My Motivation Behind the Creation of ItalianHarlem.com- My Father, Albert :-)

Daddy In December of 2007, I was 3 years into my “whirling dervish” obsession of gaining every drop of family history knowledge that I could garner. It became self-evident that my ancestral journey had begun, and so I conceived the idea of creating a website to memorialize, and forever “etch” into existence, the information that I would render from this extensive research. I named my website “Pathway to My Ancestry,” and so began the painstaking steps to build the site on the then existing “Live Spaces” platform. A few years into building the site, live spaces was drawing to closure, thereby necessitating me to find another platform to maintain my website. Hence, I found WordPress, and so here I am, and hopefully, will continue to be! In the interim, I had to transfer whatever was transferable to the new website, and decided to change the title of my blog to “Italian Harlem.”

Consequently, my ancestral journey transitioned from a personal family history journey, to a much broader sense of consciousness…that of the desire for public awareness of a now defunct Italian community in New York City. This “microcosm” of an urban neighborhood was “developed” in the 1870’s, with the building of tenement housing, and was originally inhabited by Italian immigrants, primarily male laborers. I discovered a broader sense of the “pulse” of this Italian community, through the voices of my father, his brothers, sisters, cousins, and others who once lived in East Harlem, when it was referred to by its residents as “Harlem.” As I listened to the stories of a bygone time, resounding with carefree thoughts of the “good old days,” it occurred to me that there was much more to this old neighborhood than the stories that were resonating in my mind. I was right! The posts that I have shared, and will share, within this blog, are a testament to the true nature, and fabric of a place that really mattered to a multitude of Italian immigrants and their families.

As I am drawing near to the 11th year anniversary of what has become a nostalgic endeavor of “genealogical/anthropological/sociological/historical” research of “Ye Olde Italian Harlem,”  I must tell you that this historical journey has been, and will continue to be an intrinsic part of my life here on this planet. My interest in preserving the memory of Italian Harlem will never falter. My research is a true passion of mine, one of many passions that I am fortunate enough to have in my life, including first, and foremost, my beautiful children, a loving and devoted husband, and my adorable rescue Shih Tzu furbaby “Romeo.” I also embrace my love of photography, and my fascination for the metaphysical sciences!

If there was one person that instilled in me an interest in the history of Italian Harlem, it was my father. My dad was born in 1924 in a tenement apartment on East 110th Street, right next to St. Ann’s Church. He was one of 7 children. His dad, Anthony (Tony) was a produce shop owner, who also sold fruits and vegetables on a pushcart on First Avenue. My dad’s mom, Catherine (Katie) was a seamstress, church secretary, playwright/producer, milliner,(hatmaker) homemaker, realtor, entrepreneur…a true Renaissance woman. I learned so much about my grandparents, and great grandparents, thanks to the amazing memory of my father, Albert, and his siblings.  I am forever grateful to them for sharing with me, through their youthful eyes, their life and times in the old neighborhood.

My father, who was “larger than life,” passed away 3 days before his 89th birthday, in January of 2013. I dedicate this website to the memory of my wonderful and charismatic father, who was known by many as “Uncle Al.”  Although he had hoped to live to “a hun 10,” (as he would often say,) his bright spirit and memory lives on throughout this weblog and within the lives of those who knew, and very much loved him.

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The Madonna of E. 115th Street is in Need of Repair! A Call for Help: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Statue…Needs Your Pledge of Assistance!

OLMC request for help


The Giglio Society Hosts “Italian Night for Men”

Italian Night for Men in East Harlem


Festa di Monte Carmela, by Daniel Celentano 1934

Festa di Monte Carmela, by Daniel Celentano 1934


Steppin’ out, Italian Harlem style!

Steppin' out,Italian Harlem style!

Year: 1938. Left to right,my Aunt Rose Puco,cousin Jackie(baby), and my beautiful grandmother, Katie Puco. I have enough evidence to believe that this photo was taken in front of the war memorial in Thomas Jefferson Park, in East Harlem.This memorial was known to East Harlemites as “The White House.”


Jefferson Park circa 1911

Jefferson Park circa 1911

This is a photo depicting children gardening in Thomas Jefferson Park, in East Harlem, N.Y.C., circa 1911. In the background is the war memorial building, known as “The White House.” Here is the link to some wonderful vintage photos of our ancestors, as child farmers.

http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/community-gardens/farm-gardens


Beautifully written by my friend, Charlie Giardino

SSummer night
doo wop music
echoes from the jukebox
it’s out on the street

it’s wire snakes
through the window
inside the club to the plug
by the pool table

everybody’s outside
on Pleasant Avenue
my home town
my little village

Pleasant Avenue
ain’t that a name?
most people don’t know it exists
and that’s fine with us

the johnny pumps are open
girls are jumping rope
some kids are playing stoopball
others eating Italian Ices

I’m on 119th street
waiting for you to come out
when I spot you a half block away
my heart skips a beat

and I deliberately act cool
chatting up a buddy
while looking over his shoulder
as you draw near

damn, you look pretty
white pedal pushers
striped top and some cute shoes
ain’t you a sight to see?

‘I only have eyes for you’
is playing now
and ain’t that the truth?
as you greet me with a kiss

‘My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you, dear’

and you take my hand
and we walk down to the park
to sit and stare at each other
on a park bench

beneath the amber glow
of the street lights
life is wonderful
and love is grand

‘I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
or on a crowded avenue.
You are here, so am I
maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view.
and I only have eyes for you’

ain’t that the truth?

and wasn’t that a night?

charlie gee 5/14/12