On a warm summer day, well over 30 years ago, I was out boating with my cousin, Guy. As we were passing East Harlem, heading North up the East River, I saw the vacant Washburn Wire Factory. It was located between East 117th and 118th Street, at the end of the 500 block, off Pleasant Avenue, by the East River Drive.
My family lived right up the block from that once active factory- back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. At the time of this actual photo, I had a feeling that Washburn had outlived its welcome, and that it would be just a “matter of time” before it would be (ultimately) demolished & replaced. So…with that thought in mind, as we were drawing closer to the vacant factory, I quickly reached for my film camera and took this photo!
Behold a moment in time- captured on a hazy & humid summer day- on the often tumultuous East River! Thankfully, the river was very calm when this photo was taken!
UPDATE on ITALIAN MASTER CARVER, LUIGI DEL BIANCO: MOUNT RUSHMORE FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED LUIGI DEL BIANCO!Posted: May 28, 2016
NEWSFLASH: THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE HAS FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED THAT LUIGI DEL BIANCO WAS, IN FACT, THE CHIEF CARVER OF MOUNT RUSHMORE!!!
Since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore, the staff of the National Park Service has been posting short bios of the Mt. Rushmore workers, on their official Facebook page. Well, after 25 years, the National Park Service has finally acknowledged that Luigi Del Bianco was in fact the “Chief Carver!” Permanent recognition at the mountain is what we are really after, but this is a break through, and a start in the right direction!
Here’s Luigi Biography, as told by the National Park Service:
Artist Luigi Del Bianco came to work at Mount Rushmore at the request of Gutzon Borglum, the designer and engineer of the stone sculpture. Luigi Del Bianco worked for Mr. Borglum during the seasons of 1933, 1935, 1936 and 1940. He was a Senior Driller until the end of July in 1935 when Mr. Borglum designated him Chief Carver. Del Bianco was a trained stone carver originally from Italy who had worked for Mr. Borglum before the Mount Rushmore Project began. Mr. Del Bianco resided in Port Chester New York where he had a successful stone carving business. After his work on Mount Rushmore, he moved back east to resume his stone carving business.
WON’T YOU TAKE A SECOND TO CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LINK BELOW AND “LIKE” LUIGI’S PHOTO? Thank you!
Let’s let the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE know that LUIGI has a lot of fans all over the country!!
WE WILL KEEP YOU POSTED ON OUR FINAL PUSH TO GET LUIGI RECOGNIZED AT MOUNT RUSHMORE. WE ARE ALMOST THERE! THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!
It’s a 1,727 mile drive from Italian Harlem, New York – between Pleasant Avenue to the east, First Avenue to the west, East 114th Street to the south and East 120th Street to the north — to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in Keystone, South Dakota. If you’re taking I-80 and I-90 westbound you can do the trip in just under 25 hours.
There’s no way to do the trip faster, just as to date, there hasn’t been a way to bridge the gap that exists between the United States Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) and the family of the late Luigi Del Bianco.
Del Bianco was the obscure immigrant from the Province of Pordenone, in Italy, who served as the chief carver of Mount Rushmore from 1933 through 1940. You read that right. An immigrant to these shores was the chief carver on what is widely considered to be one of the world’s most renowned sculptures.
But if you didn’t know that, you’re not alone.
That’s because the NPS doesn’t recognize Del Bianco as the chief carver.
Tasked with giving the four presidential faces their “refinement of expression” by no less than Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum himself, Del Bianco is specifically referred to as the chief carver by Borglum in a July 30, 1935 letter written by him that you can find in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.
“I have seen the letter in which Borglum refers to Del Bianco as chief carver,” Maureen McGee Ballinger, of tjhe NPS, told Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News last October. “But I consider Gutzon Borglum to be the chief carver.”
And Del Bianco? He was just one of the workers under Borglum, says the NPS.
The policy of the Parks Service is that all 400 individuals who worked at the monument from 1927 through 1941 receive the same credit, irrespective of their jobs. While that’s very egalitarian, it also presupposes that the man who operated the elevator lift was as important as Del Bianco.
The Parks Service is clearly dropping the ball here. They could be telling this great narrative about an Italian American immigrant who in 1929 became a citizen of this country who is the chief carver on what is arguably the most iconic landmark in this nation. Since the agency has long been a proponent of multiculturalism and pluralism, such a position would be in keeping with their own mission.
Instead, the NPS continues to recognize only Borglum for his work at the monument.
Listen, nobody is attempting to take anything away from Gutzon Borglum. There wouldn’t be a Mount Rushmore without him. But imagine the individuals in Italian Harlem, not to mention the rest of the 2.7 million people in New York who identify as Italian Americans, who would puff up their chests with pride if they found out that one of their fellow landsmen was at long last recognized by the federal government as Mount Rushmore’s chief carver?
Imagine what pride that would engender among the 18 million Italian Americans in this country?
In West Hollywood, California, Luigi’s sole surviving child, his 69-year-old daughter, Gloria, just laments the situation. As happens with all of us, she is getting older with each passing day. And she wonders whether or not the recognition she has long sought will occur in her lifetime.
“I’m not ready to call it a slap in the face yet,” she says. “But I’m pretty close.”
Is it a slap in the face? Only Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Midwestern Parks Administrator Patty Trapp know for sure.
Meanwhile, with every dashed hope, false promise and unanswered communication, that divide between the Del Bianco family and the government just keeps growing and growing.
Luigi lived for nearly a half-century in Port Chester, NY which still has an exceptionally large Italian American population. There is a plaque dedicated to him in a park in Port Chester, N.Y.
This is the plaque dedicated to Luigi in a park in Port Chester, N.Y.
Author’s Note: To purchase books directly through Bordighera Press, folks can call Rebecca Rizzo directly at 212-642-2001
© Frank H. Jump
Little Italy by Emelie Aleandri – Google Books
Banca Stabile & Co.-
- Boston Family History
- Museum Plans to Move to Its Symbolic Home, ‘Littler Italy’ By JAMES BARRON NY Times article – April 2007
- In Little Italy, a Former Bank Will Now Hold Immigrants’ Memories by VINCENT M. MALLOZZI – Published: September 9, 2008
East Harlem’s Esplanade Walk Needs a Facelift! (Perhaps it will be renewed in a refreshing and modern way! Only time will tell…)Posted: August 6, 2013
Reimagining the East River Waterfront
A Bold Vision for a New York City Waterfront
By Kathleen Haley // Monday, February 11, 2013
Syracuse University News
The East River Esplanade in Manhattan is a narrow, deteriorating pedestrian walkway, marked with sinkholes and neglected open spaces. School of Architecture student Joseph Wood G’14 saw potential in the site’s striking riverfront views and land-water connections—and judges in a design competition to transform the waterfront saw the potential in Wood’s creative vision to spark conversations about the possibilities.
Among more than 90 entries from 24 countries, Wood’s design was awarded first place in the Reimagining the Waterfront competition sponsored by nonprofit community action group CIVITAS. His designs, which include inland canalways and an ecological rebirth in the residential landscape, are featured in an exhibition in the 1870 Room of SU’s Lubin House in New York City through Feb. 28.
As part of an architecture studio course in fall 2011, Wood and the other students in the class were challenged with the competition’s real-world design problem: to propose bold new ideas that would ignite a discussion about redeveloping the esplanade. Entering the actual contest was optional.
“After the semester ended, I decided to work the design out a little more and enter it to see what happened,” Wood says. “I guess I kind of got lucky.”
Winners were announced last spring, and Wood’s work was featured as part of an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, where he was honored along with the second- and third-place winners and five honorable mentions.
A native of New Jersey, Wood often visits New York City, but he had never heard of the East River Esplanade. During the course, students toured an area of the esplanade, but Wood had already started to develop his ideas by reading about the area and its urban qualities, looking at Google maps and researching European cities that use canalways.
“There’s something about how New York City is all about water. It’s an island with historic, huge intricate water and sewer systems beneath it,” Wood says. “Most of the time when you’re in the city you don’t think about the water, so the thought was to convert a lot of the east-west-running streets into pedestrian canalways to redefine a city waterfront.”
Wood also considered the natural habitat and ecology, including native species of plants and animals, that could be redeveloped and the ability of the canals to help relieve stormwater runoff that typically overtaxes the sewer system during major storms. The concept of stemming flooding problems touched off further interest last fall after Hurricane Sandy, which forced river water into underground infrastructure.
“I think my design speaks to projects in general that address the edge of the city as more of a soft blend between water and the urban fabric, rather than a wall,” Wood says.
Although the idea of inland canals may not be economically feasible, the CIVITAS competition was ultimately about starting conversations among residents, thinking about the possibilities and generating strong backing for the future development.
“Maybe it was helpful that I was in school while doing this because I was not thinking about the most practical designs; I wanted to do something imaginative,” says Wood, who would one day like to work in New York City. “I don’t think they will necessarily use these designs, but perhaps they will take the ideas from it. I look forward to seeing what happens.”
[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]In 1972, one of the most ambitious government-funded, low income housing projects in history broke ground in Harlem on the upper East side of Manhattan. Spanning an entire city block, the Taino Towers complex boasted four-story base with various integrated amenities supporting four 35-story towers of concrete and glass to stand over the surrounding neighborhood. The project was known as a “pilot block”, meant to serve as a new urban model for the integration of low-income housing into large cities like New York. However, there also exists a little-known master plan for future phases of low-income development in Harlem that were drafted as a model for sustainable urban growth.
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Can you spot the East Harlem storefronts?(Albeit long gone.) Bet some of you can! Have fun!
East Harlem, July 9, 1915.