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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.

 


The map

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

Interactive map of Pennsylvania Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

It was getting dark when we arrived in Dubois. Dark, but not too dark. We were late by 10 minutes, as we wanted to maximize our time in the Southern Coal Region. But we weren't too late in order to see the interior of Lithuanian church. While our helper in the city Jonas Baltrus managed to keep it open longer than usual, daylight was needed to picture the interior.

It was surprising to find such an impressive church so far away from other "Lithuanian" towns of America. From DuBois, we had to drive 2 more hours together with Jonas Baltrus to Pittsburgh where he lives now, and the same 2 hours were required to come from the Southern Coal region.

And, despite this distance, DuBois Lithuanian community was significant. It had its own cemetery and its own club. Everything looked eerily empty nowadays: the church, the club, the cemetery. But the church is open everyday, even if no mass is held there. That's a difference. DuBois must be a safer city than many others where Lithuanian historic buildings exist...

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 28

More info on the Destination America expedition

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