Francis Albert Sinatra was the only child of two Italian immigrants. His father was Anthony Sinatra, a New York fireman of Sicilian origin, and his...
My South Bay friend Ken Borelli, author, president emeritus and longtime cultural chair of the Italian American Heritage Foundation (I.A.H.F.) based in San Jose, California, shared with me this fascinating bit ofCalifornia history. Ken recently was vacationing in the gold country, and while he did not find any gold coins he did strike it rich in terms of California history with an Italian connection, in the form of “Save the Romaggi Adobe Foundation”.
The Romaggi Adobe built in 1852 is older than (modern) “Italy”, which was unified in 1861. James Romaggi, after striking it rich, built it in the mother lode area of Angel’s Camp or to be exact, the now non-existent town of Albany Flats. James was a real 49er, emigrating to the USA from Romaggi, Liguria, just in time to join the thousands of people from the east coast seeking their fortune in the gold fields of California. This was way before phones, planes, and trains, so it was around the horn for this Genovese 49er. And strike it rich he did! James went back to Liguria, to bring his wife, Louisa Foppiano, to Albany Flats. He built his “casa” in the style of his ancestral home which still stands today in Romaggi, Italy. It helped that James was a stone mason in the “old country”, and accounts for the fact that the building still stands after 160 years!
Ken notes the Romaggi Adobe is badly in need of restoration. It has existed since early California statehood days, our Civil War, and even predates the modern Kingdom of Italy (1861) by several years. James and his wife raised six children in the home, and had a store, bar, winery, stage stop and orchard on the grounds. In many ways this is a history of modern California, and a shining example of Italian immigration to the Golden state, “not a Hollywood version of Italian American history!”
The second part of the Tale of the Romaggi Adobe is Mr. Adrian Nestor, from the Bay Area, who retired to Angels Camp, only to discover the haunting adobe structure off State Highway 49. Curiosity got the better of him, and thankfully, a 12 plus years involvement to restore the adobe became a “life mission”. Adrian also intends to incorporate a center and tribute to the families in the area that were connected to this amazing part of California history and lore. Several heirlooms from the Romaggi Family will also be a part of the exhibit. This column cannot do justice to all of Mr. Nestor’s activities to establish a foundation, organize a board, start fundraising activities, and work with the necessary County and State Offices to make this dream into a reality. Go online to check out more about the Romaggi Adobe at www.save-romaggi-adobe.com
As Italian Americans in the “Golden State” Ken notes there are few actual mementos of our collective heritage. One of them is the Romaggi structure. It is a tribute to Mr. Nestor’s vision and hard work of both he and the Ligurian immigrant back in the 1850’s, that this structure may yet see new light as an important living document to our heritage. Mr. Nestor and the foundation works under the non-profit umbrella of the Calaveras County Community Foundation, and has the support of many local community agencies, but not too much Italian American organizational support is evident. Hopefully this article can rectify this omission.
Several Italian Americans are involved as individuals in helping to restore the historic structure, but they could certainly benefit from more community organizational involvement. If you are interested in learning how you or your organization can help save this priceless piece of “Italian-California” history, you can contact Adrian Nestor at The Romaggi Adobe Association, 625 Miwuk Way, Angel’s Camp, CA 95222, email NEST2065@aol.com or telephone/fax (209) 736-9522. Ken, as Chair of the Cultural Committee of the Italian American Heritage Foundation of San Jose, hopes to schedule Adrian Nestor for a slide presentation of the adobe and the historical period of our state’s heritage soon. Meanwhile “back at the adobe”, donations and support are always welcomed!