hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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August 8, 2013

Landmark Sons of Italy building for sale

Group hopes to preserve strong local presence

There’s always been a bit of the old country at the Sons of Italy hall in downtown Haverhill.

From members getting together to make Venetian masks for Italian-style carnivals to hosting pasta dinners to sustaining the only drum and bugle corps in America that is still associated with a Sons of Italy lodge, this is where members stay in touch and celebrate their Italian heritage.

A fraternal order that also raises money for charities, the local Victor Emanuel Lodge on Washington Street is revisiting its role in today’s world, including how its building meets the organization’s current and future needs.

Members said the old four-story building that has been the lodge’s home since it moved from a previous location in 1964 has more space than lodge members are using. They advertised the building is for sale, but if they can’t find a suitable buyer whose idea for a business would fit the downtown, they might keep the building and make renovations. The lodge formed a committee which is studying those issues.

Carmine LoConte, long-time lodge member and former lodge president, said the building at 124 Washington St. is the only building to survive the fire of 1882 that destroyed the downtown shoe district. The city rebuilt its downtown in the ensuing years with help from bricklayers from Genoa, Italy, using bricks that were made in the city, LoConte said.

”We are an organization that is underutilizing a building in the center of town that could have better uses in a central business district,” LoConte said. “This is a perfect spot for someone who wants to be part of the downtown renaissance.

”We’re in no rush to get out of here,” LoConte said. “Our master plan steering committee is looking at ways of using our building more efficiently. We’ll find a way to keep going. We’d even be willing to stay here as a renter.”

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