Little Italy Erica Walsh

Immigration to the United States

Italians came in many waves to the United States, but perhaps one of the most notable was around 1850, due to one Italian: Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Garibaldi fled to the United States after a failed attempt to unify the nation states of Italy.

In 1854, he returned to Italy and recommenced in the war to unite the states.

In 1871, Italy was finally united, but caused some detriment to southern Italians.

Before 1871, majority of Italian immigration to the United States came from Northern Italy, where Italians had skills as trained laborers or artisans. But after the unification of Italy in 1871, nearly all immigration of Italians to the United States was Southern Italians, who were fleeing corrupt government, churches, and taxes imposed on them, and searching for work in the United States.

The Immigration of Italians not to seek refuge, but rather so seek fortune. Nearly 75-90% of the immigrants were males, leaving theirs families behind to make money, then return back to Italy.

Fast Fact

Between 1880 and 1920, nearly 4 million Italians would immigrate to the United States; majority of them coming through New York.

Who Was Giuseppe Garibaldi?

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Giuseppe Garibaldi was a military leader mainly involved with the unification of the Italian states (at this time, Italy was not one unified state, but rather many small nation states).

Original Little Italy

"Mulberry Bend Park in 1900, replacing a set of the worst tenements in this area of Five Points" (Bowery Boys History)

The original Little Italy was not located where Little Italy you see today is, but it was located south of common day Little Italy, on Mulberry Street where it takes a slight bend to the east. This area was known for Columbus Park, which at the time housed Collect Pond: a major water source for New York City. The water from collect pond was used by many industries, and when discovered that it was not clean, collect pond was drained by a canal, (now known as Canal Street) and made into a landfill.

The draining process was not done well and as a result, all of the buildings created over the previous Collect Pond, began to settle in unsafe ways. It was then that the residents of Little Italy packed up and went north, into where current Little Italy is, and Irish immigrants flooded into the unsafe housing left behind.

Current Little Italy

The Little Italy that we know and adore today is just a mere shell of what it was years and years ago. Once known as the heart of Italian life in New York City, it is now only a pocket neighborhood. (starting at Canal and Mulberry St, ending around Broom St.) Its total size being roughly three blocks, a 5 to 10 minute walk from start to finish. But back in its prime (1880-90's, 1900s, 1910) Little Italy was much larger than what you would see today.

So why is Little Italy growing smaller and smaller?

The rapid expansions of areas like Soho and Chinatown have taken over massive sections of Little Italy, but famous tourist attractions, despite this have remained. Many of these places have been around since the beginning times of Little Italy and have created a presence unforgettable.

Little Italy is bordered by Lolita (North of Little Italy) to the north, Bowery, or the Lower East Side to the east, Chinatown in the south and Soho to the west.


Present Day Nolita

Nolita is the area north of Little Italy that is roughly between Broome and Houston Street. The name itself is fairly new, not being brought up organically, but by real estate companies trying to sell the homes to New York City's newcomers. Nolita is not very popular to the old time residents of Little Italy because it takes away from their already decreasing neighborhood. In fact, Nolita is now the home of some of Little Italy's past major destination spots, such as Lombardi's Pizza and St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

Nolita is seen as a more edgy, hip area than Little Italy, containing mostly upscale boutiques and wine bars.


Boys, Bowery. "The Big History of Little Italy." The Bowery Boys: New York City History. N.p., 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

Roberts, Sam. "New York’s Little Italy, Littler by the Year." The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

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