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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An East Harlem Scene from “The Godfather”: Sonny Corleone(James Caan) beats up his brother-in-law Carlo(Gianni Russo.)

The Godfather Movie:Click on this link to view YouTube video-  Sonny Corleone(James Caan) beats up his brother-in-law Carlo(Gianni Russo.)

In this scene from The Godfather, James Caan seeks revenge for the unmerciful beating of his pregnant sister, Connie Rizzi. He heads for East Harlem’s E. 118th Street, to brutally beat up his wife-beating brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi(played by Gianni Russo.)

The scene was filmed on the 500 block of East 118th Street. My family and I lived there before this movie was filmed. The stoop that Carlo(wearing an orange and tan suit) is standing on-before he attempts to run from crazed Sonny, is 503 East 118th Street.

 Note of Trivia: Most of the principal photography took place from March 29, 1971 to August 6, 1971, although a scene with Pacino and Keaton was shot in the autumn. There were a total of 77 days of shooting, fewer than the 83 for which the production had budgeted. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather#Production)

This particular scene was filmed in the summer of 1971.(My educated guess, based on the filming timeline, and the fact that the children are being soaked by the “johnny pump.”) Ahun 18 Gianni Russo503 E. 118 The Godfather


Tenement Interior- Circa 1900-1910

Tenement Interior- Circa 1900-1910

Publisher: Detroit Publishing Company. From the Library of Congress digital archives.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994001696/PP/


West Side Story – Prologue

Vodpod videos no longer available.

West Side Story – Prologue
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I know…what does this have to do with East Harlem? Hey, it’s Freedomland! Need I say more?

I couldn’t resist posting this archived video of the short-lived “Freedomland Amusement Park,” once located in Co-op City, Bronx, New York. (1960-1964.) Click on the link below to view the video stream.

Traveltime: Freedomland : Chris Petersen : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive