have been lost, however).

DuBois Lithuanian cemetery with the wayside shrine in the distance.

Moreover, the cemetery has a large Wayside shrine that was built with the support of the Knights of Lithuania organization in memory of the parish priests Urbonas, Barr, and Rakauskas in 1979. The three crosses once had wooden sculptures on them but they have since deteriorated and were removed.

Wayside shrine of the DuBois Lithuanian cemetery.

Lithuanians make up 3% of the Du Bois inhabitants.

Previously, Du Bois also had a Lithuanian Independent Club which has been closed since ~2002 after alleged financial improprieties by some officers. It had been opened in 1900 and had its current building completed in 1960 (according to the cornerstone). The "Litts Club" name still remains on one sign, but the main name is now "Luigi's Villa" and the building is used for wedding receptions and other functions. As a Lithuanian Club, it failed to outcompete the nearby Polish club, which, jokingly, was mentioned as one of the goals when erecting the new clubhouse.

Surviving sign of the DuBois Lithuanian club.

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Northern Coal Region (Scranton)

Attention: this article is undergoing a major overhaul after the "Destination America" project when volunteers visited and pictured nearly every site mentioned in this article as well as discovered many additional Lithuanian sites in the area. The article will be updated with much new information and images before the 14th of December, 2017!

Northern Coal region is among the most Lithuanian areas of the USA. Pittston and Wilkes-Barre are the largest cities of such size to have some 4% of population with Lithuanian ancestry.

Sadly, the Northern Coal Region is also among the places where Lithuanian sites have been hit the hardest in the recent times, many of them destroyed, including the prettiest and largest Lithuanian churches that were also arguably the key Lithuanian sites in the area. Out of 13 Lithuanian Roman Catholic churches in the area, none remain open as standard Catholic churches and nearly all were closed ~2009, despite the fact that mere probability would have required some half of them to stay open (as half of the parishes were closed in the area). 14 Lithuanian churches that used to operate here, by the way, meant that the area had more Lithuanian operating churches than any city in Lithuania until ~1990.

Despite all the destruction, there is still what to see in the Northern Coal Region, ranging from a Lithuanian church independent from Rome, to many cemeteries with century-old graves and Old Lithuanian inscription, to four surviving Lithuanian clubs, to several Lithuanian monuments, to the possibility to descend into a real mine where Lithuanians once toiled, having universally came to this region for coal mining.

Northern Coal Region is effectively a string of cities between which there is almost no empty space left. At the top, there is Scranton, at the center - Pittston, at the south - Wilkes-Barre. Around this conurbation, there are also numerous smaller towns which are also full of historically Lithuanian sites.

To make the matters simpler, we describe he Lithuanian sites in the area going from north to south.

Forest City Lithuanian sites

Forest City St. Anthony Lithuanian church site

Forest City never had more than 6000 inhabitants (let alone Catholics), yet it had five Catholic churches! That’s because every immigrant nation used to build its own: Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, Slovenes, Irish… All of them collected donations from their meager wages. However, 100 years on, this lot is all that remains of the white gothic revival Lithuanian church (after the diocese has decided to raze it).

St. Anthony Lithuanian cemetery in Forest City

In the small towns like Forest City, Lithuanians were important. Because they moved it at about the same time as everybody else: the town was founded in 1888. Lithuanians also founded their own cemetery, even though the town has merely a few thousand inhabitants and it would seme one cemetery is enough. Such were the times: even having emigrated, the people of each nation sought to be laid to rest among their co-nationals.

Eynon Lithuanian sites

Eynon Our Lady of Vilna church

Today this is a mere abandoned building. The only remaining sign of its Lithuanian past is an empty niche for a sculpture of the saint. It bears an English inscription that it was built in memory of the pastor Savulis (a Lithuanian surname).

Eynon Our Lady of Vilna cemetery

This cemetery shares a commonly fenced ground with the Our Lady of Częstochowa Polish cemetery and there are more Polish than Lithuanian graves. Lithuanians were mostly buried closer to their Our Lady of Vilna church. In the early 20th century a Polish-Lithuanian conflict raged over the cemetery where blood was spilled.

Central Scranton Lithuanian sites

All of the following are so close to each other that it is possible to walk from one of them to another.

Scranton Providence of God Lithuanian National Catholic church

It may seem unbelievable, but some Scranton Lithuanians did in 1914 something no one did even in Lithuania itself: created a national Lithuanian Catholic church that was independent of the Pope. This unique Lithuanian church still survives. It has been built in 1915-1930 and open on Sundays alone (at the mass time).

Tauras Lithuanian club in Scranton

One of four Lithuanian clubs in the Scranton region! At the entrance, a Lithuanian flag is waving, while the most Lithuanian part is the hall, which has descriptions of Lithuania and images of the Lithuanians who created the club. Currently, not only Lithuanians can be members, although the potato pancakes are still on the menu. Not cepelinai though: this most famous Lithuanian national dish became so popular *later* than Lithuanians migrated to Scranton.

Kosciuska Healing Garden

“Lithuanian sites are so rapidly disappearing, therefore, I wanted to create a new one” – said the owner of the Kosciuska garden Carol Gargan (of Lithuanian origins). She is planting the garden with her own hands and named it after Tadas Kosciuška – this is the Lithuanian variant of the name of Polish-Lithuanian leader more commonly known in Polish as Kosciuszko, also a US hero.

Scranton St. Joseph Lithuanian church

The 1895-build church is still open, however, it now belongs to ex-Anglican priests. Nevertheless, the Lithuanian stained glass windows, the chapel-post for the Soviet-persecuted Lithuanians all survive. So does the cornerstone inscription “Lithuanica Ecclesia”.

St. Joseph Lithuanian school in Scranton

So many Lithuanian children must have gone to school in Scranton at 1915 when the construction here began! The school has been closed for a long time but the cornerstone still boasts a Lithuanian inscription: “St. Joseph school 1915”.

Lithuanian chapel-post for Soviet-oppressed Lithuanians

This chapel-post, according to the inscription, is dedicated to the men of women who fell for “our country” (Lithuania), and also Lithuanians who suffer beyond the Iron Curtain, and the dead parish members. Such were the main concerns of the Lithuanian-Americans in 1975 when the chapel-post was erected, even though ~70 years had passed already since most of them moved to Scranton!

Scranton area Lithuanian sites further away from the downtown

These will require a drive.

Lithuanian National Cemetery in Scranton

This is a Catholic cemetery but not Roman Catholic. National Catholics who are not following the pope are buried here. The creator of this unique church bishop Jonas Gritės also lies in this cemetery. He sought to export his ideas back into Lithuania, however, fell ill and died, leaving the National church a Lithuanian-American phenomenon.

St. Joseph Lithuanian cemetery in Scranton

A massive Lithuanian cemetery! A pretty cemetery cross. There are very old graves.

Lackawanna Coal mine and museum in Scranton

Here you may descend into a real coal mine, once staffed by Lithuanians! Of course, all is easier for the tourists: the floor is not covered by underground water, there is no more risk to enter flammable or poisonous gases… The death rates used to be huge here, and the dead miners used to be placed on their wives’ front porches! This and even scarier stories of 19th century immigrant laborer lives may be listened here.

Iron furnaces (a museum in Scranton)

The Iron furnaces of 1848-1857 were among those industrual sites that drew Lithuanians to this area in the late 19th century.

Scranton St. Michael Lithuanian church

Currently, this church belongs to the traditionalist Catholics who holds there the Latin Tridentine mass. On the exterior, nothing Lithuanian remains.

Elmhurst St. Mary Villa Lithuanian sites

St. Mary villa in Elmhurst

Mining jobs most Lithuanian men had were especially dangerous. Some would be killed by explosions, others by poisonous gas… To accommodate the surviving widows and orphans, priest Urbanavičius created this home where Lithuanian nuns would care for these unlucky people. Currently, the Lithuanity remains only in the images that cover the walls, the names in donations list, the traditional sun-cross on the roof, the inscription on Mary statue. Now the home cares for senior citizens.

Mary sculpture with Lithuanian inscription

Among the last things on the exterior of St. Mary villa that reminds Lithuania is this statue. To see its Lithuanian inscription, come closer (in summers, it is often covered by flowers and therefore only the English inscription is visible from further up).

Elmhurst Lithuanian cemetery

As this cemetery has been established for the nuns near a monastery (now the St. Mary Villa), most of the graves here are modest, consisting of small plaques now overgrown in grass. Exceptional are the priest graves and a line of the graves of patriotically-minded Lithuanians, adorned by the Columns of Gediminas and other Lithuanian symbols.

Pittston area Lithuanian sites

Pittston St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Just one look at this church is needed to be overwhelmed by its size and grandeur! For 99 years (1909-2008) this was the hub of Pittston Lithuanians, yet nothing reminds that: even the cornerstone was removed. The new owner planned to showcase art here but, after the former church being vandalised, she sold it again, continuing its abandonment.

Lithuanian Social and Benefit Club in Pittston

Approaching this club, your eye will be drawn to a hydrant painted in the colors of Lithuanian flag and coat of arms! This club is probably the most Lithuanian among those left in the region. It celebrates February 16th, even though it also celebrates St. patrick’s day. It has a bar (members-and-friends only).

St. Casimir statue in Pittston

This statue is all that remains out of the massive St. Casimir Lithuanian church after its closure. When closing churches, the bishops often try to pacify the disgruntled parishioners by offering them to keep some dearest parts of the former church. As this Irish church had many other parishes consolidated it, its entry hall began to remind a sculpture gallery with St. Casimir not easily distinguishable.

St. Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery in Pittston

One of the largest of the northern Coal region Lithuanian cemeteries belonged to the massive St. Casimir church of Pittston. A pretty gate with St. Casimir’s name survives.

Duryea St. Joseph Lithuanian church site

Yet another Lithuanian church in the Pennsylvania Coal Region that was recently torn down by the diocese’s bulldozers, disregarding the opinion of the parish members. This one was demolished in 2013.

Exeter Lithuanian club

One of four Lithuanian clubs in the Northern Coal region! The exterior is painted in Lithuanian tricolor. Only the members and those with members may enter inside.

Inkerman Lithuanian citizens club

This Lithuanian club used to be nicknamed the “Bucket of blood” – so common were the fights here. It was built by interwar Lithuanian miners by their own hands, although today not only Lithuanians frequent it. Lithuania-related inscriptions still remain.

Kingston area Lithuanian sites

Kingston St. Mary Annunciation Lithuanian church site

After closing this grand Lithuanian church, the diocese was unable to sell it. Therefore, they have demolished it in 2016. When looking at the empty lot where a magnificent church once stood, take a time to think how quickly the Lithuanian-American heritage disappears.

St. Mary Annunciation Lithuanian cemetery in Kingston

The dead of the Annunciation parish used to be laid here. The name “Lithuanian” still remains at the entrance and there are many Lithuanian graves. The parish church was destroyed in 2016, so this is all that remains of that parish.

Luzerne St. Ann Lithuanian church

The church construction began in 1924 but it was then halted by the Great Depression. For long, Lithuanians prated in the basement and only in 1959 did they complete the church. Maybe this newness made the diocese consolidate parishes into this building. Nothing Lithuanian remains in the exterior, however.

Lithuanian independent cemetery

Cemeteries, cemeteries, cemeteries! So many of them have Lithuanians established in the region. Most were parish-affiliated whereas the “Independent” ones were typically created by the less religious: leftists and nationalists.

Old St. Mary cemetery in Larksville

The site of the most infamous Lithuanian-Polish conflict in America! The parish used to be binational, yet the Poles sought it to be Polish-only. So, they used to stop Lithuanian funerals coming to the cemetery and, in the most notorious episode, dug out the graves of Lithuanian children and mutilated the corpses with axes. Lithuanians the established the Old St. Casimir cemetery nearby.

Old St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery in Larksville

Lithuanians were forced to establish their own cemetery in Larksville as in the joint Polish-Lithuanian cemetery, the Poles were attacking their processions and even dug out dead Lithuanian children, mutilating their bodies with axes. As was common then, mining companies sold a bad land to this cemetery, so the dumps are neaby. Later the parish acquired a new cemetery in Hunlock.

Wilkes-Barre area Lithuanian sites

Wilkes-Barre Holy Trinity Lithuanian church site

The great gothic revival Holy Trinity church, built by Lithuanian hard-earned money, was destroyed not in some kind of historic calamity but rather by the diocese decision (disregarding the Lithuanian protests) very recently: on 2015. Unfortunately, such was the fate of many Lithuanian-American churches. In an empty lot now a small lonely cross stands, likely erected by Lithuanians.

Holy Trinity Lithuanian cemetery in Wilkes-Barre

This is a grand and pretty cemetery with memorials that have Lithuanian inscriptions: a memorial for Lithuanian who died in world wors, a cemetery cross with a prayer. Starting in 1935 the cemetery accepted the parishioners of the Holy Trinity church, that massive one which was destroyed in 2015.

Holy Trinity cemetery cross in Wilkes Barre

The cross on the mound has a Lithuanian inscription: “Jei draug su Kristumi mirėme, draug su Kristumi ir gyvensime” (“If we’ve died with Christ, we’ll live with Christ”).

Memorial for the Lithuanians who died in the world wars

You’d rarely see non-English inscriptions on the WW2 memorials for those who died serving the US army. The one in the Holy Trinity cemetery is an exception. In Lithuanian, it asks for an eternal peace to those Lithuanians soldiers. Interestingly, some of them have emigrated from a Russian-occupied Lithuania to avoid service in the foreign Russian army only to eventually died in a war for the USA.

Wilkes-Barre St. Francis Lithuanian church

Nothing here reminds the Lithuanians who built the church ~1918 and operated it for 90 years. Even the cornerstone with the construction year and original purpose has been removed! Currently, it is a Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist parish.

St. Francis Lithuanian cemetery in Wilkes-Barre

A small cemetery on the hillside that belonged to the St. Francis Lithuanian parish.

Wilkes-Barre Township St. Joseph Lithuanian church

In 2011, this Lithuanian church became… a brewery and bar! This is quite rare, as the Roman Catholic church usually does not sell its buildings for “immoral purposes” and thus the churches become other churches, warehouses or apartments. Interestingly, the brewery does mention on its website that it is located in a former school rather than a former church.

Wilkes-Barre St. Casimir Lithuanian church

The Old St. Casimir church effectively caved into the mines. Such “exotic” fate was common in the Coal Region, where mining activities went on under nearly every home. Back then, in the 1950s, the culture of legal compensations was not as prominent and Lithuanians had to build this new church on their own in 1957. It still stands, yet it has nothing Lithuanian now.

Lithuanian sites in the Northern Coal Region's west

Sugar Notch St. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church

In 1913, the building was acquired from Presbyterians. Those were the times before the advent of automobiles, so, once they would amass some money, Lithuanians sought to build their own church so they wouldn’t to have to spend much of Sundays (the sole non-working day) commuting to the Plymouth Lithuanian church (St. Francis), or go to the Polish church which seemed like a high treason. This parish never had more than ~300 Lithuanians.

Ss. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Cemetery in Sugar Notch

A small Lithuanian cemetery of a small coal town. On the gravestones, you may see anglicized pre-war Lithuanian words such as “Nuzudytas mainose” (“Killed in the mines”; non-Anglicized Lithuanian would be “Žuvo kasyklose”).

Wanamie St. Mary Lithuanian church

Just as in many small towns of Coal region, the closed Lithuanian church is no longer in use and stands abandoned. Finding it was difficult, as internet lacked information; from now on, it will be marked on this map. Construction started on 1925.

St. Mary Lithuanian cemetery in Wanamie

A small cemetery of a small parish. Judging by the surnames on gravestones, non-Lithuanians also used to be buried here.

New St. Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery in Hunlock

The new cemetery of the St. Francis Lithuanian parish has been established quite far from the church, as the automobile era was approaching. The old cemetery is in Larksville.

Lithuanian sites further away

Lake Kasulaitis

This small lake is likely the only one Lithuanian-named lake in the USA, and possibly the Lithuanian-named lake that is the furthest from Lithuania! Joseph (Juozapas) Kasulaitis, by the way, was not some kind of a celebrity – rather, he was a farmer who spent decades farming in the region.

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC) and western Ontario.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Ontario.

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