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About Estonian House of Lakewood / Eesti Maja

Estonian House of Lakewood, Eesti Maja Estonian House of Lakewood / Eesti Maja Estonian-Americans: The emigration of Estonians to other lands typically reflected the turbulent history of their homeland. Rather small numbers came to the United States during the years of Estonian independence, followed by a large influx of refugees after World War II. The early settlers of the 1930?s in Ocean County came exclusively from New York City where an active and vibrant ethnic community existed. Through friends and relatives, people learned about the beautiful countryside, pine woods, lakes, resorts, and poultry farms just a train ride away in Ocean County. In 1933, a young newlywed couple, Konstantin and Martha Lacht, settled in Jackson Township, near the Lakewood Township boundary line, off Lakewood-New Egypt Road. Together with Konstantin?s father, Jakob Lacht, who moved from nearby Neptune, they became the founders of an organized Estonian Community in Ocean County. Most immigrants purchased land to build homes and farms. Poultry farming became one of the major occupations of these early Estonian settlers. Others took up various trades and opened businesses, becoming union carpenters, painters, home repairmen, land surveyors, real estate entrepreneurs and building contractors. The desire to hold together in a strange land was foremost. They wanted to speak the Estonian language, observe national holidays, and reinforce a love for their ancient homeland. In order to accomplish these goals as their numbers grew, they had to move beyond gathering in each other?s homes. At first they hired rooms, then halls. Finally, the need for their own clubhouse began to take form. In 1945 a group of twenty-eight Estonians formed the Lakewood Estonian Association. Officers were elected and a constitution was adopted. Land was donated by Konstantin Lacht at Cross Street and New Egypt Road in Jackson Township for the building of the clubhouse. The Association was incorporated in 1946 and its first president, Konstantin Lacht, was elected. Plans for the construction of the clubhouse were drawn up and a cornerstone-laying ceremony was held on June 23, 1946, at the site. This significant event attracted guests and well wishers from Estonian communities in northern New Jersey, New York City, Baltimore and even Cleveland. The construction of the club facilities was undertaken mainly with volunteer labor from the Association?s membership and financed chiefly with bank loans and member donations. The club building, a modest hall designed mainly for social events, was completed in June of 1947. The first function held in the clubhouse and in the surrounding wooded area was a traditional mid-summer festival. By then, the Association?s membership had climbed to sixty.
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