Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide


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.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 12 Comments

Shenandoah and southern Coal Region, Pennsylvania

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.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 8 Comments

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 an especially old (erected 1906) Lithuanian Music Hall, also known as Lietuvių namai ("Lithuanian House") in Lithuanian language (2715 E. Allegheny Ave). It is a separate red brick building inspired by art nouveau. Inside one may find the "Amber Roots" Club (celebrating Lithuanian handicrafts, culture, history and arts), an annual fair, language clubs, library, an exhibition of Lithuanian folk arts. Kanklės (traditional Lithuanian musical instrument) is the symbol of the Hall.

Lithuanian Music Hall in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Another 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. Google Street View.

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. Google Street View.

Philadelphia has two more old Lithuanian churches.

The St. Casimir of southern Philadelphia (324 Wharton Street) is the oldest one (parish established in 1893) but it slowly faded away as the numbers of visitors diminished. In 2007 its 100-year old school has been closed while in 2011 the parish has been amalgamated with St. Andrew. The church is still open and hosts stained glass Windows of Marija Kaupas and Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. The altar shows the burial of St. Casimir. Near the entrance, two angels are holding a Lithuanian message "Iženk geras, išeik geresnis" ("Enter as a good person, exit as a better person").

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

St. George Lithuanian church (3580 Salmon Street) has two floors, the first of them built for a school.

St. George Lithuanian church in Philadelphia. Google Street View.

Lithuanian communities also sprawled to the cities near Philadelphia.

Easton (pop. 70 000, ~0,5% Lithuanians), a suburb of Allentown had its St. Michael Lithuanian church closed in 2008 and acquired by a film studio in 2011. It is a pretty Gothic Revival building with an old rectory.

St. Michael Lithuanian church in Easton near Philadelphia. Google Street View.

In Bensalem, an old cemetery of Lithuanian National Catholics (an offshoot of Roman Catholicism) have been rediscovered. Their Mary church has long since gone.

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

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA No Comments

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 speaks English

English inscription over the Lithuanian Hall entrance in Pittsburgh. Even Lithuanian churches here lack Lithuanian inscriptions. Google Street View.

Most Lithuanians used to live in southern Pittsburgh and the red brick Lithuanian Hall still stands there with stylized Lithuanian coat of arms (Vytis) proudly hanging above its entrance. A commemorative plaque nearby declares that the building has been constructed in 1870, rebuilt in 1908. The club has been closed in the 2010s and the building sold, however.

Pittsburgh Lithuanian Hall from further away. Google Street View.

The Cathedral of Learning of Pittsburgh University has a Lithuanian Nationality Class. Its back wall 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 Lithuanian national revival heroes (Daukantas, Basanavičius, Kudirka, Donelaitis...). 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 29 nationality classes, each of them a small tasteful museum glorifying a particular nation. They have been crafted, furnished and still are supported by the respective ethnicity; a single class now costs 1 million USD to make. The Lithuanian class has been designed by Kaunas architect Antanas Gudaitis and it has been opened in a sad era: October 1940 when Lithuania had been recently occupied by the Soviets. The Lithuanians became one of the first Pittsburgh ethnicities to have their class 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 classes may be explored with tours when they are not used by the university.

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.

In 1930 Pittsburgh had ~4000 Lithuanians and it was the 8th US city by this number. Currently, there are ~6000 people of Lithuanian ancestry, which is ~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 churches of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh and its suburbs are full of Lithuanian churches, all established ~1900-910. The largest ones were built from scratch, some buildings were acquired from Protestants. Unfortunately, many Lithuanian churches have been closed until 1993. As the city population falls and the immigrants becoming English-speaking after multiple generations the former ethnic Catholic parishes have been amalgamated into a single church. Unfortunately, no Lithuanian church was saved: all of them have been closed and sold for non-Catholic use, thus condemning the Lithuanian interior. Most of the buildings remain but little reminds of their Lithuanian history today.

The largest and oldest Lithuanian church in Pittsburgh was St. Casimir in the south side. A Protestant building at this location has been acquired by Lithuanians in 1893 but soon it became too small and has been replaced by a current massive one uniting red bricks with the Baroque revival in 1902. In 1992 it has been closed. The interior has remained intact until 2017, however, when the conversion into apartments has begun.

St. Casimir church (right) and the St. Casimir apartments (left) built in the parish's former school. Google Street View.

St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian church in Esplen has been closed a little later (1993) but by then the parish was already a shadow of its former self. The main church building of 1903 has been closed in 1962 and sold in 1970 (now demolished). The mass has since been 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 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.

This building housed the St. Vincent de Paul church in the parish's final two decades. Google Street View.

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

Braddock suburb used to follow the rhythm of a local U.S. Steel plant. After this factory has been closed in 1982 many workers moved away. The local parishes were amalgamated in 1985 and the St. Isidore Lithuanian church (built 1918 on Talbot and 7th corner) has been closed. Now it serves as the First Church of God in Christ (non-Catholic).

Former St. Isidore Lithuanian church. No Lithuanian marks are left. Google Street View.

St. Peter and Paul Lithuanian church in the suburb of Homestead also became a victim of steel industry albeit in a different fashion. Constructed in 1901 it was demolished ~1941 when it blocked the way for the expansion of nearby steel mill that was needed to meet the needs of World War 2. Parish still has been lively and acquired a new (1929) building from Reformed Christians in 1941 (this church closed down in 1992, with its building sold fo 20000 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 show the deterioration of the district).

Bridgeville suburb St. Anthony Lithuanian church has been 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 a demolition due to highway construction. The parish was closed in 1994, however, the church stayed open for more than a decade after that.

St. Joseph Lithuanian church of Donora suburb 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.

For 93 years before 2015, Pittsburgh also had a St. Francis monastery of Lithuanian nuns. However, in 2015 the youngest among them were in their 60s; unable to care for the 13 ha land with the monastery and the chapel, they have sold it.

Bentleyville has a Lithuanian club. The proper address is 217 Main St. but it stands next to Lithuanian Street. There are also Wilna street (named after Vilnius) and Abromaitis Street (named after a Lithuanian priest who has helped establish the local 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 has been merged into Ave Maria parish in 1994 and again in St. Katherine Drexler parish in 2017 but in all cases, it remained an open church.

In a similar case, the East Vandergrift Lithuanian church of St. Casimir 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 in what is now a village of just 600 people. The church is thus small. There is also a Lithuanian club in front of it, now doubling as a members-only restaurant but decorated with Vytis and Lithuanian colors.

Lithuanian cemeteries in Pittsburgh area

Pittsburgh's largest Lithuanian cemetery was owned by St. Casimir parish. It is located at Whitehall suburb next to Hamilton Road. A smaller Lithuanian cemetery exists at West View suburb, accessed by a small Perrysville Road near Bellevue Road. 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. Both cemeteries are surrounded by trees and cover a slight slope. Pittsburgh Lithuanian community is especially old thus there are few Lithuanian details (save for surnames), US flags predominate, although the gravestone may be larger than most. Lithuanian inscriptions ("motina" ("mother"), "brolis" ("brother"), "amžiaus 28 m." ("aged 28"), etc.) are more common at the old graves (especially pre-WW2).

Homestead suburb has another Lithuanian cemetery.

The entrance of the St. Casimir Lithuanian cemetery. Google Street View.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA 4 Comments

Du Bois, Pennsylvania

Although Du Bois is a rather small city (pop. 20000), it has an especially old St. Joseph Lithuanian Church that was founded in the 19th century. In 2012, after some older Lithuanian parishes were closed, the Du Bois church became the oldest surviving Lithuanian parish in the Americas. However, the Holy Mass is no longer held there since 2016 with the church open only for rites (such as weddings). Lithuanians make up 3% of the Du Bois inhabitants. Previously, Du Bois also had a Lithuanian Independent Club which has been closed down ~2016.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA No Comments

Northern Coal Region (Scranton)

Northern Coal region is among the most Lithuanian areas of the USA

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Pennsylvania, USA No Comments

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.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC No Comments