This is my research project for University of Baltimore History of Baltimore Class

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lithuanian Hall and Baltimore Lithuanians: There is Much More to Say Than This

My name is Sandra Avizienyte and I am a native born Lithuanian. I moved to Baltimore at the end of 2002 and I live here since. I have been going to the Lithuanian Hall on Hollins Street for the past seven years to drink some Lithuanian beer, to meet other Lithuanians that I usually do not meet regularly, and to attend various concerts and other events that are being held there.
Lithuanian Hall has been a home for the Baltimore Lithuanian Athletic Club for many years, and this is how I started going there. They used to (they still do) organize basketball tournaments twice a year, in a spring and in the fall, and have after game dinner and award ceremony at the hall. My friend Katrina Vitenas is a president of the Lithuanian Athletic Club in Baltimore and she is also an editor of the Baltimore Lithuanian Athletic Club monthly Newsletter that I write to. Actually, I have the whole last page called Sandros Kampas (Sandra’s Corner) where I share my poetry with the rest of the Lithuanian community, both in Lithuanian and in English.
For the past couple of years Lithuanian Hall for me was just another place where you could go out to, and see shows if there were any. However, when I started teaching History at Kristijonas Donelaitis Lithuanian Saturday School in Bethesda, I realized that Lithuanian Hall originally had another purpose and it obtained a different meaning. According to Emily Emerson Lantz, the Hall was built as an educational, social and political center for Lithuanians in Baltimore.[1] It is sad that everyone because of the suburbanization and because of various neighborhoods’ downfall Lithuanians moved to the suburbs and do not want to come back to the city. There is such a great space we could use to run our school but instead everyone drives down to Washington, DC and uses St. Elizabeth Catholic School’s building. Many might argue that it is more convenient location for both Maryland and Virginia’s residents, but this is not the point I am trying to make.
The point is that people gave up. Everyone is so focused on themselves and making money, on buying better cars or larger houses more than on what is the most essential - a community, a sense of belonging. But who am I to judge? I did not do anything myself. I met and talked with some older generation people, shared their experiences, but, again, went back to my busy life the same way everyone else did. However, I want to take some time and share some things I found out while I did my research.

“Don’t bother searching out Jones Town, Ridgley’s Delight or Little Lithuanian unless your map is museum property,” Jacques Kelly, a News American reporter, wrote in 1974.[2] Cartographers erased the first two locations in the early 1800’s and Little Lithuania never made it. Even though Lithuanian Hall in Baltimore is located on the West side of the city, at 581 Hollins Street, original Lithuanians settlement was established on the east side of the city. Baltimore’s first Lithuanians “settled in what is now called Jones town in about 1800.”[3] Here they organized societies and a church. As the population grew, it moved westward, setting for a short period of time on lower Park Avenue. In 1917 they adopted St. Alphonsus Church on Park Avenue and Saratoga Street corner, and it has been the Lithuanian Church in Baltimore since.
In 1920’s they had moved even more west and arrived at 800 block of Hollins Street and Lombard Street. They established Lithuanian Hall there, even though many families and their children moved to the suburbs, and many members of the older generations still live in Catonsville, Helethrope and parts of Howard and even Montgomery counties.[4] According to the 1978 Maryland Our Maryland, an Ethnic directory data, there were about 2000 Lithuanians living in the metropolitan Baltimore area.[5] However, I was not able to find the current number of people that reside in Baltimore or Maryland.

Dr. William F. Laukaitis in Baltimore Municipal Journal: Baltimore 200th Anniversary, 1729-1929 noted that after the populations of Lithuanians increased after 1900’s Lithuanian hall was build “by the joint contributions of the various beneficial and fraternal orders and the people as the whole, represented an outlay of some three hundred thousand dollars.”[6] The new Lithuanian hall Association was incorporated in 1914, and was opened for services in 1921.[7] Doric in design, it was designed by the architect Stanislaus Russell. On the stone pediment above the front of the building is carved the coat-of-arms of Lithuania.[8] The building is constructed from the Indiana limestone and tapestry bricks. Its dimensions are 66 by 150 feet, fronting upon Hollins Street and extending along Parkin Street to Boyd Street.[9] It is three store building with two store attachment in the back. There is a hall with a stage in the second floor with a seating capacity up to 1500.
There is a pool table room, full bar, kitchen, a conference room and a dance floor in the basement. It also houses the Lithuanian Library, which had its beginnings in 1891, the Lithuanian Museum, which collects the arts and crafts of the Lithuanian culture, the Lithuanian Athletic Club, which participates in the North American Lithuanian games and local competitions, and the Lithuanian Post 154 of the American Legion. The Hall was used by choir Daina for their practices and rehearsals, and it is still used by the traditional Lithuanian dance group Malunas for dance practices.[10]
It also hosts concerts, performances and plays of various local and visiting artists. It is also very important to mention that Lithuanian Melody Time radio program originated here. It has been running for the past 60 years without interruption. I had an honor to meet Kestutis Laskauskas, an original director and announcer, and spend a full afternoon with him sharing his personal life stories and experiences. It was so amazing to hear him in person after I heard him on radio for many times.
There is also another person, Alfonsas Nyka-Nyliunas, born in 1919 that still lives in Catonsville and is Mr. Laskauskas neighbor. Nyka- Nyliunas is one of the most influential writers in Lithuania’s poetry, and one of my favorite authors to read. I hope and pray that I will have an opportunity to meet him too before it is too late.

[1] Emily Emerson Lantz. “Lithuanian Hall Is Fine New Club House On Site Of Old Winans Home: he Lithuanian Hall Association Has Completed A Commodious And Attractive Building That Is Designed To Be A Center Of Lithuanian Social, Educational And Political Activities In Baltimore.” The Sun (1837-1985), September 11, 1921, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed December 4 2009).
[2] Jacques Kelly. “Little Lithuanian, Jones Town and Ridgley’s Delight back on the map.” The News American, July 22, 1974. Enoch Pratt Library: Maryland Room Archives, accessed November 18, 2009.
[3] Ibid, p.1.
[4] Ruth Kent, Carolyn Dunn and Barbara Spencer, Lithuanians. Baltimore City Public Schools Ethnic Heritage Studies Program, 1979, Enoch Pratt Library: Maryland Room Archives, accessed November 18, 2009, p.4
[5] Ibid
[6] William F. Laukaitis “The Lithuanians in Baltimore,” Baltimore Municipal Journal: Baltimore 200th Anniversary, 1729-1929, p. 265-267, ed. Robert Irvin, September 5, 1929. Enoch Pratt Library, accessed November 18, 2009.
[7] Cezaris Surdokas, Lithuania and Lithuanians in Baltimore, 1981 Pamphlet, Enoch Pratt Library: Maryland Room Archives, accessed November 18, 2009.
[8] Lantz, p.1
[9] Ibid
[10] Surdokas, p.3

Old Lithuanian Hall Video

http://lietuvis.net/Lietuvis/lha/lha.html To retrieve a short film about the Lithuanian Hall, Library and Museum, go the link and press on LOGO

Friday, December 4, 2009

Future Plan

I am planning to write a final paper/video for this by the end of this week, and even when the semester is over, I am planning to keep updating it.


Good Day Everyone!!
Next to the Lithuanian Hall and its activities, there is Athletic Club that organizes many events, makes people come together and keeps community together. This is what I found on their Facebook page:

The present day Athletic Club has undergone many changes as it has evolved from the early 1900s. On August 25, 1915, the Lithuanian American Athletic Club was voted into existance. This Club was chartered to promote brotherly love, love for the Lithuanian homeland, and spiritual and physical development. The first home of the Club was at 539 Washington Boulevard. The Club sponsored basketball, bowling, children's gymnastics, and a theater group. They even organized a scout group that planted the Lithuanian Oak in Annapolis which still grows to this day. Just as the present Club supports the Lithuanian athletes in the Olympics, our ancestors financially supported the Lithuanian Olympics in Kaunas in 1938.
World War II sadly brought an end to the inaugural Athletic Club. However, after the war, the large influx of immigrants represented the Baltimore community in the world of sports. There was a very successful basketball team as well as individuals who performed very well at the local school level. Ice hockey and soccer championships were won at Calvert Hall College with teams comprised of many Lithuanian athletes. During this time, the Baltimore professional teams were also represented with Lithuanian athletes such as Eddie Waitkus with the Orioles and the legendary Johnnie Unitas with the Colts.
In 1960, the Club was again reorganized under the name Neringa and was established in our present day home, the "Lithuanian Hall". Although the Club's teams were very successful in table tennis and soccer, after winning the Baltimore City Freeburger Trophy in volleyball, Neringa was shortly dissolved.
On March 18, 1972, the Baltimore Lithuanian Athletic Club was chartered by 20 members. The first valdyba consisted of Vaclovas Laukaitis, President, Jonas Kazlauskas, Secretary, and Algis Veliuona, Treasurer. The Club sponsored teams for men's and women's volleyball, table tennis, softball, tennis, and bowling. In 1978, the Club started to participated in the East Coast and North American (SALFASS) games and continues to do so up to the present time. The present day Club is an integral part of the Lithuanian community in Baltimore. In July of 1991, the Club was honored to participate in the IV Lithuanian World Games. The women's volleyball team, and individual tennis and soccer players were among the 45 athletes and tourists who proudly represented the United States as well as Baltimore at this historic event. The club has since returned to Lithuania for the V World Games and is making to attend the next Games in 1998. The Club continues to work closely with and strongly support other local organizations such as Bendruomene, Lithuanian Hall (our home for 25 years), the Lithuanian Museum, Taryba, the Radio Program, and the dance groups. We enjoy a very special and close relationship with the American Legion Lithuanian Post #154 to which many of our founding members belong. We also participate and strongly support the annual Baltimore Lithuanian Festival [which also began in 1972].

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At the Baltimore Sun Archives at the Pratt's Library

Scott Scasick and I went to the Pratt Library's Baltimore Sun archives on Thursday morning to look at the old articles on the micro film. It was quite an experience, and took a lot of time. I found everything, but one article, that i was looking for. Scott had some problems with his reseach. For me it was easy, because a day before I went to the Maryland's room on the second floor and pulled EXACT information about the articles with date and issue number.
However, during my next History of Baltimore class at the University of Baltimore I found out that most of the Baltimore Sun's old articles are online at the Langsdale Library's web-page. How convienient!!!!!!
All you need to do is go online and find it!! It even highlights the "seach words" in the text.
I did not try it yet for my topic, but I will do so as soon as I finish this.
Happy Thanksgiveing everyone!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

On the way to Maryland's room at The Pratt's Library

Scott Scasick and I we went together to the Pratt's library both las wednesday and Thursday mornings to look for some information about our topics. Honestly, if it was not for Scott and his determination I would have waited until the last minute.
It was an excelent experience, I should say. I spend Wednesday morning at the Maryland room looking at the old documents, pamphlets and old magazines articles.
I found less information than I expected, but it made me look for it even more.
However, I found what I was looking for. It was an article that provided the reasons for why the Lithuanian Hall was built, when it was built and who the architect was.
I will upload the copies of my foundings within the next week and write about it more.

Friday, October 30, 2009

hello everyone

the more i look for information the more i find out that there is much more going out there than i
expected, but the problem is that there is no strong networking or enought information, or one established website EVERYONE would know about, but they are getting there
next week i am planing to meet up and talk to people who run the Lithuanian Hall and
with those who are running the radio show on weekends for the last 60 years non-stop
yes!!we have that too
however, not that many people listen to that anymore