Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest US state.

The Lithuanian community here is also small in extent, concentrated in a single district of Providence. This district, however, has numerous Lithuanian buildings and monuments.

Until being closed down in 2017, St. Casimir Lithuanian church was its hub. This church was constructed in 1934-1935; it is now used by a non-Catholic denomination. Unlike in the other neighboring states, there were never any more Lithuanian churches in Rhode Island.

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Next to St. Casimir church stands a memorial to the Lithuanians that commemorates all the groups of Lithuanian people the Providence Lithuanians though to be especially worthy of commemoration. Like many Lithuanian memorials in the USA, it is dedicated to "Lithuanians who fought and died for freedom and those who perished in labor and concentration camps during 50 years of Lithuania's occupation". It is also dedicated to the 5 Lithuanian men from the parish who perished while fighting for the USA in World War 2. And it is dedicated to "Lithuanian Americans who built St. Casimir's church and endowed it with strong faith and rich traditions". The monumental stone is crowned by a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross, merging the Christian and pagan symbolics.

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Not far away from the church stands the American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club of Rhode Island. It was established in 1914 as an organization to help sick or distressed Lithuanian-American members but gradually transformed into a venue of Lithuanian activities. It constructed the current building in 1955, however, it closed its doors for good during the COVID pandemic in 2020, becoming one of several Lithuanian-American clubs to not survive the COVID restrictions. Local enthusiasts attempted to convert a building into a cultural space for the current inhabitants of the district and (more controversially) a homeless shelter, however, as of now, the building stands abandoned. The Lithuanian bas-relief and sign still survive. The interior consists of two floors, with a bar in the basement and the main hall on the upper floor.

Rhode Island Lithuanian club

Rhode Island Lithuanian club

Rhode Island Lithuanian club bas-relief

Rhode Island Lithuanian club bas-relief

Both the Lithuanian church and the club were greatly hit by the changing fortunes of the district surrounding them: it has became associated with criminals and drug addicts, making many Lithuanians unwilling to use these premises anymore. In their final years, therefore, both institutions were frequented by just some 10-20 Lithuanians with significant Lithuanian activities no longer taking place. ~3500 Lithuanians live in Rhode Island today, no longer concentrated in any single district.

Despite a small Lithuanian community Rhode Island is unique for having Lithuanian independence day as an official holiday. The law § 25-2-28 "Lithuanian Independence Day" declares: "The sixteenth day of February shall annually be set aside as a day to be known as "Lithuanian Independence Day." The day is to be observed by the people of this state with appropriate exercises in public places".

The first Lithuanians are said to have arrived to the state in the year 1898. In 1907 already, however, "The Providence Journal" counted 1700 Lithuanians. Like in many other places, at first, Lithuanians cooperated with Poles in establishing a parish together. The St. Adalbert Polish parish had some 25% Lithuanian membership at the time it was founded in 1902. However, as elsewhere, this led to friction between the nations. Poles typically wanted to keep the "status quo" brought from Lithuania at the time, where Polish language was the language of literature, science, and faith for both nations, while the Lithuanian language was relegated to family conversations. Lithuanians, on the other hand, were undergoing a major national revival and sought to celebrate their own language and culture within the parish. As such, Lithuanian separated in 1919. Temporarily praying in the cathedral, they acquired a former Greek Orthodox Church in 1921. After the current church was built in 1935, the old church was transformed into a Lithuanian school. This school was replaced by a larger school building in 1938.


Map of the Lithuanian sites

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

Map of Rhode Island Lithuanian sites

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Rhode Island, USA Leave a comment
Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. My brother is one of those 5 Lithuanians on the memorial in front of St Casimir ‘s in Providence. I couldn’t tell from your picture. His name is Joseph Edward Szarko. I am Maurice A. Szarko. I am 98 years old and live in Florida.

  2. I was the sponsor of the legislation to recognize Lithuanian Independence Day. God bless Lithuania!

  3. Where is the
    Lithuanian Bakery
    I am new to R.I.

  4. Man teko gyvent Providence 1991metais jau tada buvo nykstanti lietuviu bendruomene veike dar Lietuviu klubas veike baznycia . Lietuviu vaikai beveik nekalba lietuviskai pagrinda sudare diipukai atvyke po antro pasaulinio karo pensininkai.Puikus zmones buvo Gerveliai ,Sakaliai,Tribuisiai,Pranas Betaitis, Kazys Gaidimas, Kiela….

  5. The Lithiuanians use to buy their black bread from the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in East Putnam, CT, but they stopped producing it due to shrinking numbers of nuns.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.