Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Alexander F. Adie House, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the demolition of the Alexander F. Adie House on Federal Hill, as well as the life of its builder. Today's post is about Angelina and Angelo Lucchetti; their story touches the house much later.

In August, 1952, Angelina Lucchetti began operating a restaurant in the Alexander Adie House which was then doing business as the Bella Napoli Hotel. Angelina had been married since 1938 to Angelo Lucchetti, and we'll turn our attention to him for a while before returning to Angelina's story.

Fontana Liri, Italy
Fontana Liri, Italy
Angelo was born in 1886 in Fontana Liri, Italy, a small town in the mountains between Rome and Naples, best known as the birthplace of Marcello Mastroianni.

 Like many Italians of his generation he sought work in the U.S. He may have gone back and forth several times, as some did, to perform seasonal work, but in March 1910 he emigrated for good, traveling on the Lombardia from Naples to Boston, with a planned destination of Providence.

By 1918, when he registered for the World War I draft, Angelo had opened a small dry goods store at 199 Atwells Avenue on Federal Hill (about where the Dean and Atwells traffic island is today).  This was a business he would continue to operate for many years, moving to 294 Atwells (currently the home of Nancy's Fancies) by 1924, and to 377 Atwells (the present site of D&L Billiard Supply) by 1930. He continued to operate the dry goods business out of that location until at least 1956.

In November, 1919, Angelo married Giovannina "Jennie" Cecere, a young woman 9 years his junior who was employed as a clerk. Jennie had also been born in Italy, though she had come to the US as a young child. They lived on Atwells Avenue near what would eventually become Lucchetti's store.

By the time of the 1930 census, Angelo and Jennie had divorced; Angelo was still living on Atwells Ave. and his profession was listed as "dry goods merchant." And even after 20 years in the U.S., his language was listed as Italian.

In 1938, Angelo married Angelina--little is known about her age or place of origin. But she was a hard worker; in addition to keeping house for her husband in an apartment above the store (and undoubtedly cooking the Italian specialties that would land her in the restaurant business in 1952) she worked every day in the store, often until 9 o'clock at night.

We catch a glimpse of Angelo in his 1942 World War II draft registration form. At 55, he stood a little over 5'6", and weighed a hefty 232 pounds; he had grey hair, brown eyes, and a "ruddy" complexion.

Lymansville Worsted Mill, North Providence, RI
Lymansville Worsted Mill.
By 1950, Angelo's business was suffering, and Angelina went to work as a yarn spinner at the Lymansville Worsted Mill, along the Woonasquatucket River in North Providence. A year later she was back at work in the store--but only for another year. In February, 1952, Angelo and Angelina acquired the Bella Napoli Hotel (the Alexander F. Adie House) when a mortgage which had been assigned to them in 1944 was foreclosed on. A few months later Angelina began to operate a restaurant in the hotel, and a year after that she filed for divorce.

At the time of the divorce petition, the Lucchettis owned two properties--a house at 489/491 Eaton Street, which they had purchased in 1944, and the Bella Napoli Hotel. As part of her divorce petition, she requested partition of the properties since they were joint tenants.

The divorce petition was turned down, but the court did order the properties divided at public or private sale. Angelo appealed this decision, stating that she had no right of ownership because she had not made any financial contributions to the purchases. However, she pointed out to the court that she had worked every day in the store for 13 years, often until 9 pm at night, and she had never received any compensation for that labor. Any money that Angelo used to pay for the Eaton Street property had been partially earned by her efforts.

Well yes, said Angelo, sure she had worked in the store, and yes her name was on the mortgage, and yes her name was on the deed for the Atwells property--but only because a banker had suggested it. He had wanted her to have the property after he died--but not while he was alive!

The court rejected Angelo's appeal and the case was remanded to the Superior Court "for further proceedings".

Unfortunately, that's where the information chain has some missing links. We find them listed in the 1956 city directory where Angelo is living at the Eaton St. property and she is listed as his spouse. Through at least 1962 she is still listed as his spouse, and her workplace is at the Bella Napoli Hotel. Angelo appears to have retired from the dry goods business sometime during this period (he was, after all, well into his 70s as the 1950s came to a close).

Angelo died in 1977 at the age of 91; by this time he had moved back to Italy where he was receiving his US Social Security checks. I can only hope that Angelina was able to extricate herself from the relationship in time to have a few good years on her own, but that story remains to be told.

If the site of the former Alexander F. Adie house is, indeed, to become a hotel (which is the current scuttlebutt), I imagine that her ghost will be rattling a few pots and pans in its kitchen!

Illustration Credits and References

Photo of the Lymansville Mill from the State of RI Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission website.

Full detail of the Lucchettis' legal case can be found at the Justia US Law website, the case of Angelina Lucchetti v. Angelo Lucchetti, Supreme Court of RI, November 26, 1956.

Census data, city directories, transatlantic ships'  passenger lists, and other records available by subscription on helped to provide some of the back story.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alexander F. Adie House, Part 1

Alexander F. Adie House, Atwells Ave., Providence RI 2013
The Alexander F. Adie House in 2013.
Empty lot where Alexander F. Adie House used to be, January 2014.
The empty lot, January 27, 2014.
Two weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Providence Preservation Society, where one of the speakers lamented the recent and unexpected teardown of the Alexander F. Adie House, a 3-story Italianate double house at 93/95 Atwells Avenue.

The 1871 house had been included on the PPS Ten Most Endangered Properties list in the year 2000. By 2012 it was on the market, and there was no reason to fear its imminent demise. But on January 6th the demolition began, and by the end of the week the house was gone for good.

While preservationists rightly focus on age and architecture, sometimes the stories of the people behind the historic houses in this city are so much more interesting. So who was the Alexander Fales Adie who built this house?

He was born in 1811 in Rhode Island; his father was a native of Scotland but his mother was a Rhode Islander.

He seemed to be a young man with a plan. As a 13-year-old he'd gone to work in the Dyers & Manton drugstore in Providence, and at the age of 19 (presumably at the end of his apprenticeship), he'd gained employment in Charles Dyer Jr.'s drugstore. In 1830, he moved on to Isaac B. Cooke's drug and chemical business. Cooke moved to a new location on Market St. in 1832, and in 1836, at the age of 25, Adie took the company over.

Now that he was a prosperous business owner, he apparently felt he should take a wife, and on January 2, 1837, he married 19-year-old Julia Ann Perkins. She was the fourth of five sisters, the daughters of Edward and Clarissa Perkins of Mansfield, CT.

Julia Ann died a year later--perhaps in childbirth? Adie must have been heartbroken, and we can imagine he redoubled his efforts to grow his fledgling business.

Nearly three years later, on December 2, 1840, he married Julia Ann's younger sister, 17-year-old Almira Jenks Perkins. In 1843, the Adies welcomed a daughter, Julia Perkins Adie, named after her aunt, Alexander's first wife.

But tragedy was to strike again. In 1845, Almira died giving birth to an infant who also died; they are buried at Swan Point Cemetery. Alexander was now a twice-widowed 34-year-old with a two-year-old daughter. Some time before the 1850 census (probably shortly after Almira's death), Julia Ann and Almira's mother, Clarissa, moved in with the family to care for her granddaughter. Clarissa had also been a young widow since her husband had died when Almira was only three. Her third daughter, Henrietta, had also died young, at 23; only her two oldest daughters lived into their maturity. It must have been a sad house with the ghosts of all those lost daughters and wives.

With Clarissa there to care for young Julia, and without a wife to lavish his attention on, Adie must have thrown himself into his business once again. He appears to have been very successful, since he retired in 1853, selling his stock and good will to Chambers, Calder, & Co.

By 1870, the Adies were living at 347 Westminster Street, in a building which has since been demolished. When he built the Atwells Avenue house in 1871, it was intended as an investment property. Julia brought her new husband, Frederic Anthony, into the Westminster St. home in 1872, and Clarissa passed away the following year.

By 1888, two years before his death, Adie was mentioned as one of Twenty Thousand Rich New Englanders in a book of the same name; he was taxed on $206,360 that year, which would be equivalent to about $5 million today. Clearly Alexander Adie's ventures in the drug, chemical, and paint trade, and his further investments after 1853, were very lucrative--but the loss of two young wives and a child must have been a terrible burden for him.

Adie died in 1890, his daughter Julia Perkins Adie Anthony died in 1907; she and her husband had no children.

In part 2, I'll talk about what was happening with the Alexander Adie house in the 1950s.

References and Further Information

Information about Adie's career in the drug business came from several books available online including The Providence Plantations for Two Hundred and Fifty Years. . . by Welcome Arnold Greene, J. A. & R. A. Reid, 1886 and The Narragansett Historical Register by James N. Arnold, Heritage Books, 1996.

Census data and other data sources available by subscription on filled in the blanks on the family side.

To see photos of the demolition process, you can visit the Greater City Providence website.

Mayoral candidate Brett Smiley issued a statement about the demolition here.