Heritage bus tour educates

By Katie Hodgins
September 30, 2004

Students took a bus trip to Philadelphia to better understand the Italian heritage in two parts of the city: Germantown and Chestnut Hill. Dr. Joan Saverino, an expert of the Italian heritage in these areas, who has been researching this subject since 1998, led the tour on Sunday, Sept. 26.

The first stop on the trip was the Germantown Historical Society, which serves both as a museum and an archive for the Germantown community. Saverino presented a slide show that depicted the struggles that Italian immigrants had to go through after coming to America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The presentation included stories about individual immigrants, whom she interviewed, that found work in the Germantown area.

After leaving the Germantown Historical Society, the tour then headed through Germantown. There were many locations pointed out including Our Lady of the Rosary Church, which was purchased by the immigrants as a place of worship and dedicated in 1928. The students were also able to tour the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, located in St. Vincent’s Seminary. This chapel was the first place the Italian immigrants could worship and was called the Gate to Little Italy. The students were then able to see the shrine itself, which is visited by thousands each year for Monday Novenas.

The tour then headed to Chestnut Hill, where Italian architecture was a focal point. Saverino pointed out the Lorenzon Building where the Lorenzon brothers carried out stone work for many mansions in the Chestnut Hill area.

The Venetian Social Club was the next stop. Here, Charlie Lorenzon gave the group a quick history of the club. The club was where Italians would gather for social and family events on many occasions; it was considered, by some, to be a second home. Lorenzon spoke of how many friendships were made there as well as many married couples having met there, including his own parents. It is still a popular place for social activity today.

The students then got to see the style of gardening typical of the Italian culture. The garden was owned by an Italian immigrant who worked very hard to be able to live in America after her husband was wounded in Korea during World War II. Her typical Italian garden included flowers and vegetables, and she spoke about her techniques for planting.

The trip concluded with a short reception back at the Germantown Historical Society. There, a number of students talked about what they liked most about the experience. Kathleen Borginis, a freshman special ed. major said, “It was nice to see the Venetian Club since we have learned about it in Dr. Primiano’s class.” Freshman Brian Tye, a business administration major, said, “I enjoyed listening to the gardening techniques of another culture.”

Posted to the Web by Lori Iannella

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Katie Hodgins

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