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.

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