Opening the Casa Italiana

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Celebrating the Inauguration

Photo of long table at the inauguration banquet for the Casa Italiana.

The Casa Italiana was inaugurated on October 12, 1927. A lavish banquet on the previous evening at a midtown hotel welcomed Senator Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Prize–winning inventor who was representing Italy's Fascist government. 

At the table of honor with Senator Marconi were Columbia's President Butler; Judge Freschi (who had led the fundraising campaign); the Paterno family (who developed the Casa and underwrote the building costs); N.Y.'s governor, mayor, and cardinal; and both of N.Y.'s senators. Also at that table were the head of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and the leaders of the Fascist League of North America. Alongside them were other distinguished local guests: Rabbi Stephen Wise and banker Otto Kahn.


Photograph of the Casa Italiana building exterior (from the south-west).

The Casa Italiana building was modeled on Roman palazzi. This view from the southwest shows the buildings that lined 117th Street (when the street was still open). 


Photograph of the lobby of the Casa Italiana.

Visitors to the Casa were greeted by a vaulted lobby on the first floor.


Photograph of the Teatro in the Casa Italiana.

The auditorium featured a coffered, gilded ceiling and great windows looking onto Amsterdam Avenue. (Later on, more windows opened up the eastern wall as well.)


Photograph of the original curved stairwell in the lobby of the Casa Italiana.

The original stairwell ended in a great curve on the ground floor. 

Gilded medallion portrait of Michelangelo atop the stage of the Casa Italiana's Teatro.

Icons of Italian Culture

The building was celebrated as the loftiest expression of Italian culture and included portraits of Dante and Michelangelo, quotations from Vergil and Ennius, and Neo-Renaissance architecture.

Gilded medallion portrait of Dante atop the stage of the Casa Italiana's Teatro.