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Mayor Fiorello La Guardia reading the Daily News election results in 1941.

Italian American Museum Presents "Banca Stabile - Cornerstone of Little Italy"

September 9, 2008

Debut Exhibition at Museum's New Home Takes Amazing Look on Role Bank Played in New Immigrants' Lives Opening Coincides With San Gennaro Festival

NEW YORK: The Italian American Museum will debut "Banca Stabile "Cornerstone of Little Italy" Sept. 9 at its new headquarters at Mulberry & Grand Streets in Little Italy. The exhibition resembles the unveiling of a century-old time capsule: a bank office frozen in time along with scores of documents, photographs and artifacts that reveal the daily role the bank played in the lives of Italian immigrants.

The unusually well-preserved Banca Stabile (pronounced STAH-bee-lay) storefront, housed for more than 100 years at 189 Grand St., has remained a mystery and curiosity to millions of passers-by over the decades. Now the public will be able to enter the bank for the first time. They will observe tellers' windows, a huge safe, contents of safe deposit boxes, period light fixtures, clients' bank books, deeds and passports which were recently recovered from the bank's basement storage by museum curators.

"This is a stunning trip back in time," said Italian American Museum president Joseph V. Scelsa. "It shows how Banca Stabile played a pivotal role in Little Italy for many decades in the lives of Italians who just arrived from Italy."

Dr. Scelsa said the exhibition will provide a rich cultural experience for the tens of thousands of people who visit the annual San Gennaro Festival on Mulberry St. "We even recovered the original banner made for the festival," he added.

Earlier this year the Italian American Museum completed its purchase of three tenements at 189, 187, and 185 Grand St. from Dr. Jerome Stabile III, whose family has owned the property since the 1880's. Dr. Stabile, 77, is the great-grandson of the bank's founder, Francesco Stabile. The bank remained independent until 1932, just after the Depression, when it merged with Banca Commerciale Italiana Trust Company.

In many ways, the institution became the epicenter of the bustling community by offering banking, translation, mortgage, money-wiring, insurance and travel services.

"Banca Stabile "Cornerstone of Little Italy" our permanent exhibit, opens to the public September 9, 2008. Hours are: Wednesday through Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM, Friday to 8 PM. Closed Monday & Tuesdays, except by prior arrangement. Groups of 12 or more by appointment. The suggested donation is $5.

For more information, the public can call 212-965-9000 or visit www.italianamericanmuseum.org.

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