Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Unsung Immigrants: The Bonofiglios

The Tenement Museum is always compiling more information about the immigrants featured on our tours, but have you ever wondered about the thousands of other people who have lived at 97 Orchard Street? Well, we keep track of them too.

One of those families is the Bonofiglios. Like the Baldizzis, who are featured on the Getting By tour, the Bonofiglios were Italian immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street during the early 1930s. In fact, they lived just upstairs from the Baldizzi family.

Parents John and Rose Bonofiglio had two sons, Vincent and Anthony, with them in their small apartment. John's sister Rita Bonofiglio, or "Rita Bono," lived on the top floor.

Here you can see a family portrait featuring John, age 41, Vincent, age 4, and Rose, age 30, taken sometime in 1938 or '39:

Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010
Adolfo Baldizzi, his wife Rosaria, and their two children Josephine and Johnny became fast friends with their neighbors.

John and Rose were Godparents to little Johnny and Josephine, and Rosaria Baldizzi was Godmother to Rita Bono. Anthony Bonofiglio recalls that Josephine may have even been the flower girl at his parents' wedding.

The following photograph shows Rita and and her Godmother at Rita's confirmation in 1937.

Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010
Though John and Rose are now deceased, the Bonofiglio children still live nearby in areas of Brooklyn and New Jersey.

In 1939, Adolpho Baldizzi got a job in Brooklyn Navy Yard and his family left the Lower East Side, but they never forgot their friends. When Josephine spoke with the Tenement Museum in 1989, she told us that the Bonofiglios are "related with me now."

While we have more information today on the Baldizzis than the Bonofiglios, it's safe to say that many of 97 Orchard Street's residents wouldn't have been the same without their neighbors and the lifelong bonds that were forged there.

-Posted by Joe Klarl

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