The Italian American Museum in Little Italy kicked-off 2018 with a presentation of architectural renderings and a model for its anticipated expansion, given by Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Founder and President. Now, more than three-years later, here’s an update. The Museum is set to reopen in late 2021.
The Museum announced that the new structure topped off in November, 2020, and brick facade has been applied. All images below. The building, a seven-story mixed-use building, is located at 185 Grand Street (The Grand Mulberry) and includes 20 residential units above the Italian American Museum.
Construction on this project began in 2018, and slated for completion in 2021. The new space will encompass four levels that will include permanent and temporary exhibition space, an auditorium for film screenings, lectures, presentations, meetings, and theatrical, music and dance performances. The new space will quadruple its current size, and be located at the current location with an entrance on Mulberry Street. The Museum’s mission will celebrate modern-day Italian culture, with exhibitions and programs that feature artists, authors and thinkers from Italy.
For a decade, the museum did its best to capture the Italian-American experience in 1,800 square feet of space, roughly the size of a nice-sized Manhattan apartment. Two years ago, a developer bought the two-story property from Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and his board members. The new owners agreed to provide a new home for the museum rent-free in the mid-rise apartment building that will replace it.
“They broke ground last November,” said Scelsa. “The foundation will be finished by the end of summer. “Another year for the edifice and we should be open by spring 2021,” he said. “That’s my hope.
The new museum will cover 6,500 square feet on four floors.
Much of the permanent collection that will be in the new IAM will have come from the attics of New Yorkers — mandolins, barbers’ tools, extortion letters from the Black Hand (a kind of forerunner of the Mafia) and former New York City cop Frank Serpico’s gun. The museum will be divided into four sections, beginning with the first Italian immigrants to the New World in 1635.
The second section is about daily life in Little Italy, once the largest colony of Italians outside the boot.
A third section is on “Becoming Americans,” which Scelsa is intimately tied to World War II and thousands of Italian Americans proving their loyalty by going to war against their ancestral homeland.
It also covers the migration of Italians out of the Little Italys of American cities into the suburbs, where they became nearly indistinguishable from other Americans.
“They didn’t feel they had to be in a enclave to protect themselves any longer,” said Scelsa.
“How We See Ourselves” is the final section, the one that tackles the barbed stigma of “The Godfather” and gangster films like it. Scelsa, 73, retired from Queens College in 2008, expressly to get the museum started.
Anticipated grand opening in time for The Feast of San Gennaro 2021.
Below, images of the brick facade applied to the building in November, 2020.
As the Museum prepares for completion of its renovation, the historic Banca Stabile safe was returned to the building on June 4, 2021 (below).
The safe, which dates back to when this site was the headquarters of Banca Stabile, was removed from the site in 2018, prior to the demolition.
Banca Stabile provided financial transactions, insurance, travel, money transfer services and so much more to the immigrant Italian community ~ it was considered the center of their community.
The bank closed in 1932, but the family kept the building with all its treasurers, such as the vault, tin ceiling, marble flooring and counters, bronze grilles ~ and historic items like steam ship tickets, safe deposit boxes, passports and deeds.
If you missed the Design Exhibit, check out the renderings of the new museum at here.
The Italian American Museum is located at 155 Mulberry Street, NYC