Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton may be far away from the other Lithuanian cities of the USA yet it has significant and lively Lithuanian heritage.

The main Lithuanian site in the area is the Holy Cross Lithuanian church. It is unique because even though it was built in 1912-1923 as a small and rather international-style church (American architect W. L. Jaeckle), it has been totally remodeled in the 194 to become one of the most Lithuanian-looking churches in the USA. Behind that remodeling stood the inventors of the "modern Lithuanian style" Jonas Mulokas, Adolfas Valeška, and V. K. Jonynas. While the small frame of the church limited their possibilities to create a Lithuanian facade with Baroque-inspired towers, they did what they could, adding a Lithuanian-forms steeple and many pretty stained-glass windows.

Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church

Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church

The side windows are each based on a Lithuanian chapel-post (koplystulpis), a traditional wooden religious post that is considered part of the UNESCO-inscribed Lithuanian cross-crafting tradition. The stained glass windows behind the altar represent the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai, at the time suffering the Soviet attempts of demolition. The side-altars are made of traditional Lithuanian woodcarving, crowned with sun-crosses. Even small details, such as the church main door, were not missed: they are now covered in Columns of Gediminas.

Altar of the Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church

Altar of the Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church

Dayton Lithuanian church during a mass

Dayton Lithuanian church during a mass

Stained-glass windows of the Dayton Lithuanian church

Stained-glass windows of the Dayton Lithuanian church

Columns of Gediminas on the Dayton Lithuanian chruch entrance

Columns of Gediminas on the Dayton Lithuanian chruch entrance

Interior of Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church

Interior of Dayton Holy Cross Lithuanian church with the side-altar in-sight

Like many Lithuanian-American churches, the Dayton one also has the first floor of size equal to the main hall where community events take place, one of the major ones being the Kūčios (Christmas Eve dinner). There are many ethnic details, including a pretty hand-crafted wooden Lithuanian coat of arms (with an inscription "Let Lithuania live"), created by Antanas Lukoševičius in 1914, making it older than the Republic of Lithuania. There are other ethnic woodcarvings there as well, many of them made by the prolific local Lithuanian dievdirbys ("Godmaker") George A. Mikalauskas.

First floor of the Dayton Holy Cross church with the 1914 coat of arms

First floor of the Dayton Holy Cross church with the 1914 coat of arms

Outside the church stands a massive Shrine of Three Crosses that has been dedicated in 1964 to the Martyrs of Lithuania: hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians who had perished in the Soviet Genocide or were expelled from Lithuania, many of them for their religious beliefs or ethnic consciousness. The shrine also symbolically imitates the Three Crosses monument in downtown Vilnius, which had been destroyed at the time (with Lithuania independent, it has been since rebuilt). The original Three Crosses of Vilnius are, however, made of concrete, while the Dayton Three Crosses are made of the more traditional wood.

Three crosses shrine at the Dayton Lithuanian church

Three crosses shrine at the Dayton Lithuanian church

Church grounds also has a St. John shrine (1967) with Lithuanian sponsors listed and a Lithuanian flag constantly waving together with the American one. Inside there is also a Lithuanian flag and a Hungarian flag - as Hungarian church has been closed, Lithuanians have accepted them into their own church.

St. John shrine at Dayton

St. John shrine at Dayton

The street next to the church is named "Rita St."; according to the locals, it is named after a Lithuanian although so far it remains unclear who that Lithuanian was or why the street was named so.

Old North Dayton neighborhood where the church is located was historically inhabited by immigrants who clung around their churches. On the entrance to the area near the bridge stand multiple memorials. The flags of the main immigrant ethnicities are constantly waving, among them the Lithuanian flag. There is also a mural of immigrants that also incorporates the Lithuanian flag. Other flags are American, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Irish, Turkish, and German.

Memorial with the flags in Old North Dayton

Memorial with the flags in Old North Dayton

Building with a mural at Old North Dayton

Building with a mural at Old North Dayton

International mural at Old North Dayton

International mural at Old North Dayton

Old North Dayton also had a Lithuanian Club. However, it has been sold to Czechs and Slovaks in 1999 and no details of Lithuanian history remains (now it is a Czechoslovak Club). There is also a surviving Lithuanian restaurant called "Amber Rose" as it is owned by Ambrose (originally Ambrazaitis) family. Among its "Lithuanian dishes" there is a turtle soup. This dish is unknown in Lithuania and has been popularized already after the Dayton Lithuanians migrated to the USA. As locals have explained, it happened in World War 2 years when the meat was heavily rationed but no restrictions on turtles remained. To this day, "Lithuanian turtle soup" is also served during the Lithuanian festivals.

Former Lithuanian club of Old North Dayton

Former Lithuanian club of Old North Dayton

The map

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

Interactive map of Dayton (OH) Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Ohio, USA Leave a comment
Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.


Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.