Italian Community Center
In the fall of 1978, the Italian Community Center was established to bring together a disintegrating community. In a previous era, Milwaukee's Italian population centered itself in the old Third Ward around Our Lady of Pompeii Church. Unfortunately, this church was razed to the ground in 1967, leaving a hole in the Italian community. Meanwhile urban renewal projects had pushed and pulled much of the population away from its historic place in the Third Ward. Today the Italian Community Center has more than succeeded, now residing in the place where many of its members once grew up--the Historic Third Ward. It is more than just a center for Italians, however. The community center is a beautiful stop for every lover of Italian culture or those who simply want to understand the unique contributions of this culture on Milwaukee. Meanwhile, lunch or dinner at the authentic Cafe La Scala makes a delightful (and authentic) stop to remember the piece of Italian culture most celebrated in America--its food.
Backstory and Context
On February 28, 1978, three Italian organizations--the Milwaukee Chapter of UNICO National, the Milwaukee Ladies of UNICO, and the Pompeii Men’s Club--came together to discuss what should be done to reintegrate the community. The first result of that meeting was the Festa Italiano--a summer festival that all three Italian organizations co-hosted. The festival successfully brought the Italian community back together for the first time in over a decade. Meanwhile, it attracted others of various ethnicity, who wished to understand Italian culture.
Riding the wave of the Festa Italiano, organizers opened the Italian Community Center in the fall of 1978 in a small storefront on Brady St. However, as each Festa Italiano grew and continued in its success, the community center was able to purchase a larger facility. In April 1980, the Italian Community Center moved into the former Kenwood Masonic Lodge at 2648 N. Hackett Ave.
Today, however, the Italian Community Center sits in the 60,000 square foot space on East Chicago St, in the heart of the Third Ward, back in the place where so many of its older members grew up. The ICC moved to this location on September 30, 1990. With this large location, the ICC has been able to expand its operations to include Italian language classes, cooking classes, dancing, dinners, theater, concerts, and more, as it has returned the heart of the Italian community to the Third Ward. One does not need to be Italian or even a member to participate in or visit the Italian Community Center.