Eye On Real Estate
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Did you know songwriter Harry Warren, who penned that Dean Martin hit and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” too, was a choirboy at Our Lady of Loreto Church?
His real name was Salvatore Guaragna, by the way.
The century-old church at 124 Sackman St. in the Ocean Hill section of Brownsville is an Italian-American cultural treasure worthy of city landmark designation, preservation advocates told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“This is the only building in New York State that was created entirely by an Italian cadre of artisans,” said Mario Toglia, a researcher for the Committee to Save Our Lady of Loreto Church. The architect, builder, sculptor, interior decorator and painter were all Italian immigrants.
Also, Toglia said, “It's the last remaining structure that reminds us the Italians were part of the neighborhood.”
The preservationists and Brownsville community leaders want the long-vacant church building — which is leased by a subsidiary of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens — to be turned into a cultural center. See related story.
This adaptive reuse for the cast-stone building “would give the Italian-American community a chance to promote Italian-American culture and pride,” Louis J. Gallo Jr. told the Eagle. He's the New York State chairman of the Commission for Social Justice, the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America.
An important point of historical significance, Gallo said, is that Our Lady of Loreto is the oldest “national Italian Catholic church” in Brooklyn that's still located in its original structure and on its original footprint.
This designation gave Italian Catholic sodalities (A note for non-Catholic readers: This word means “lay religious societies”) from outside the neighborhood the right to choose Our Lady of Loreto as their parish. Catholic parishes that aren't “national” have geographic boundaries.
Our Lady of Loreto was a welcoming place for Italian immigrants who were discriminated against by Catholics of other ethnicities.
A final historic detail: Our Lady of Loreto was built on land that belonged in the 1600s to Pietro Cesare Alberti. The immigrant from Venice is considered the first Italian to settle in New Netherland.