My grandparents, Luigi and Lucia LaDelpha Graziano were married in 1899 and later immigrated from Sicily in the early 1900's; Luigi arriving on 14 March 1906 with Lucia following a year later on 10 March 1907 (Ellis Island.org). Luigi was born about 1878 making him abut 28 when he arrived; Lucia was born about 1883 thus she was about 24 when she landed on Ellis Island. Their first born son, Charles (Charlie's Hilltop Restaurant), accompanied his mother however, he wasn't their oldest child. A daughter, Catherine, was also born in Italy but did not survive infancy. Luigi (or Louis) and Lucia went on to have 14 children but only 10 lived to adulthood.
I had always heard there were six Graziano brothers who immigrated to this country; three stayed in New York City and 3 settled in Highland Falls. The other two Graziano brothers who stayed in Highland Falls were Sam (Mr. 10%) and Charlie (the barber). Note: these "uncles" are not to be confused with Luigi's sons who also bore the same names.
Luigi was a stonemason by profession and continued to practice his trade once in this country. He and many other immigrant men, are credited with having a part in the construction of the magnificent stone buildings in the area, particularly on West Point, as well as the grueling work involved in building the Storm King Highway.
At some point after arriving in Highland Falls they bought their house at 23 Center Street. One side of the house had upstairs apartments that they rented to other immigrants; many also Italian. On the other side in the lower level is where Luigi and Lucia resided and where their other children were born and raised. Above that part of the house was another apartment where my parents lived after their marriage. My mother returned to her job on West Point after I was born; Lucia and Aunt Jenny were my babysitters. Mom said she felt like she had to quit her job when I was about 2 or 3 because I was learning to speak only Italian rather than English.
At the front of the house, Lucia had a small grocery store, the back of which led into her kitchen. It was there I was introduced to Hostess' chocolate cupcakes. (Yes, the kind with the white swirly frosting on top.) Another favorite memory is of her bread baking day(s). She always baked several loaves at a time; remember she had a large family to feed. My treat was a warm slice of the freshly baked bread, smeared with butter and a cup of coffee (milk, sugar and a tiny bit of coffee). I dipped the bread in my hot drink and savored every bit of it. I also fondly remember sitting under the piano for what seemed like hours while my Aunt Jenny played and Lucia's two bright yellow pet canaries sang along.
Unfortunately, I have no memories of my grandfather, Luigi; he passed away 3 years before I was born (1944). But he left behind family stories and his presence could be found all over the Center Street residence. One story is he brought some fig tree saplings with him from Sicily. He was told he could never grow them in the New York climate but that didn't deter him. Luigi planted them anyway and every year when the weather began to turn cold, he wrapped the fig trees securely (presumably with burlap). The trees thrived and over the years produced many figs. In true Italian fashion, Luigi loved his wine and made his own in the basement with the big and sweet, purple grapes he grew. Next to the house was a large garden area that included fruit trees and flowering trees and bushes. Most likely they also had a vegetable garden there in the summer. Around the garden was a stone wall approximately 3-4 feet high however, it's unclear to me whether Luigi built it or how much of the garden existed before they moved there.
Lucia passed away around 1951/52. Regretfully, I never got to know Luigi and didn't know Lucia well, however, I'm grateful for my priceless memories and family pictures.
By Kitty M. Helm Padgett (More pictures to be added very soon)