Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Travel Tuesday: Lithuanian Chicago - The Balzekas Museum

I finally have time to write more about my week in Chicago, Illinois, in early August, 2017.  My husband and I took the train there and visited my son, but as he had to work most of the time we were there, we also did a genealogy grand tour.  For four days, we visited areas in and around Chicago related to my family - the northern suburbs of Wilmette and Evanston, the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park / West Ridge, and the southern neighborhoods where Lithuanian immigrants settled in the early 1900s.  As we were staying in the southern Lincoln Park area near my son's home, I also walked to a couple churches and drove by some other site in Old Town and other areas.  So, for the next few weeks, I'll be posting a lot about what I saw.

I'm going to start with what was actually our second full day in Chicago, Tuesday, August 8, when we drove down to the early Lithuanian neighborhoods.  To get oriented, our first stop was at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture.

This museum is located in a former hospital at 6500 South Pulaski Road, a main thoroughfare in south Chicago.  It was founded in 1966 by Stanley Balzekas, Jr., in a different location, next to the former site of the family's automobile dealership in the Brighton Park neighborhood, where many Lithuanian immigrants lived.   In 1986, it moved to its present location.  The year 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the museum, as announced on attractive banners both inside and outside the building.

The museum has a number of permanent exhibits, my favorite being the Women’s Guild Room, which features Lithuanian folk arts: items made with amber, Christmas decorations and Easter eggs, dolls, and traditional Lithuanian costumes and textiles. I will have a number of pictures of these in future posts.  I would have liked to see the Children's Room, but it was not open the day we were there.

A semi-permanent exhibit on “No Home To Go To: The Story of Baltic Displaced Persons, 1944-1952” was on an upper floor of the museum.  The museum also offers genealogy research, special events and folk art classes, and an annual tour in Lithuania, as well as a gift shop.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

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