10 James and Susan Borchert


church buildings that line either Madison or Quail; the choice of brick or stone building materials in all but the smallest church clearly underlines their concerns for permanence. In contrast to the highly plastic and utilitarian residential landscape, these handsome and monumental church facades introduce a visual splendor and monumentality, while inside, the impressive, finely decorated sanctuaries provide the neighborhood's only large interior spaces. Nevertheless, by constructing their churches close to the street villagers preserved the neighborhood scale and reduced the appearance of monumentality.

Religion permeated the neighborhood in other ways. Although the city of Lakewood built Harrison school in the neighborhood, both Sts. Cyril and Methodius (1905-present) and St. Hedwig's (1926-68), established their own primary schools. In the early years St. Cyril's required courses in Slovak language, history and culture. The first American-born generation benefitted from these experiences but they also began to translate and adapt traditional culture to fit the new environment. At the same time they began to adapt elements from "American" culture to fit their needs. Rather than abandon Old World traditions, Birdtowners created a blend of Euro-American culture that conformed to the village world view.

Locally owned businesses also played a key role in the neighborhood. Unlike the churches, which quickly located on Madison at the neighborhood's edge, many of the first businesses located on Plover, the most isolated and interior street; this was also the site of the first home construction. In some respects this location reflected Birdtown's isolation, inward orientation, and self-reliance. Later, as the neighborhood grew and spilled across Madison Avenue, as some enterprises became more sucessful, and as villagers themselves grew more prosperous and confident, the business center shifted to Madison.

If Plover and later Madison served as the "central business district," many smaller businesses located throughout the neighborhood. To supplement income, many Birdtowners ran tiny shops, stores, taverns or processing plants out of their homes; garages and sheds housed dairies and other enterprises. Front yards also played a part in this burst of entrepreneurial spirit; villagers constructed small rooms in front of their homes to house taverns, grocery stores, and other retail activities. Both mixed land use and mixed architectural form added significantly to Birdtown's distinctive urban ambience.

As they did in the boarding houses, women played a crucial role in these small businesses, since husbands and many older sons and daughters were working at neighborhood factories. The fledgling stores and shops provided both additional family income and important neighborhood meeting places, especially in bad weather. By supporting local merchants Birdtowners gained the benefits of locally owned business, kept


Class of 1920, SS. Cyril and Methodius School. Photograph courtesy of SS. Cyril and Methodius Church.





Housefront tavern (1986).



Last Updated May 24, 2000

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