“Papa” Luigi Fagazy: Pillar of the South Village
An important figure within New York’s Italian immigrant communities was the padrone — a middleman acting on behalf of his compatriots, helping them with advice, assistance, and protection. Padrone actually means “boss or lord,” and some may have abused their power and taken advantage of or exploited their fellow Italian immigrants, many acted in a much more noble and beneficent fashion. Certainly one such case was Luigi Fugazi, who lived and worked in the South Village, and served the New York City Italian community from 1869 until his death in on August 6, 1930. His funeral was so grand as to be noted in The New York Times.
Fugazy (also spelled Fugazzi) was born into a well-to-do family in Italy in 1837, and came to the United States in 1869. Fugazy served in the Piemontese royal army in the Italian unification movement. He brought with him to America, and to the South Village, a considerable inheritance and a knowledge of English. He set up a travel agency with a steamship company, a bank, and notary service. Through these businesses, he was able to assist his fellow Italians in travel to and from Italy, provide loans, translators and letter-writers, and notarize mortgages, wills and contracts. He also offered legal advice (and personal advice) to his clients to help them navigate the American legal system, as well as secure employment. The New York Times in an 1869 article on “Papa” Fugazy (as he was called) described him as having helped thousands of his fellow Italians.
Fugazy lived and worked on Bleecker Street (his home was at #157), and was the founder of several Italian fraternal organizations, social clubs, and mutual aid societies. He encouraged indvidual societies, usually centered around distinct Italian localities, to affiliate themselves on a citywide basis. He had ties to the Tammany Democratic machine, and served as the liaison between it and the Italian community. He was also a major financial contributor to, and one of the first trustees of, Our Lady of Pompeii.
Luigi Fugazy died in 1930 at 93 years old. According to The New York Times, thousands lined the sidewalks to view the funeral procession, and about a thousand people were in attendance for the funeral mass, which included many New York City officials, including then-Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia.