Front View of Thomas House

Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

Five images of buildings and grounds

Bagnoli — Irpino Club

Ward — Thomas Museum
Home of the Niles Historical Society
503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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Mail: PO Box 368 Niles, Ohio 44446

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242-1/2 Langley Street is in back of the Niles Firebrick office building and was the first home of the Bagnoli-Irpino Club.

242-1/2 Langley Street is in back of the Niles Firebrick office building and was the first home of the Bagnoli-Irpino Club.

Mason Street Bagnoli-Irpino Club building purchased from the Thomas Steel family.

Mason Street Bagnoli-Irpino Club building purchased from the Thomas Steel family.

Origin of the Bagnoli-Irpino Club

By the 1930s there existed three fraternal organizations within this immigrant community. In addition to a chapter of the Sons of Italy established in the 1920s, members of this group participated in two locally formed organizations. During the end of the first decade of Italian immigration to Niles, residents of the small but growing ethnic community surrounding the NFB organized themselves into a small, self-held association, the San Filippo Neri Club. Open to any male of Italian descent, the club served as a gathering spot where members could socialize and participate in a variety of games such as Morra, Tresette, and Bocce. In conjunction with their local parish the group formally celebrated the feast day of their patron saint, Filippo Neri, with attendance at mass and an all-day party featuring free food and drink for family and friends. Their dues also provided a death benefit for members and their families. The “insurance” covered the costs of a modest funeral for any paid member and his immediate family.37

The establishment of the Bagnoli Club in 1923 represented an equally significant movement within this community. Loosely affiliated until 1932, the group formerly organized and purchased from the Thomases a building on Mason Street in Niles. The structure served as their headquarters and a community gathering place. Nick Alfiero, Rocco Gargano and Lawrence Toriello, all tracing their descent from Bagnoli-Irpino and the Niles Firebrick Company, established the Bagnoli-Fraternal Order organization in the midst of the Great Depression as a buffer against the economic problems that plagued the community at large.38

In addition to the more social functions of the group, the Bagnoli Club provided informal educational services. More established members of the club taught classes where newer immigrants could learn English and prepare for citizenship exams. Advanced offerings featured courses that improved literacy.39 While not unique within the Italian-American experience, this relatively small group of immigrants displayed an unusual tendency toward “joining.” Immigrants not only associated across parochial Italian barriers, they did so very early in their American lives. They also organized to make progress toward goals that encouraged their assimilation into the American mainstream more rapidly than their counterparts in larger metropolitan areas.

Martha Pallante

To Work and Live: Brickyard Laborers, Immigration and Assimilation in an Ohio Town, 1890-1925


1932 Bagnoli-Irpino Club

1932 Bagnoli-Irpino Club PO2.122

1936 Bagnoli-Irpino Club

1936 Bagnoli-Irpino Club

1960 San Filippe Bocce League Runner-ups

Eileen Roberts Remembers the Bagnoli Club

As a kid growing up in Niles, my friends and I would frequent places on Robbins Avenue such as James Dairy, Morabito's Market and Woodcock's Drug Store. To our delight, cherry phosphates, plump fruit and a large supply of comic books were enjoyed at these places.

Another place of interest was The Bagnoli Club on Mason Street. The club was perfect for entertainment such as weddings and banquets. It had a full basement containing a kitchen and wooden saloon-type bar. The upstairs floor had a platform stage where hired musicians could play a myriad of numbers for dancing to ballads, polkas, tarantellas and jitterbugs.

On many Sunday afternoons, my grandfather would don his Italian straw boater hat, navy blue suit and take me to the club to watch bocce ball games. He would buy me a Grape Nehi soda and I sat on the edge of the bocce court where I could watch the game. Every time a team scored a point, a loud shout of joy was heard throughout the neighborhood.

My grandfather, Dominic Clemente, was born in Bagnoli Irpino, Italy. He worked there as a laborer and in 1905 traveled to Niles with his brother, Aniello Clemente, sister, Lucia Clemente and her husband, Joseph Pallante. News of available work at the Niles Fire Brick Company had reached their village and was a strong incentive for many men to move. Grandpa Clemente obtained a job as a night watchman at the Fire Brick Company where he worked until retiring. Many men who traveled from Bagnoli Irpino held jobs there.

Wedding receptions were always festive at the Bagnoli Club. Days before the event, men and women of the club volunteered to make this event possible. Upstairs, the men set up long tables and folding chairs for the afternoon meal. They polished the bar and stocked it with selected alcoholic and soft drinks the bridal couple had chosen. Downstairs, the ladies began food preparation for the big event. They rolled meatballs and simmered wedding soup and tomato sauce. Everyone labored very hard before and during the celebration to ensure a smooth social event.

They also made sure the bridal table was beautifully decorated for the wedding cake and bridal favors. The small favors were usually made up of Jordan almonds secured in netting with a ribbon tie. Another popular souvenir was a match book engraved with the couple's names and marriage date on it.

Only at the very end of the evening after the merriment had ended the bridal couple and guests had left the club did those unselfish, hard-working Bagnoli Club men and women sit down and have a piece of cake. The following day, they were back again at the club to clean up and put things in order.

Oscar Wilde said, "Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us."

Dedication of the Flag
Dedication of the Flag
September 22, 1918

Patrick DeFabio front center with hat and watch chain, 2-1/2 years old.
Josephine(Infante) DeLucia front with white dress and braids.

1936 Trumbull County Bocce Champs

1936 Trumbull County Bocce Champs

Bagnioli-Irpino Band

Front: Gatta, Macchia, Villio, Brutz,
Tony Frasca

Back: Villeco, Infante, Massaro,
Joe Ross
holding sign on left.

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