South Norwood Photo Studio —1 St James Avenue (now gone)

John Klukas, a photographer who operated his business out of this location. He was one of two photographers operated photo studios in South Norwood. Alexander Lapinsky had a studio around the corner at 1084 Washington. Many of Norwood’s immigrant population liked to have their pictures taken, as it was an affordable way to memorial important people and days, and they could send the photographs to family members they left behind in the old country.

St George Roman Catholic Church Convent/Rectory/School (photo Google Street View)

St George Roman Catholic Church Convent/Rectory/School – 35 St James Avenue

In 1926, under Fr. Taskunas, a rectory was added. Up until this point the priest lived in an apartment on Chapel Street and paid rent. In early 1950s, Rev. Felix Norburt, with the support of the congregation, raised funds to build a catholic school, which was dedicated in 1955. The school lasted for only thirty years, and by 1985 they did not have enough children to support the school, and sadly decided to close its doors. The building was repurposed as a convent and became the home to the Vanas Order. When St George Roman Catholic Church closed in 2004, then convent also closed. Today these buildings are private homes.

St George Roman Catholic Church – 37 St. James Avenue

St George Roman Catholic Church (photo LLKearney)

The Lithuanians were the first ethic group to establish a church in South Norwood.  By 1905 there was a large Lithuanian population in South Norwood. The only Lithuanian Mass was in South Boston, and many did not have the means to travel that far. They did attend Mass at St. Catherine’s in the center of town, but although the actual Mass was in Latin, which they knew, the sermons and community was English and even some Gaelic. A priest was assigned, Father Krasnickas, who had permission from Fr. Thomas McCormack, pastor of St. Catherine’s, to allow a Lithuanian Mass to be said in the Columbia Hall, which was the wooden building on the site of what is now the St. Catherine’s rectory. This was a temporary scheme until the Lithuanians could raise the funds to build their church. By 1912 the St. George Society was looking to build their own church. Three members purchased three parcels of land on Baker Avenue (now St. James Avenue), and in 1913 transferred the titles over to the Archdiocese of Boston for the intent of Lithuanian Parish of St. George.  St. George’s Roman Catholic Church was built in 1915 and dedicated in September of 1916 with day long events including a parade, bands, visiting clergy, sports and games. An evening picnic was held which over 5000 people attended. A rectory was soon added and in 1950 a convent was built to house the nuns who taught the Sunday school.  Father A. Daugis was appointed first pastor of this parish. The Church also had a large meeting hall, that contributed to the life of South Norwood by allowing various groups of hold meetings over the years. Of instance, the Norwood Girl Scouts frequently held their meetings here.

Church Steeple (photo LLKearney)

However, not all Lithuanians were churchgoing types and a socialist/anti-Catholic sect of Lithuanians also were active in South Norwood and they built and met at the Lithuanian Hall on St. George Avenue.  The competition for the souls of the local Lithuanians was at many times fierce between the two groups.  Two additional houses of worship were built in succeeding years, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Polish church 1920, and St. George’s Syrian Orthodox Church, on Atwood Ave in 1921.

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For almost ninety years, this St. George Roman Catholic Church served South Norwood’s Lithuanian community.  The last priest to minister to the parishioners here was Father William Wolkovich (“Father Bill”). He was a smart, learned, and kindly man with a wonderful sense of humor. He played the violin. He was good friends with Very Rev. Nifon Abraham of St. George Orthodox Church. Father Bill loved Arabic food and often visited Father Nifon and Kh. Afefee. Father Bill published a book on the Lithuanians of South Norwood, as well as an article of Norwood’s ethnic enclaves. The church held its last formal Mass in 2004. The statute that sat in front of the church the honoring the Lithuanian war dead, was moved to Highland Cemetery. Today the church was been converted to condominiums.

Lithuanian Hall (photo LLKearney)

Lithuanian Hall – 13 St. George Avenue

The Hall was built by the “Freethinkers,” a Lithuanian society that was against church interference and has socialists’ ideology. Infighting between two Lithuanian groups in Norwood (the Catholics and the Socialists) was sometimes very contentious. Both the Catholic group, (the St George Society), and the Freethinkers competed within the Lithuanian immigrant community for members and funds to build facilities. The Freethinkers felt victorious when they dedicated their “hall” almost a full year before St George’s Roman Catholic Church was dedicated in the fall of 1914. The Hall was sometimes referred to as “Bolshevik Hall,” since it was the site of socialist, communist, and radical rallies. It was raided during the Federal Palmer raids, January 1920. Later, it became a popular site for wrestling matches & wedding receptions held in their Butterfly Ballroom. Lithuanian Hall remained a viable social hall through the 1970s. It closed in the 1980s due to declining membership. It was sold to a local mental health agency and became a group home for their clients. Today, it was remodeled and turned into Private homes (condos).

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