Greenpoint, October, 2015

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Isle of Exiles, Part I

Berenice Abbott (1937)
Staten Island has more than its fair share of houses that you might call over the top, but this one took the term literally. It is, or rather was, the Garibaldi Memorial. If you look beneath that neo-classical superstructure you can see a rather modest wood-frame house. That was home to Antonio Meucci, an immigrant from Florence, Italy, who is remembered for two things. First, he invented the telephone. That's right: he did it in that house in 1860, sixteen years before Alexander Graham Bell. But for his filing for and receiving the cheaper short-term patent, we might have grown up with Ma Meucci instead of Ma Bell. Not only that, it would have been called the "teletrofono."Bellissimo!

Where the magic was made
The second thing Meucci is honored for is providing refuge to the Italian unifier, then in exile, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi lived here from 1850-54, when he returned to Italy and to glory. Meucci died in 1884, and the house was eventually given to the Order of the Sons of Italy to be used as a monument to the great liberator. Thus the fancy stuff. It was moved to its present location in Rosebank in 1907, when the pantheon was constructed. That's gone now, and the house is open as a museum honoring both the great inventor and great unifier. The museum is located at 420 Tompkins Ave. and its number is 718-442-1608--give them a call on your cellofrono.

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