Italians in Syracuse, New York

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Roy Bernardi, Mayor of Syracuse from 1994 to 2001

The Italians in Syracuse, New York are nearly 22,000 and are concentrated around the Little Italy of Syracuse. Italian immigrants first came to the area around Syracuse, New York beginning in 1883 after providing labor for the construction of the West Shore Railroad.[1] By 2010, demographics showed that 14.1% of the population in Syracuse was of Italian descent.[2]


Italians first settled in the territory of Onondaga County in the early 1880s during the construction of the West Shore Railroad. At first, they were quite transient and came and went, but eventually settled on the Northside.[3] The West Shore Railroad was the name of a railroad that ran from Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City, north along the west shore of the river to Albany, New York and then west to Syracuse with final destination in Buffalo. It was organized as a competitor to the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, but was soon taken over by that company.

A news article in August 1882 stated that the Sanitary Inspector received a letter from Secretary Harris, of the New York State Board of Health, stating that typhus fever was prevalent among the Italian laborers on the West Shore Railroad. A state inspection was made from Nyack to Syracuse and instructions for treatment of the disease were distributed in 67 towns.[4]

By the end of the nineteenth century there were nearly 3,500 Italians in Syracuse and they had established a mutual benefit organization called "Society Agostino Depretis".[5] By the mid-twentieth century, the Italian Americans in Syracuse integrated and assimilated successfully in to the society. As an example, in 1993, Roy Bernardi (a graduate of Syracuse University) was elected the 51st Mayor of the City of Syracuse, New York where he served from 1994 to 2001.

Language Barriers[edit]

James Lanzetta - Italian Interpreter and Exchange Banker - 104 East Laurel Street, Syracuse, New York, Syracuse City Directory 1908

Because of difficulties learning a new language, most lived in "colonies" and worked in large gangs under "bosses" of their own nationality. The earliest Italian immigrants were illiterate. Most spoke several Italian dialects and when they first arrived in Syracuse they preferred their own "idiom" while at work or leisure and did not assimilate easily into the English speaking population.[3]

Little Italy[edit]

Little Italy is an ethnic enclave in Syracuse that contains several bakeries, cafés, pizzerias, restaurants, beauty salons, shops, bars and nightclubs. The main street in Little Italy is North Salina Street on the city's Northside which was originally a German neighborhood. The Italians all but supplanted the Germans and now have their own business district along North State and North Salina Streets.[6]

Catholic Parishes[edit]

St. Peter's Italian Catholic Church at 130 North State Street, c.1910

By March 1897, there were almost 7,000 Italians in Syracuse and most were Catholics. A Methodist mission was opened in the rooms of the West Shore Railroad by Rev. Dean L. M. Vernon (d. 1896) whose work was passed on to Rev. Antonio Peruzzi. Ten gospel meetings had been held in Italian districts during the summer of 1896 which were well attended. A mission was opened in rooms of the West Shore Railroad Station. Soon after, the Italians organized a church society known as the Free Italian Church of Syracuse.[7]

Our Lady of Pompeii[edit]

Our Lady of Pompeii Church located at 301 Ash Street is a Roman Catholic church in the Northside neighborhood and in the early days was frequented predominantly by local Italian families.[8]

St. Peter's Italian church[edit]

In 1896, St. Peter's Italian Church was a Roman Catholic church located at the corner of Burnet Avenue and Lock Street (which was later changed to 130 North State Street),[9] situated north of Erie Boulevard East.[10] The church was originally called The Church of Messiah and was built by the Unitarian Congretional Society of Syracuse in 1853 who sold it to the Lutherans in 1885. Between 1885 and 1895, it housed St. Mark's German Evangelical Lutheran Church.[10] The St. Peter's Italian Church parish built a large Romanesque church at 701 James Street at the corner of Catherine Street where they relocated in 1953.[11]

Methodist School[edit]

By December 1905, a school was established for the Italian children by the W.C.T.U. at the corner of North State and North Salina streets in the same quarters used for church purposes by the Italian Methodist Mission under the direction of Rev. Morrello and his wife. The W.C.T.U. held a sewing class there every Saturday afternoon, however, there was some contention with the Catholic church.[12]

Italianate Architecture[edit]

The architecture of the North Salina Street Historic District is predominately Italianate in style. Many buildings in this architectural style were constructed between the 1860s and the 1880s and may still be seen on the east side of the 700 block of North Salina Street where many variations of the style can be found.[1] The facades of these "row buildings" are characterized by round-arched window openings and corbeled brick cornices, features that are characteristic of the Italianate architectural style.[1]

Thomas Marnell - President of the Syracuse Italian-American Club, January 13, 1905

Italian clubs[edit]

The Italian-American Club voted to attend the inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt at Washington D.C in March, 1905. Thomas Marnell, president of the society, said that upwards of 100 Syracuse Italians in uniform would represent the organization at the event. A dancing party was held on February 15 at Turn Hall to raise funds for entertainment on the trip.[13] The Agnostino Depretis Military Society donated $420 to the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in May, 1906.[14]

A gala event was celebrated by Italians in Syracuse with the formation of a new Italian society, Duci Degil Abbruzzi, and the blessing of the flag. Uniforms bearing gold lace were donned on May 9, 1907 by the Italians and committees met visiting delegations at the trains. At noon, a dinner was served at Turn Hall Later, a parade of 850 men started from Turn Hall and marched to the strains of the Italian national hymn from North Salina Street to Catawba Street, to North State Street, to South State Street, to Jefferson Street, to South Salina Street, to North Salina Street to Turn Hall. Hundreds of people viewed the procession. James Lanzetta was grand marshal.[15]

Columbus Day[edit]

The annual Columbus Day Parade in October was an important event in the Italian community as early as 1905. The Columbus Day Celebration Committee of St. Peter's Italian Church, a Roman Catholic church, planned a grand parade of the Italian societies through the downtown streets. The committee in charge of the arrangements for the celebration included Rev. Frank Morassi, pastor, Thomas Marnell, James Lanzetta, Frank Pellegrini, Frank Sco and Joseph DeBarbieri.[16]

Italian events[edit]

  • Festa Italia Syracuse: Three-day event in downtown Syracuse since 1996. Takes place in front of city hall at Washington and Montgomery streets in late September.
  • Little Italy's Columbus Day Parade: Three days of festivities beginning on Friday night before the holiday in mid-October.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "North Salina Street Historic District, Syracuse City". The Gombach Group, 2010. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Syracuse, New York". CityData, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Loos, J. (March 19, 1897). "Syracuse's Foreign Born Population—Some Statistics.". Syracuse Sunday Herald. Syracuse, New York. Retrieved September 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ "West Shore Sufferers". The Daily Standard. Syracuse, New York. August 30, 1882. 
  5. ^ Iorizzo: Italians in Syracuse
  6. ^ "New York, Syracuse". Atlantis, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Home Missionaries". Syracuse Evening Herald. Syracuse, New York. March 17, 1897. 
  8. ^ Hayden, Bryan. "Changing times in Little Italy". NewsHouse, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Hours of Pleasure". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. February 11, 1896. 
  10. ^ a b "Seeks Church's Records". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. June 18, 1980. 
  11. ^ "Neighbors in Religion". Syracuse Herald Journal. Syracuse, New York. October 16, 1966. 
  12. ^ "Priest Condemns Acts of W.C.T.U.". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. December 25, 1905. 
  13. ^ "Syracuse Italians to see the President Inaugarated". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. January 13, 1905. 
  14. ^ "Votes Aid to Victims of Volcanic Eruption". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. May 5, 1906. 
  15. ^ "Italian People Have Gala Day". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. May 10, 1907. 
  16. ^ "Columbus Day Celebration". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. October 5, 1905. 


  • Iorizzo et al. Gli Italiani negli Stati Uniti: l'emigrazione e l'opera degli Italiani negli Stati Uniti d'America: atti del III Symposium di studi americani-Italian American Experience. American Studies Symposium (Firenze, 27-29 maggio 1969). Ayer Publishing. New York, 1972 ISBN 0-405-06404-7

External links[edit]