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Tag Archives | Mario Lanza

What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

Lost in South Philly

New developments in South Philly have recently resulted in the loss of some historic and artistic fabric.

Mario Lanza’s childhood home at 636 Christian Street is currently being demolished, reports Nick Vadala in this piece at  Lanza, the South Philly-raised opera singer and movie star, spent his early years at the house. According to the article:

The two-floor rowhome, along with several other adjacent properties, will be replaced with two 43-foot-tall buildings that will share a gated driveway, according to proposed construction plans.

Lanza’s home is located around the corner from the Institute and Museum that bears his name which we wrote about last week.

636 Christian Street. Google Maps.

Hidden City has more information about the state historic marker at the Lanza home, as well a marker outside the home of another notable South Philadelphia artist, Frank Gasparro.  Gasparro’s birthplace at 727 Carpenter Street was raised last summer. As the piece points out, the historic markers, “…provide zero legal protection to historic structures in Philadelphia.”

“Markers are dedicated to honor people, places and events,” said Sean Adkins, Digital Director of the PHMC.  “The history of the subjects of the two historical markers in question, a significant musician and a significant artist, is unchanged by the demolition of the buildings where the markers are located.”

Frank Gasparro house, 727 Carpenter (on right) before demolition. Google Maps.

Gasparro house site. Google Maps.

Across South Philly, the soon-to-be-lost “Dream in Flight” mural on Point Breeze Avenue near Dickinson was featured in a recent piece on the BillyPenn blog about murals disappearing due to new construction.

Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden estimates around three murals per year are covered up by development. The problem isn’t new — but it’s only gotten worse as the pace of construction has spiked.

“We do our work against a backdrop of the city evolving,” Golden told Billy Penn. “Cities are fluid and dynamic and always moving. Nothing stays the same.”

Dream in Flight mural, Point Breeze Avenue & Dickinson St. Google Maps.

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What's Happening in:  Bella Vista :  Passyunk Square :  South Broad Street 

Mario Lanza Institute & Museum Fundraiser to Benefit New Home in Passyunk Square

The Institute lost their lease in Bella Vista but hope to “Keep The Dream Alive” and remain in South Philly

You may have heard that the Mario Lanza Institute and Museum lost their lease at their current home, 712 Montrose Street. We’ve just learned the Institute plans to relocate to a new space in Passyunk Square. On Tuesday, June 26th, you can help the Institute with their relocation expenses by making a purchase at Pizzeria Pesto, 1925 S. Broad St. On that day, 10% of all proceeds (dine-in, take-out & delivery) will benefit the Institute’s Capital Campaign.

1206 Reed Street, future home of the Mario Lanza Institute & Museum. Google Maps

The Institute’s current leased space, in a former convent adjacent to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church, is being sold to a developer. They hope to relocate to space at 1206 Reed Street, opposite Columbus Square. The building, owned by Pete Bilotti of Alexstone, a granite and marble company, requires some renovations to accommodate the Institute’s offices and museum. The museum’s collection consists of movie posters, lobby cards, photos, costumes, and a terra cotta bust of Lanza.

Mario Lanza. Photo courtesy Mario Lanza Institute.

Mario Lanza was a South Philly success story. Born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza on January 31, 1921, he lived at 636 Christian Street and 2040 Mercy Street. Lanza, who took his grandmother’s name as he rose to fame, began his professional singing career at age 16. After a 1947 concert at the Hollywood Bowl, he was signed to act for MGM. This catapulted him to fame as a film star. At the time of his death in 1959 he was called “the most famous tenor in the world”.
Lanza dreamed of establishing a scholarship program to help young vocal students. The non-profit Mario Lanza Institute, incorporated in 1962, helped fulfill this dream. The Institute has awarded more than 200 scholarships to talented, young singers aspiring to achieve professional vocal careers. The scholarships have benefited students attending music programs across the country, including Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts and Curtis Institute, and Juilliard in New York City.

The Pizzeria Pesto/Alexstone fundraiser will help the Institute continue their philanthropic work and provide a fourth South Philly-based site for their office and museum.

The museum was officially established in 1975 at Nick Petrella’s Record Shop, 1414 Snyder Ave., when a modest Lanza display located at the back of the shop was expanded. The museum hoped, in part, to capture the large crowds expected for the Bicentennial. In 1986 Petrella closed his record shop and the museum moved to the third floor of Settlement Music School, 416 Queen Street. Lanza had attended Settlement as a child. For many years the Institute’s scholarships exclusively benefitted students at the school. In 2002 the Museum dedicated their soon-to-be-former space at 712 Montrose.

For more information, visit the Institute’s website, or contact them at or 215-238-9691. You can also donate via Facebook here. The Mario Lanza Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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What's Happening in:  Bella Vista 

Teeny Mario Lanza Institute gets big shout-out in NYT

Many people who read us probably know Mario Lanza best by the huge mural that’s hung over Broad and Reed streets since 1997.

From flickr user SherryBerryVA

From flickr user SherryBerryVA

Well, there’s more than just a mural about the famous homegrown opera singer. In fact, the New York Times just featured the Mario Lanza Institute in Bella Vista in a story about small museums for hometown heroes.

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