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Detroit, Michigan

Like other industrial megalopolises of the USA Detroit attracted a Lithuanian community since well before World War 2. Detroit Lithuanians worked at the automobile factories of what was the world automobile manufacturing capital (it still is the home for Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler). 4879 Lithuanians lived in Detroit during the 1930 census.

St. Anthony Roman Catholic Lithuanian church was built in 1920 in Southwest Detroit (1750 25th St.). The massive brick building has two floors. The main church hall is on the second floor while the first (ground) floor once housed a Lithuanian school. Later it had only a chapel where ordinary Sunday Mass was held (the diminishing parish no longer needed main upper hall and elderly people find it hard to ascend the stairs). Also on the first floor a large hall for parish meetings after the mass was located, its walls covered with pictures of Lithuanian cities, a list of people killed by Russian soldiers on January 13, 1991, and similar memorabilia. Another small room was dedicated to a museum. The church was closed in 2013.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church. The building to the left is Lithuanian Hall. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

A nicely renovated building on the opposite side of W Vernor Highway still bears the words „Lithuanian Hall“ on its facade. Now owned by real estate developer and transformed into rental offices it was once constructed by the parish and used for the community celebrations (holidays, marriages). On the surrounding private homes, you may still see names of the Lithuanians who once inhabited them.

Facade of the Lithuanian Hall building. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

But like all over Detroit some buildings are now abandoned or burned out. Detroit population more than halved after the 1967 racial riots and the city is now 85% Black with most Whites having left for suburbs. The area around St. Anthony church is now however dominated by Hispanics and is known as Mexicantown. It is safer than average Detroit area. Most of the Lithuanians moved to the suburbs, but Mexicantown still has the largest percentage of Lithuanians in Detroit area.

Like many Detroit houses, this one is abandoned. The old advertisement still reminds of the Valys Bauza (Lithuanian name) funeral home. The house was constructed in 1930 when the city and the Lithuanian district were still thriving. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

St. Anthony parish was the strongest immediately after World War 2 when a large share of the Lithuanian intellectual elite emigrated to the USA fearing Soviet persecutions. In these days the church was too small for the congregation and many people had to partake in the Mass from outside the building. In some 1985 the church was damaged by fire but repaired afterward. Until 2009 the daily mass was still celebrated (twice daily on Sundays). However, in 2009, the priest died and only a single weekly Sunday mass remained. There was no mass in any other language, therefore the building became scarcely used and its parking is used by the owners of Lithuanian Hall in weekdays. In 2011 the bishop of Detroit decided to abolish the parish, which was done in 2013.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church main hall (2nd floor) interior. Lithuanian and US flags stand beside the altar. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In Detroit (more correctly, its suburb Southfield) there is a more lively Lithuanian parish, dedicated to Divine Providence (255335 W 9 Mile Road). This church moved together with its community. Its roots are in the St. George church within Detroit City limits (constructed in 1908). In 1949 a new God‘s Wisdom church was constructed further from the center. During the 1960s highway construction program both churches were demolished to make way for new wide roads. Bishop wanted to abolish the parishes but Lithuanians collected the necessary funds to build and support a new Divine Providence church (1972). As it is not in the poor Detroit but in the rich suburbs it is frequented by newer, younger immigrants as well. There are sports and other events, ateitininkai, šauliai, boy scouts, ethnic dance and other organizations. Lithuanian language school works on Saturdays. The church is low-roof and small, with a modern triangular leaning tower.

Divine Providence church. Extensive single-floored building for social needs is nearby. Google street view.

Interesting Lithuanian memento may be found in the eerily empty streets of downtown Detroit. On a building in Grand River Avenue and Times Square corner hangs a memorial plaque with a sole Lithuanian inscription „Čia gimė Fluxus įkūrėjas Jurgis Mačiūnas“. The English translation is not provided (it would be „The founder of Fluxus George Mačiūnas was born here“). It is likely an art object created by some follower of Mačiūnas, a Lithuanian-American avant-garde artist. In reality, Jurgis Mačiūnas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania (1931) and emmigrated to the USA in 1948. There is no information about this plaque available online – please write in the comment section if you know more about it.

False George Mačiūnas memorial plaque. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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  1. Lankiausi Detroite 2012 m. kovą. Buvo labai įdomu sudalyvauti Šv. Mišiose Šv. Antano lietuviškoje bažnyčioje. Džiugu, kad pavyko – naujos informacijos paie mišių laiką internete nėra – tebėra sena informacija, kad Šv. Mišios laikomos kasdien, o sekmadieniais – du kartus. Iš tikro laikomos tik sekmadieniais rytais – laimė, kaip tik tuo laiku ir atėjome.

    Neįprasta kunigui lietuviškai prašant pasimelsti už vyksupą girdėti ne Audrio Juozo, bet anglišką Detroito vyskupo vardą. Kadangi buvau per verbų sekmadienį nustebino ir amerikietiškos verbos – palmių šakelės (vietinius kitokios nustebintų).

    Bendruomenėje daugiausiai vyresnio amžiaus žmonės, vienas buvo 102 metų amžiaus. Tai antrosios bangos (~1950 m.) imigrantai, kai kurie jau gimę Amerikoje, bet labai prisirišę prie lietuviškos bendruomenės. Priėmė labai maloniai, ne vienas priėjo pasisveikinti (dalis lietuviškai, dalis angliškai), aprodė bažnyčią, įleido į šiaip uždarytą didžiąją salę. Daug iš to, ką čia surašiau, sužinojau iš tos parapijos narių – kitur internete ar knygose to nėra užfiksuota. Amerikoje įprasta, kad su į bendruomenę atėjusiais nepažįstamais bendraujama, tuo tarpu Lietuvoje taip būna labai retai – šiuo atveju Detroito lietuviai panašūs į amerikiečius. Ir šiaip mišios jiems ir bendruomenės susitikimas – po mišių visi kelioms valandoms susirenka parapijos salėje, kvietė ir mus prisijungti. Prieš mišias irgi nėra tabu, kaip Lietuvoje, ne pašnibždomis kalbėtis tarpusavyje pačioje koplyčioje.

    Klebonas buvo atsiųstas iš Lietuvos, aptarnaujantis ir kitą Detroito parapiją, o patarnavo ne lietuviai. Dalis giesmių buvo lietuviškos, dalis angliškos, atliktos vienuolių. Lietuviškas parapijonys giedojo labiau.

    Tuo tarpu J. Mačiūno memorialinę lentą aptikau visai netikėtai vaikštinėdamas po ištuštėjusį Detroito centrą.

    Pats Detroitas paliko didžiulį įspūdį, visgi kadaise turtingiausias JAV miestas, dabar toks tuščias ir niūrus. Atmosfera, kokios niekur kitur nėra – pusiau apleistas pirmojo pasaulio didmiestis, su greitkeliais, išdegusiais prabangiais namais, apleistais dangoraižiais ir žemės ūkio paskirties žeme bei parkingais ten, kur stovėjo milžiniški prekybos centrai. Tikrai verta apsilankyti, nors dauguma vietinių amerikiečių turbūt jus atkalbinės, kaip atkalbinėjo ir mus, jiems žlugęs Detroitas tam tikra jų šalies piktžaizdė.

    Apsilankymas lietuviškoje Šv. Antano bažnyčioje buvo vienas įdomiausių kelionės momentų.

  2. The Lithuanian Hall,across Vernor from St. Anthony’s, was owned by Mexican Americans when I was a little girl in the 1950’s. it was called “Espanos Unidos” and the Lithuanian community rented space for various social activities. So many of my formative experiences took place in that hall, or at St. Anthony’s.

  3. 1. Actually, the priest at St.Anthony did not just die. He finally got real tired and retired – went back to Lithuania – to Birstonas in fact, where he had purchased a house on the shore of Nemunas. 2. Back in the 1940’s, the Lithuanian Hall, across the street from St. Anthony, was purchased by the Spanish, not the Mexican community, and therefore it was called Hispanos Unidos Hall. In those days there actually was a Spanish community in Detroit ! Mexicans were few in number and relative paupers, in no financial position to purchase large buildings.

  4. Labai aciu! Wonderful information! My father and his mother emigrated to Chicago, then to Detroit, around 1950. Mt Lithuanian- born wife and I have kept the heritage alive with our daughter, and she attended Divine Providence Lithuanian Church (Southfield) Saturday school.

  5. In 1938-39,,I was 2-3 years old. My parents had a store on 24th street near West Vernor Highway. My sister was born in 1938. My mother was very busy running the store (my father worked for Ward Baking Company) and caring for a newborn. So she asked the nuns at St. Anthony’s if I could attend school there. They agreed. So I attended in a classroom with students of several grades. At the end of the school year, the nuns said I could return in September and I could go into the first grade, as I had learned what I needed to become a first grader. My parents were unable to afford the tuition, so I didn’t return. I did learn to speak some Lithuanian and said my prayers in Lithuanian. Imagine, a little Irish girl saying her prayers in Lithuanian.

  6. My mother and father owned Altytaus Bar on Michigan and 23rd street. Detroit MI
    The name Alytaus is the city where my father’s family came from in Lithuania.
    My father and mother were very instrumental in assisting many of the displaced people from Lithuania after ww2 to help them accimulate to the United States.

  7. I remember going to 7th and 8th grade there.I became an altar boy there and remember the hall across the street had a small store on the ground floor had many a cherry coke there

  8. My grandfather, Antanas Zimnicky, came from Alytaus too, moving to Scotland in the early 1900s. He and my grandma married in 1905 and emigrated to the US in 1906. They helped found St. Peter’s

  9. I just stumbled on this page and I’m so glad I did! My great grandfather came from Lithuania (Pasvytinis, near Joniskis) in 1917, and our family Americanized very quickly – consequently, we were not particularly involved with the greater Lithuanian community. We originally settled down in Chicago, but we’ve been migrating eastward ever since, and I myself live in Detroit. Finding a page like this helps me to establish a connection with my roots, thank you!

    • Youtube is too egotistical to undo any changes. To say they may have implemented a few feature which needs detracting? Le gasp, never.Integrating "More Videos by User" and "Related Videos" is a slap in the face.The "Comments" section is ridiculous. I won't be Rating or Commenting on Videos any longer.All changes make perusing on Mobile useless.

  10. Gerb.p. Žemaiti, pasiklausiau Jūsų internete lietuvių abėcėlės tarimo.
    Dėkoju ir labai vertinu už Jūsų pastangas mokyti lietuvių kalbos. Esu mokytojavusi Amerikiečių mokyklose, taip pat mokiusi savo vaikus ir anūkus lietuvių kalbos. Kalbu iš patirties. Išmokyti juos tos labai paprastos, logika pagrįstos abėcėlės “lietuvišku” metodu neįmanoma. Raidžių garsus reikia jiems pristatyti taip, kaip jie tariami, BE PRIDĖTŲ GALŪNIŲ. Yra nesąmonė vardinti raidę B kaip BĖ, nes jie tą suprastų kaip du garsus, o tada reiktų valandų aiškinimo. Mokytojai tiek laiko skirti negali. Reikia viską supaprastinti. O tas yra lietuvių kalbos ypatingas privalumas, kad raidžių tarimas nesikeičia!! A visada tariama A, B visada B, C visada C. (Mažas išimtis, pvz. Ą su nosine, lengva paaiškinti – raidės su nosine tariamos ilgiau), taigi, ne bė, cė, dė, f (kodėl ne ef?), o paprastą a,b,c,d,f, ir t.t. Čia ne istorinis, bet efektingas mokymas.

    • Dėkui už komentarą. Minėti tarimų įrašai buvo daryti Omniglot svetainei apie alfabetus, o ne tiesiogiai mokymuisi (nors ateityje galvoju padaryti ir specialiai mokymuisi).

      Kalbant apie mokymąsi, tiesos jūsų žodžiuose yra. Tačiau yra viena problema – sprogstamųjų priebalsių (angl. plosives / stop consonants) neįmanoma ištarti po jų nesakant jokio balsio. Todėl, manau, ir atsirado sakymai “bė”, “dė” ir t.t., pasirenkant balsį “ė”. Nes po sprogstamojo priebalsio, kad jis būtų suprastas, reikia atverti burną – o tai ir yra balsis.

      Geras variantas mokyti, atsižvelgiant į gimtąją kalbą, galbūt yra analogiškų garsų radimas mokinių gimtojoje kalboje (dar geriau: radimas gimtojoje kalboje atvejų, kai ta pati raidė tariama vienodai, kaip lietvių kalboje). Pavyzdžiui, aiškinant “g” anglakalbiams galima pasakyti, kad ji “visuomet tariama tik kaip žodyje golf”, o “ž” anglakalbiams galima apibrėžti kaip “s” žodyje “measure” ir pan.

  11. My Mothers family migrated from Lithuania and resided on a street that started with a M in the Luthuanian section off of Vernor Highway. Their name was Tauktus. Would be interested in any information about them that anyone could provide.

    • We may offer you heritage search services in the Lithuanian archives if you are interested. You could learn more about the lives of your forefathers while they still lived in Lithuania.

    • Hi, David. My Lithuanian paternal grandparents lived on Cahalan just west of Mullane Street until their death in 1982. Please check for starters regarding your mother and her family. There may be census information on them depending when they lived in southwest Detroit. Also, has many Polk City Directories available on their site. Ancestry, Library Edition, is accessible at most public libraries. Polk City Directories are available at the Burton Historical Collection, Main Library, Woodward Avenue, Detroit. Finally, there are Facebook groups helping me with my Lithuanian ancestry search. Please check there, too!

  12. Jieskau Adomuko arba Jono Butaviciu gyvenusiu Detroite arba jo apylinkese seimos nariu. Jie mano mamos ata, dedes.

  13. We got married in 1956 at the Church of Devine Providence. Father Kundrat married us. My mother donated the full size painting of Jesus on the cross in back of the alter We no longer live in Michigan. Trying to find out what happened to it after they tore the church down to build a freeway. By the front door was a plaque that said it was in memory of Frank Radville donated by Anna and Helen Dawahare. I hope it was not destroyed. And yes we are Lithuania, but like for so many the name was changed. Any information would be truly appreciated.

    • I meant to write Anna and Helen Radville not Dawahare.

    • Hello,
      Your e-mail was forwarded to me by the site administrator. Since it has been at least 60 years since the painting was donated, it is difficult to determine its whereabouts. It may have been donated to the Archdiocese of Detroit, who may have given it to another parish. It is possible that the receiving parish may have closed. There are many variables. I will provide you with some resources so that you can research this further: Archdiocese of Detroit –; tel. (313) 237-5800. Divine Providence Lithuanian Church, 25335 W. Nine Mile Rd., Southfield, MI 48233, tel. # (248) 354-3429, pastor – Rev. Gintaras A. Jonikas; website:
      Hope you find this information useful for your purposes!
      Good luck in your endeavor to locate the painting. It may also be helpful to know the exact size of the painting and the artist’s name and date of painting.
      Divine Providinc

  14. My greetings to all Lithuanians from me, an Italian-American, highly respectful of all Lithuanians (my cousin married a Lithuanian). My parents were married in Detroit, Michigan, in St. George’s church in 1935. We lived on Hindle avenue. Down the street at Hindle and Westminster was St. George’s church and school. I started school there in September 1940. My Italian mother would say that I was able to recite prayers in Lithuanian. Years later, in 1959, I was attending medical school in Baltimore, Maryland. One evening during that summer, I attended a Catholic youth meeting at a suburban Baltimore home. As the event concluded, I was walking out the front door, and, in front of me, was a priest. Since I have a good heart, I asked the priest if he had a way to get to where he was going. He said…no. It was surprising since he had gotten out to suburban Baltimore some way. I offered him a ride to wherever he was going. He said he was going to the Baltimore Cathedral, in downtown Baltimore. I said that I lived in downtown, also, since I was in medical school, there. And, I attended that church. So, as we were driving along, he said he was visiting the Baltimore Cathedral for a 3 month stay—from St. George’s church in Detroit! I have always remembered that evening. Now, I think I would like to re-learn the Lords Prayer that I learned from the Nun’s—in Lithuanian!!

  15. Thanks for all the information

  16. this is a wonderful site. So many helping and sharing. My grandparents Andrew and Teophillia Zlatarinskas used to visit their friends in Detroit form Chicago in the 1920’s and 1930’s. i still recall many of my grandmothers stories. And her showing me her pictures form her visits. i am glad I kept many of her pictures.

  17. I have just very recently discovered that my paternal grandmother, Petrona, or Patricia Misukaitis is Lithuanian through DNA.
    Her mother, Margaret Misukiatis and sisters, Mary and Theresa moved from Pennsylvania after her father (William’s) death in the early 1920’s.
    I am writing this to try to posibly gain more information through possible connections, knowing that they belonged to St Anthony’s Parish.
    In 1940 the Federal Census shows that Margaret was a Lodger with the Karl Belskas Family on 25th Street, as was a John Zenimikais, a proprietor of a “beer garden.
    I am looking for information on the Misukiatis surname, in the Detroit area and to learn more about my newly found Lithuanian Heritage. Thank you.

  18. Great informational site (stumbled across it accidently via FB).

    My Great-Grandfather John Ploplis (1875-1943) was from Bartninkai, Jurbarkas, arrived to Detroit in 1896 via New York. He married my GGM Anna Klara Lukomska in the eastside church St. Albertus near Hamtramck. They were the second couple to be married there. John’s brother Mathias (1874-1911) arrived 1 year earlier. I do not any information of the family in Lithuania. I do have a few fotos.

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