Discover Scranton's Italian American History!

Jan 18, 2021 991

BY: Stephanie Longo

Dear friends, it is my honor to unveil the final version of the Italian American map ofScranton, PA: the Electric City! This morning's post was a draft, but this is the official one-- I hope this can be used as a teaching tool regarding the contributions of Italian Americans to the landscape of the City of Scranton. Our area's Italian American history is vitally important to me on a personal and a professional level, and I am dedicated to preserving, sharing, and celebrating it wherever I can.

If you'd like a tour... I'm your guide! Scranton has an incredible history to share and celebrate-- while I focus exclusively on Italian American history, I hope this inspires other people to develop their own maps of other hidden history of our city because talking about it preserves it for generations to come!

1. Steamtown National Historic Site: 350 Cliff Street: Located at the site of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, visitors can discover various jobs immigrants held upon arrival to northeastern Pennsylvania.

2. St. Peter’s Cathedral: 315 Wyoming Avenue: Dedicated as the seat of the Diocese of Scranton in 1884, the ceiling of St. Peter’s Cathedral was painted by Italian artist Gonippo Raggi in 1934. A prolific artist, Raggi’s works have been cataloged by the Smithsonian Institution.

3. Ritz Theater and Performing Arts Center: 222 Wyoming Avenue: Opened by Italian theater magnate Sylvester Poli in 1907, Scranton’s Ritz is one of only two of the 30 theaters Poli opened on the East Coast still in operation today. Many performers who went on to become legends made their debut on this stage.

4. George Washington Monument: Corner of Washington Avenue and Linden Street: One of two sculptures by Frank Carlucci on Scranton’s Courthouse Square, this monument was unveiled in 1893.

5. Gino Merli Memorial: Washington Avenue side of Courthouse Square: Peckville native and recipient of Medal of Honor Gino J. Merli received the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II near Sars-la-Bruyère, Belgium, after faking his death several times to defend against the Germans. The Gino J. Merli Veterans Center on Mulberry Street is also named in his honor.

6. Christopher Columbus Monument: Corner of Washington Avenue and Spruce Street: The second of Carlucci’s sculptures on Courthouse Square, the Columbus Monument was built in 1892 as a response to the 1891 lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans, as well as in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World.

7. Statue of Dante Alighieri: University of Scranton, near the corner of Monroe Avenue and Ridge Row: This statue was created by famed sculptor Agostino Russo and was donated as a gift to the City of Scranton by its Italian American community in 1923. It moved to the university’s campus in 1966.

Inset Locations:
St. Lucy's Church, West Scranton: 909 Scranton Street: Known as the Mother Italian Church of the Diocese of Scranton, St. Lucy's dates back to the 1870s. The present building was dedicated in 1928. The façade was sculpted by Agostino Russo, while Frank Carlucci was the general contactor. St. Frances Cabrini also ministered in Scranton between 1899 and 1913, and established a school on what is now known as St. Frances Cabrini Avenue as part of her local work.

Joseph Cassese House, Hill Section: 1000 Clay Avenue: Built around 1910, this house belonged to Italian American businessman Joseph Cassese, who sold goods and services to Italian coal miners. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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