hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

August 8, 2013

Sons of Italy must remain strong in city

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Haverhill’s Italian community has always had a strong and proud presence in the city.

And for good reason.

Italian bricklayers and other construction workers were keys to the resurrection of downtown, after the huge fire of 1882 destroyed much of it.

As Haverhill’s economy became strong again after the fire, Italians were a big part of that growth. They owned local companies and provided much of the city’s workforce. They have been active in politics through the years— today’s mayor and City Council president are of Italian descent.

For generations, St. Rita’s Church stood proudly in the heart of the Mount Washington neighborhood. The church on the hill was the religious center for Haverhill’s Italian Catholic community until 1998. St. Rita’s closed that year, as did two other Catholic churches in Haverhill. They merged into All Saints Parish, the former St. Joseph’s Church.

Italians still have a strong presence at All Saints.

The Sons of Italy Hall has been a landmark for generations on Washington Street in the heart of downtown. It has been the center for social events such as the Miss Italy contest and the Italian Festival. There were nights when, from a mile or more away, you could hear the Sons of Italy drum and bugle corps practicing in the hall.

So it was with reservation — and certainly sadness — that the Sons of Italy have put their building up for sale. (See story, Page 1.)

The organization’s leaders said the decision was made for financial reasons. They simply cannot afford to maintain the hall and will look for a new home.

We hope, for the sake of the entire community, that the Sons of Italy organization finds a suitable home and remains a strong presence in Haverhill.

We also make that wish for the sake of those who have devoted much of their lives to the organization, people like Steve Iannalfo, who helps lead the drum and bugle corps.

That musical group makes an appearance at All Saints Church every year. It’s always a stirring performance, drawing cheers from church-goers and those who watch the group march through the neighborhood.

Haverhill has long been known for its mix of ethnic groups and what each brings to the city.

From music to food and social events, it is important that the Italian community remain a strong part of that mix.