The philanthropist Frank Marini

Marini Pond (just below Washington Square Park) after 1906 Fire

It’s becoming increasingly common for people to approach me in public, shouting out the answer to the current week’s Nel Vecchio Vicinato question.  It is becoming my way of knowing that L’Italo-Americano’s latest edition has hit the streets. 

 
While attending Lido Cantarutti’s Italian Film Festival this past weekend, I was approached by no less than half a dozen readers—all of whom said that this week’s question was “too hard.” Then Cav. Catherine Burton told me that she knew the answer (for the third time), but wanted to give others a chance to get their names in the newspaper, too.  
 
Thinking that she might also be stumped with this week’s photograph, I told her that she shouldn’t be shy and should answer the question if she could.  By the time I got home, she had sent me an e-mail with the following information:

The Drinking statue at Marini Pond

 
The sculpture was the Drinking Man; the place is Marini Triangle at Columbus Avenue between Powell and Union Streets.  The sculptor was M. Earl Cummings, and the philanthropist was Frank Marini (whose bronze bust also stands in the small, triangular-shaped park across from Washington Square).
 
She forgot to mention that the statue is perched on a little cement pool known as Marini Pond.  Other than that, she hit the nail right on the head.  The statue, and the pond, can be seen at the bottom of the second photo, taken after the 1906 Fire that destroyed North Beach.
 
 The characteristic for which Frank Marini was best known was his philanthropy.  There was hardly a charity in existence that did not benefit from his giving spirit.  He gave to both churches in North Beach, of course.  Saints Peter and Paul Church got a new playground, and Saint Francis Church got a new gymnasium, which now houses La Porziuncola Nuova.
 
  North Beach Playground, 1956

  North Beach Playground, 1956

Sadly, the sign over the entrance indicating that the building was donated by Frank Marini has been removed.  He gave to organizations far north in Sonoma—like the Hanna Boys Center—and far south in Los Angeles—like Saint Peter’s Italian Catholic Church (where yours truly was baptized).  And anyone who has ever ridden the six-decade-old elevator at Casa Coloniale Italiana J.F. Fugazi is sure to have seen the little sign on the elevator wall—printed in Italian—crediting Frank Marini for the gift of not having to climb three flights of stairs.
 
A year before his death in 1951, the Italian Welfare Agency (now known as Italian Community Services) received an anonymous donation of $198,000 worth of stock in Bank of Italy (now Bank of America).  There was never any question as to who the “anonymous” donor was.  Nobody but Frank Marini could be so generous.  
 
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Agency himself, he was “informed” of the donation by the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Rena Bocci. “Who was the darned fool that gave you all that money?” Marini asked.  To which she replied, “I believe it was you.”
 
*****
So where did Frank Marini get all that money to give away?  Well, from being the principal of the business pictured in the photograph below, or course.  Can you identify it?  What is the name of the business, and where was this building located?  

 This week's mystery Photograph

 
 
If you think you know, send an e-mail to Nickolas@ ItaloAmericano.com and you may be selected to win a prize to be revealed in next week’s issue of L’Italo-Americano. 
Nickolas Marinelli serves as the Director of Community Relations at the Italian Cemetery in Colma.  Nickolas can be contacted by e-mail at:  Nickolas@ItaloAmericano.com
 

 

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