As one of the major cultural centers in Westchester County, the Westchester Italian Cultural Center (WICC) provides programs for people of all ages, all ethnicities, and from all walks of life. WICC reaches a broad audience and our members come from all over the tri-state area. Housed in a beautifully restored building through the generosity of the Generoso Pope Foundation, WICC has welcomed more than 10,000 visitors since we opened our doors in September 2007. WICC is unique in that we offer one cohesive and progressive Italian culture, in a variety of different ways – through exhibits celebrating various artists, sculptors, scientists, and through language classes, films and lectures, concerts, culinary and wine events – and always as a warm and welcoming destination. We make the connections between classic and modern Italy and we make those connections easily accessible for our members and visitors. As we continue to brand our organization and promote it, and through our increasing membership and outreach, WICC will continue to present programs that are scholarly as well as entertaining, academically strong as well as relevant to every day life. We will become the go-to place for Italian culture, the place where the richness of a shared Italian heritage offers something for everyone to discover, adopt and employ to enrich their personal, family, and community traditions.
The Westchester Italian Cultural Center is the realization of the dream of Generoso Pope, an Italian immigrant who made his fortune in the United States through hard work, sacrifice, and determination. He strongly encouraged other Italian immigrants to embrace their new country by learning English and acquiring citizenship. He also strongly emphasized the importance of education. He donated substantially to educational institutions, hospitals, and civic and religious charities. In 1947, he founded the Generoso Pope Foundation to ensure the continuation of his philanthropy. In 2005 the Foundation honored its founder’s vision by purchasing a building in the center of Tuckahoe, New York and within it establishing the Westchester Italian Cultural Center. In the great tradition of Generoso Pope, the Westchester Italian Cultural Center will continue to provide quality programming, unique educational courses, and fun and engaging ways to keep Italian culture alive for now and for generations to come.
Generoso Pope was born in 1891 in the village of Pasquarielli, town of Arpaise, in the province of Benevento, Italy. Generoso came to America in 1906 and joined the “Colonial Sand & Stone Co., Inc.” in 1911 as a superintendent and later became the owner in 1916. In 1928 he bought “Il Progresso Italo-Americano” and became its owner. He was later appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt as the head of the Italian division of the Democratic Party. In 1944 he co-founded and served as president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, Inc. where he also served as the Grand Marshal of the Columbus Day Parade for more than twenty years.
About Generoso Pope Sr.
Generoso Papa was born in 1891 in the small village of Pasquarielli, near the town of Arpaise in the province of Benevento, Italy. He was the son of farmer Fortunato Papa and Fortuna Covino. In 1906, at the age of 15, Generoso left his tiny farming village and arrived in New York City with just $10 in his pocket, no place to stay, and only a few words of English. He landed a job for $3 a week carrying water to the men who were constructing the Pennsylvania Railroad’s East River tunnel. He worked as a laborer on construction jobs and toiled in the sand pits for five years while going to night school. In 1911, he joined the newly-formed Colonial Sand and Stone Co., becoming its superintendent. When the company was threatened with bankruptcy in 1916, Generoso audaciously persuaded the owners and creditors to give him a chance to restore solvency and strengthen the business. He took personal responsibility for the company’s debts in return for full management and half ownership of the firm. Working 12 to 16 hours a day out of a tiny shack, the steadfast, stocky immigrant survived on a daily lunch of a half loaf of bread garnished with green peppers. Through ambition and brains, he found new customers, fought off the competition, paid the company’s debt, and expanded the business. Within two years Generoso had become president of Colonial and by 1926, the company had taken over most of the leading sand dealerships in New York. Generoso fashioned alliances with politicians who helped him achieve his goal of becoming a key figure in New York politics and the construction industry. At the age of 36, Generoso was the millionaire owner of Colonial, the country’s largest sand and gravel business, providing the concrete for much of New York City’s skyline, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, airports and subways. By 1915, he had changed his given name from Papa to Pope, became a U.S. citizen, married Italian immigrant Catherine Richichi, and fathered three children, Fortune, Anthony, and Generoso Jr. In 1928, Generoso purchased America’s largest Italian-language daily newspaper, Il Progresso Italo-Americano. By launching a publishing career, he bolstered his influence by becoming the most dominant Italian-born leader in New York. His dominion was so commanding that his blessings were vital to political candidates, civic officials, and religious leaders if they ever hoped to succeed. Generoso eventually controlled all major Italian papers in New York, including Il Bollettino della Sera and Il Corriere d’America, as well as the Philadelphia daily L’Opinione. His newspapers were the chief source of political, social, and cultural information for millions of Italian-American immigrants. Through his papers, Generoso became an advocate for America’s Italian immigrants. He encouraged his readers to learn English and become citizens and vote, and he extolled ethnic pride and individual achievement. He spent lavishly, sponsoring innumerable banquets, civic and religious charities, and scholarships. He was prominent in church affairs, and in 1932 Pope Pius XI made him a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Francis Cardinal Spellman also appointed him to the Cardinal’s Committee on the Laity. Beginning in the mid-1920s Generoso sponsored the celebration of Columbus Day. In 1944, he founded and served as president of the Columbus Citizens Committee, which organized the Columbus Day parades in New York City. Generoso made a name for himself on the international scene too. In 1929, he returned triumphantly to Arpaise, Italy, with his wife and sons. He paid for a municipal power plant in Arpaise and he personally turned on the switch that electrified the village. Upon returning to the States, he became a member of the New York draft appeals board and the American Committee for Italian Relief. Generoso also was a key member of the American Committee for Italian Democracy, dedicated to preventing the communists from coming to power in Italy. Throughout the 1940s, Generoso often visited the White House, where he acted as an important advisor to the Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. In 1948, Generoso played an important role in stopping Italy from electing a communist government. When reports from abroad indicated that dispirited, war-weary Italians could favor the communists in upcoming elections, Generoso organized a letters-to-Italy campaign among the readers of his newspapers. Because of his efforts, millions of letters and postcards from Italian-Americans were sent to relatives and friends in the homeland, urging them to reject communism and embrace democracy. With the help of Generoso’s campaign, the communists were defeated at the polls. Generoso died in 1950 at the age of 59 from a heart ailment. Thousands of mourners stood in the rain outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to pay their respects to the man whose newspaper taught a generation of Italian immigrants how to achieve the American dream.