During the late teens and into the 1920s, Italians began settling in Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown and considered the oldest neighborhood in Los Angeles. Once home to the city’s wealthiest residents some of whose stately Victorian mansions have been preserved today, by the late teens and into the 1920s, large numbers of Italian immigrants began settling in the district. Darwin, Mozart and Sichel Streets, as well as Avenues 18 and 19, comprised the core of the enclave. At its peak, over 8,000 Italian residents lived in Lincoln Heights, which, along with San Pedro, were the largest Italian neighborhoods in the city. The Gatto and Cortese families, from Cosenza, Calabria and Lucca Sicula, Sicily, settled in Lincoln Heights after first having lived in Louisiana and Pueblo, Colorado, a migration pattern that mirrored many other families in the enclave. Following World War II, Mary Gatto, born Maria Antonia Cortese, pictured here at her wedding, urged her husband to relocate the family to Los Angeles to join family members and fellow Puebloans. We will examine the lives some of Lincoln Heights’ noteworthy residents in future columns. 

This is one of the thousands of rare and one-of-a-kind photographs in the Italian American Museum’s collection, the only of its kind in the region. 

To learn more about our collection, donate photos or other artifacts, or support the collection’s preservation, visit www.italianhall.org or call 213.485.8432.
The mission of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is to foster understanding of Southern California’s diverse heritage through research, historic preservation, exhibitions and educational programs that examine the history and continuing contributions of Italian Americans in multi-ethnic Los Angeles and the United States.

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