The city of Springfield is getting ready to welcome MGM Springfield. 22News takes a look back at the history of the south end.
From the day it was built in 1907, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on William Street gave generations of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the South End their strong spiritual foundation.
“The church represents their feelings, the mission, their families. They left their old land to come over here to building a church, a place for them to profess faith and to launch their mission for a better life for them, for their children, they want a better place to be,” said Guiseppe Polimeni, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
“Everyone would meet in front of La Fiorentina to go off to the Mass and go back to La Fiorentina to have a cup of coffee or a piece of pastry,” said Sandra Vella.
The many thousands who emigrated from Italy, many from the small southern Italian town of Bracigliano, brought with them traditions such as the procession of the Madonna embraced by the generations of families who would make the south end their home. Such days remembered well by Jim Langone who filmed what he hoped would never be forgotten.
“Then all of a sudden, I-91 came through and it literally cut the neighborhood in half and to the west of Columbus avenue, it literally became a no-man’s land so to speak,” said Langone.
With the migration to the suburbs, the South End population would shrink from 15,000 to just one third that number. But firmly entrenched businesses like La Fiorentina and Mom and Rico refused to leave. This neighborhood is in their blood.
“My heart’s here, even more in the old days, we all know each other, a big family. Nobody would touch anybody’s pocketbook or anything. We’re all sentimental, we couldn’t speak english, we helped each other,” said owner of Mom & Rico, Rico Daniele.
As the South End enters a new era, so do its long-standing traditions. For more than 100 years, the Mount Carmel society on Winthrop Street would care for the needs of Italian newcomers. Now the Mount Carmel Club’s concerned with helping those in the community in need.
“On Thanksgiving, Christmas, we feed the homeless people. We have a crew that comes in, it’s been going on 2-3 years,” said Rudy Cecchetelli of the Mount Carmel Society.
So many success stories from men and women raised in the South End. As the South End enters a new era filled with promise, this iconic neighborhood recalls a proud past that helped shape the lives of so many, who truly personified realizing the American dream.