Casa Italiana

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Casa Italiana
2014 Columbia University Casa Italiana 1161 Amsterdam Avenue.jpg
Casa Italiana is located in New York City
Casa Italiana
Location in New York City
Casa Italiana is located in New York
Casa Italiana
Location in New York State
Casa Italiana is located in the United States
Casa Italiana
Location in United States
Location1151–1161 Amsterdam Ave., New York, New York
Coordinates40°48′27″N 73°57′37″W / 40.80750°N 73.96028°W / 40.80750; -73.96028Coordinates: 40°48′27″N 73°57′37″W / 40.80750°N 73.96028°W / 40.80750; -73.96028
ArchitectWilliam M. Kendall
Architectural styleItalian Renaissance
NRHP reference No.82001188[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 29, 1982
Designated NYCLMarch 28, 1978[2]

Casa Italiana is a building of Columbia University located at 1161 Amsterdam Avenue between West 116th and 118th Streets in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, which houses the university's Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. It was built in 1926–27 and was designed by William M. Kendall of McKim, Mead & White in the Renaissance style, modeled after a 15th-century Roman palazzo.[3] The building was restored, and the east facade completed, in 1996 by Buttrick White & Burtis with Italo Rota as associate architect.


In the 1920s, Italian student clubs il Circolo Italiano at Columbia and Barnard mobilized support for a Casa Italiana project. Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler embraced the idea. The Casa campaign was led in New York by the students and by Judge John J. Freschi (who helped raise money). They reached out to New York developers Joseph Paterno, Anthony Campagna and Michael Paterno, who erected the building and covered all costs beyond contributions.

Some support came from abroad: Italy’s Fascist leader Benito Mussolini expressed enthusiasm, but he promised more than he gave. (Records show only some scholarship funding from the Fascist government, and a pledge of antique furniture “to be obtained in Italy through the help of Mussolini”—but this donation never materialized, and the furnishings and artwork came instead from domestic patrons.).[4]

McKim, Mead & White, the firm responsible for the layout of Columbia's campus, created an impressive neo-Renaissance design for the Casa Italiana with limestone cladding all over, which set it apart from all other buildings on campus except for the imposing Low Library. Modeled on Roman palazzi of the Renaissance, the building opened in 1927. Dr. Charles Paterno generously gave 20,000 leather-bound books and funding for the Casa's original library.

In 1991, the Italian Republic purchased the property for $17.5 million and leased it back to Columbia for 500 years. Renovations were undertaken, the remaining Paterno collection of books was moved to the Butler Library (many books had gone to Butler over the decades already, as the collection outgrew the Casa's Library early on), and the Italian Department was relocated from the Casa Italiana to its current home in Hamilton Hall, and The Casa building became the seat of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, a center for research in the humanities and sciences.[4] A new mission was proclaimed in its Charter: “to offer a privileged vision of Europe from an Italian perspective.” Overseeing the Italian Academy is a board of guarantors, half being appointed by the university and half by the Italian government.[5]

In 2012, a lawsuit filed by the Italic Institute, an advocacy group, in conjunction with the surviving Paterno Family, claimed that Columbia had breached its responsibilities in regard to the building's use. It claimed that the University violated the donative intent of 1927 by converting the building from a cultural center opened to the students of Columbia and the seat of the Department of Italian to a restricted research facility. The New York State Supreme Court dismissed the suit for “lack of standing" and did not rule on the substance of the complaint. .[5]

Casa Italiana is one of three buildings on Columbia's campus that is designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, having achieved that status in 1978.[3] It was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "Casa Italiana" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. March 28, 1978. Retrieved 2019-12-23.
  3. ^ a b New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009). Postal, Matthew A. (ed.). Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1.
  4. ^ "From Da Ponte to the Casa Italiana: A Brief History of Italian Studies at Columbia University". Italian Academy for Advanced Studies – Columbia University. 2017-11-09. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  5. ^ a b Newcomer, Eric P. "Italian-American Group Suing Columbia for Misuse of Building Development Gift" The New York Times (August 23, 2012)

External links[edit]