Room Five: Little Italy, San Francisco

Instead of continuing the statewide story of Italians in California, this room will focus on one neighborhood as a microcosm of the larger experience. Though Little Italy in San Francisco has become synonymous with North Beach, it was at one time, much larger. Little Italy had its first inhabitants on Telegraph Hill, before it included North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. Staking a claim on Telegraph Hill did not come without conflict, as northern Italians fought first with the Irish immigrants, and then Sicilians for control of the hill. At the same time all three groups were locked in a war with a mining company that insisted on quarrying the hill. As northern Italians began to control both the hill and the other two neighborhoods, they began to reinforce their national heritage in their creation of a new culture of national pride and customs, including the establishment of the Columbus Day parade. Little Italy became dominated in politics and business by the prominenti, who represented some of the oldest Italian families in San Francisco. Their national pride and creation of a new culture resulted not only in the Columbus Day festivities, but in the prevalence of Italian theater in San Francisco.


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