Joseph F. Berenato
A look inside Little Italy buildings
HAMMONTON—The Little Italy district of Hammonton is home to three long-standing social organizations with origins deeply rooted in the town’s Italian-American heritage. While the facades of these buildings may be familiar to residents, the interiors of said structures are often only seen by a select few.
The Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society
1 Mt. Carmel Lane
According to the society’s website, the meeting hall was built in 1955 on a section of Tilton Street that would later be renamed Mt. Carmel Lane.
During the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel each July, the exterior of the hall is abuzz with activity as festival goers order sausage and pepper sandwiches or roast pork sandwiches, listen to live music and meet friends in the society’s beer garden. Inside the building for the remainder of the year, though, it’s a far quieter story.
One step through the main entrance brings visitors into the meeting hall, which was renovated in 2003 and is now decorated in neutral tones and light woodgrains. The main room, with a large conference table in the center, is awash in the sense of history that pervades the building. A statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is situated in a place of honor in the far corner of the room, and is flanked on both sides by display cases with photos, plaques and other bits of memorabilia collected over the course of the society’s history. To the left of the display cases are several plaques which honor the deceased members of the society.
Next to the main meeting room is the entrance to the full commercial kitchen, complete with a walk-in freezer, as well as a cooler situated in an addition that was built during the 1980s. This is the focal point of activity for many club members during the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel—and particularly on the 16th of July.
Italian Sons and Daughters of America Lodge 123
335 Pratt St.
Just down the street from the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society hall is that of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America Lodge 123, though it is not nearly as noticeable, nor recognizable.
If one did not know it was there, one would not know it was there.
The building’s exterior has an unassuming, beige stucco façade, with pilasters and a decorative lintel surrounding the front door—which has a clear “members only” sign affixed to it.
The interior of the hall is replete with hunter green and dark wood, as well as border wallpaper in the style of Renaissance-era maps, giving the room a feel akin to a mixture of an Old World social club and an early 20th century pool hall—made all the more palpable by the saloon-style doors in the back of the main room.
Directly across from the main entrance is the room’s bar, which wood trim to match the rest of the room, as well as stools with deep red seats. The back of the bar opens up into the hall’s kitchen, allowing for easy service from one room to the other.
To the right of the bar—next to the saloon doors—is the lodge’s charter, showing its establishment date as April 7, 1940. Other walls are bedecked with the flags of Italy and the United States, as well as with plaques honoring the winners of the David M. Rizzotte Jr. Memorial Poker Tournament and recipients of the David M. Rizzotte Jr. Memorial Scholarship.
The rest of the room is outfitted with tables and chairs, as well as large, comfortable-looking leather furniture, all of which help to complete the Old World atmosphere.
Order Sons of Italy In America Giuseppe Garibaldi Lodge #1658
427 N. Third St.
Around the corner from the Italian Sons and Daughters is the Sons of Italy hall. This is a building that is only open to non-members during special occasions, like the week of the 16th of July or Columbus Day.
Visitors during those events who make their way into the lodge note the large bar in the center of the first room, which also has several televisions, a large mural and a charter establishing the founding date as February 4, 1935.
To the right of the bar is the hall’s kitchen, and to the back and right of the bar is a hall where presentations have been held, and which is now home to the bust of Christopher Columbus—flanked by the flags of Italy and the United States—which was previously located at Columbus Park.
Though these areas, along with the lodge’s yard, are open to non-members from time to time, much of the rest of the building remains the domain of Sons of Italy members.
According to a newspaper article from December 15, 1939, which detailed the dedication of the lodge building on December 10 of that year, the upstairs was devoted to a large meeting room—but only those who have been in there know for certain what the room holds today.
The Sons of Italy declined to allow The Gazette inside their building for this article. President Nick LaGuardia texted and said “have to pass on allowing any pictures of the club.” When asked if The Gazette can enter the building to describe what is visible, LaGuardia texted “Spoke with a few older members and we would prefer not.”