Part IV: The Lithuania Community of Cleveland Since World War II
By 1960 the old Lithuanian Hall on Superior Avenue was becoming too small to accomodate the active civic, social, cultural and political life of Cleveland’s Lithuanians, so a corporation called Lithuanian Village, Inc. was formed to make plans for a new and larger community center. Two thousand shares were sold at $25 each, enabling community leaders to have much needed working capital on hand.
A fire at the old Lithuanian Hall in 1971 spurred plans for the new community center and a year later the Board of Directors of Lithuanian Village, Inc. bought an old residential home at 877 E. 185th Street for $70,000 and laid plans for a Lithuanian Community Center on the site. Construction began July 5, 1972 and a two story community center with a hall, dining room, club facilities, and meeting rooms was dedicated a year later on August 19, 1973.
In elaborate ceremonies that symbolized the realization of a long held dream the Rev. Balys Ivanauskas, Pastor of St. George’s Church blessed the cornerstone. The building itself, named the Lithuanian Community Center, was blessed by the Rev. Kęstutis Žemaitis. On hand for the ceremony, which also symbolized a rejuvenation of business and civic activity in the area, were Cleveland’s Mayor, Ralph J. Perk, and Cuyahoga County Auditor George V. Voinovich.
The Lithuanian Community Center, which also housed the American Lithuanian Citizens‘ Club discussed earlier, became a reality due to the long, dedicated work of the Board of Directors: Joseph Stempužis, President and members Zen Dučmanas, Vacys Vinclovas, Edvardas Stepas, Pranas Stempužis, John Apanovitch, George Malskis, Zigmas Tarutis, Ernest Samas, Stasys Lukas, Raymond Kudukis, Stasys Mačys, and Jonas Švarcas.
The club and dining room are patronized by 900 members and their families. They are operated by the American Lithuanian Citizens’ Club. Trustees of the Club continue to support civic, athletic and cultural activities and as of 1977 give an annual award of $1,000 for outstanding individual contributions to Lithuanian community life.