Tag Archives: Italian-American Architect

2016 Chicago Open House – Case Bonita

14 Oct

Three years ago, I began an amazing adventure to learn more about my paternal grandfather, Alexander Capraro. As mentioned in my first post dated 10/2/13:

Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather

My grandfather was small in stature but large in accomplishment. He was the first Italian-American architect licensed in the state of Illinois and fortunately, a few of his buildings still stand for us to admire.

This weekend, the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts its Open House Chicago.

200 COOL PLACES.
48 HOURS. GO.
IT’S FREE.
OCTOBER 15-16, 2016

I am so proud that for the 6th time, Casa Bonita, designed in 1928 by my grandfather Alex and his partner Morris, is included in the festival. Quite an accomplishment for a man who, at the age of four, emigrated to America in 1899 with his parents.

Casa Bonita is considered a Spanish-Renaissance Revival apartment building.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by Charlene Ferguson

Casa Bonita ©Photo by Charlene Ferguson

There are 66 units in the U-shaped white terra-cotta building that surround a beautiful garden. The attention to detail can be seen everywhere.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

Besides its incredible structure, Casa Bonita has amenities including a library, a billiards room, and a large indoor pool.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

 

When it was built, I have been told, there was even a driving range on the roof.

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MTMattucci

Casa Bonita ©Photo by MMattucci

If you are in or near Chicago this weekend, this is a unique opportunity to visit incredible historic landmarks, including Casa Bonita – all for free. Residents will be available to answer questions, give tours, and share their passion about this very special Chicago treasure.

http://openhousechicago.org/sites/site/casa-bonita/

My thanks to Mary, Linda and Charlene for rapid assistance with photos.

For more on Alex’s story, see below. And one last thought – When I began writing about my grandfather, I used the phrase: Through his Words... Now I can say,  Through his Words and Works…

Ciao,
Judy – a very proud granddaughter

 

Opening of Original Post 10/2/13

Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather (10/2/13)

I am about to begin an incredible adventure with my paternal grandfather. We will venture to Europe, via ship, and spend a month together touring Italy. During our stay, we will visit his birthplace, Pietrabbondante, a town he left with his parents when he was four years old to emigrate to the United States.

To continue reading, please click below:

 

Through His Words: Day Two

6 Nov

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Two:

Sunday, July 17, 1938 
(On board ship)        
Chapter 2

Darling Maude,

A little news a day to tell you of some of the things aboard ship. I was fooled this morning in the matter of attending mass. It was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. but when I went there the services were over and this was the last mass for the rest of the day. 

What Alex didn’t realize was that each day on the ship, beginning that Sunday, the time would be set ahead 50 minutes. Six days, 60 minutes ahead each day would put their arrival in Napoli on the correct CET or Central European Time.

However, they have services each day and I shall make up for missing today.

Alex was a quiet man, but one of determination and of self-discipline. His father was a cobbler by trade. His mother died when he was a child. He was brought to America by his parents when he was four.

Alex attended Chicago public grade school, graduated from Joseph Medill High School, attended the Armour Institute of Technology, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Chicago Technical College for required architectural coursework, then finished the last year of his architectural studies under private tutors and under home-made sausage.

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Per Aunt Marion, “My dad’s father made home-made Italian sausage and he would hang it in my dad’s bedroom to dry. My dad said that when he was studying to be an architect, he would lie in his bed to study and reach up and grab a hunk of sausage!

So that’s the secret to passing an exam!

In 1916, he passed the state board of exams for architects and became the first Italian American architect licensed in the state of Illinois. Cost to attend his celebration banquet at the Sherman House? $2.50.

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I am trying to find out anything and everything that concerns my touring, and I am told there are many things I can’t or must not do. You know all the boxes of cigars I got when I left? Well, I can not bring them either into Italy or France, so I am making a hit with them by giving them to the stewards a little each day and they go over big, believe me!

He smoked Perfecto Garcia Queen cigars – seven a day at a cost of $1.00 each. When I look through all the old photographs, it’s hard to find one when there is not a cigar in his hand or mouth.

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And while today I find this pretty gross, I am reminded of the times. Just recently, I saw a bit of the movie Coco Before Channel. There she was, Coco Chanel, classy and elegant, face to face with a wealthy patron pinning a custom hat or suit, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Incredible.

Many people are traveling alone on board and the coldness and the stiffness of the first couple of days will be broken in another day or so and more sociability will be in the atmosphere. You eat, drink, and sleep, and walk around the deck, and when you are finished doing this you start all over again. 

Adventure, loneliness, monotony, anticipation, inquisitiveness, wonder…a flock of feelings for the sole traveler on day two of his journey to his place of birth.

It has been a little cloudy today, but the ocean has been fairly calm. Tomorrow I expect to take a swim and play shuffle board as well as get suntanned and even burned perhaps.

Millions of kisses and love to everyone,

Al

To be continued.

Ciao,

Judy

Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather

2 Oct

I am about to begin an incredible adventure with my paternal grandfather. We will venture to Europe, via ship, and spend a month together touring Italy. During our stay, we will visit his birthplace, Pietrabbondante, a town he left with his parents when he was four years old to emigrate to the United States.

In the year 1895 on the 9th day of January, Mr. Ruggiero di Salvo, Mayor and official of the Bureau of Vital Statistics for the city of Pietrabbondante, received information that at the hour of 4:00 A.M. on the 7th day of Jan. 1895, was born in Pietrabbondante a male child to whom the name of Allesandro was given, son of Vincenzo Iacapraro and Maria Emerenziana Vitullo.

Meet Alexander V. Capraro, my grandfather.  An old, warn picture perhaps but a very handsome man indeed. We think this may have been his wedding day.

Image

Now you may be wondering….born in 1895? 118 years old and taking me on a month-long trip? Exactly.

Although the Internet didn’t exist, and my grandfather only lived to the young age of 61, he was a blogger. Oh, they didn’t call it that at the time, but like so many others, he wrote about his experiences in the nearly lost art of letter writing.   Fortunately, the letters were kept and are now in my possession. Thanks, Aunt Marion!

My grandfather was small in stature but large in accomplishment. He was the first Italian-American architect licensed in the state of Illinois and fortunately, a few of his buildings still stand for us to admire. Unfortunately for his grandchildren, however, he died before we really had a chance to know him. But now I plan to change that as I read through and relive his journey to his homeland in 1938. It was his only visit to Italy, and since my grandmother didn’t want to leave their three children, he wrote her daily. Over the next year, I will include parts of his story in my blog. Next summer, Len and I will visit his hometown and perhaps even find the home where he lived.

I am so excited to begin this journey and to share my experiences along the way. My love and connection to Italy continue to grow as I research the past and partake of the present. And while studying history is one thing, studying my paternal ancestors’ history through my Grandfather’s words is clearly another.

Over the next year, Through His Words: Reflections From and About My Grandfather will unfold as I read his letters, follow his footsteps, and get to know better the man I called Grandpa so many years ago.

Ciao,

Judy

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