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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BIG ITALY - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BIG ITALY was Cleveland's first major Italian settlement and the center of the city's produce markets. In the late 1890s, Italians settled in the HAYMARKET along Woodland near the city center. By 1900 this formerly Jewish area was 93% Sicilian. Among the early settlers were Frank Catalano and G. V. Vittorio, who set up an Italian products-importing business and produce stand (see FRANK CATALANO & SON). Such ethnic entrepreneurs popularized oranges, bananas, figs, olive oil, anchovies, and garlic in Cleveland. To serve the needs of the large Italian Catholic population, ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH was established on Ohio St. (now Central Ave.) in 1887. As the Italian population of the neighborhood diminished, the parish eventually merged with St. Bridget's at E. 22nd and Scovill. (St. Bridget's moved to Parma in 1956.) HIRAM HOUSE, the settlement house on Orange Ave., attempted to work with the Italian residents of the neighborhood. The immigrants shunned Hiram House at first, sensing an anti-Italian bias, but eventually joined some settlement activities in the 1910s after Hiram House hired an Italian worker. As the neighborhood of Big Italy deteriorated, residents moved to better housing in Collinwood, LITTLE ITALY, Kinsman, and Fulton Rd. The Italian population of Big Italy fell from a high of 4,429 in 1910 to 1,300 in 1940 and 180 by 1960.

Veronesi, Gene. Italian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland (1977).

D'Alessandro, Edward A. The Ginny Block, Reminiscences of an Italian-American Dead-End Street Kid (1988). Available online at

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2003 11:34:23 AM

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