Brief History of the
West Albany Italian Benevolent Society
This society was
founded in 1909 by a group of recently arrived Italians
residing in the area around our hall and from a section
along the Albany-Schenectady Road. Until the end of World
War II, the membership was concentrated in these two
Like most immigrants,
they arrived in the United States with very few possessions
and many owed for their passage. They saw a need for
financial assistance during illness; they recognized a moral
obligation to assist their neighbors and they devoutly
believed that all should have a decent Christian burial.
The Society as formed,
therefore, provided modest financial aid during illness, a
small sum upon the decease of a member for funeral expenses
and charity for its members whose needs exceeded the normal
benefits, insurance’s and institutions exist for the above
purposes. That the Society still exists and is growing
stronger is evidence that it has grown to be a Christian
community organized to preserve a common heritage and the
friendships that resulted form the efforts of a courageous
group of Italians establishing a home in a New World.
The first president
was Antonio Piombino who served as president until 1944.
Under his leadership, a relatively stable membership was
maintained. The Society at first had no regular meeting
hall, and meetings were held in the homes of members. Then
Audi’s Hall became available and was used as a meeting place
for many years.
About 1924, a
committee was formed to stage a celebration for Our Lady of
Mount Carmel on July 16 and 17. The entire community joined
the Society in assisting the committee. A band acquired a
success of its own and played at other celebrations in
Albany, Mechanicville, Troy and Watervliet.
Until the advent of
World War II, the celebration was a major holiday for the
members and the community. The Church and streets were
decorated and provided a festive setting for listening to
the band concert, purchasing delicacies at street stands and
visiting with the many friends who gathered for this
occasion. The celebration was climaxed with gala fireworks,
which drew thousands of people and was considered one of the
finest displays available at the time. The feast is still
remembered with a religious observance sponsored by the
Ladies of Mount Carmel Society.
At the time, a large
number of the second-generation members joined. With their
example and the efforts of a membership drive, the Society
was revitalized with a group of younger members. The
formation of the Society’s Bowling League in 1945 provided
both a social group and an activity, which attracted new and
The need was
recognized for a larger and more permanent meeting place. An
annual clambake was inaugurated and plans were initiated to
raise funds for this building. The by-laws were translated
and the meeting was conducted mostly in English.
Construction of the
new building was begun in 1950. The initial success was in a
very large measure due to untiring efforts of special
members. Bonds subscribed to by its members financed the
building. It is noted with pride that no outside financial
assistance was needed.
The Chairman of the
Building Committee had designed and supervised the
construction of the building, was elected President in 1954.
During his term of office, the mortgage was burned and
although the building was paid for, it was no longer
The Board of Directors
guided the planning the financing of the additions and
remodeling of the Society Hall, which were completed in
1959, in time for the celebration of the Society’s Fiftieth
Between 1959 and 1961,
the members’ room was completed with a television, furniture
and a pool table to occupy the members time.
In the years that
passed, the Board of Directors performed all of their
duties, and took care of the catering for the parties. In
November of 1962, a House Committee was formed to help ease
the burden of the Board of Directors. This committee’s sole
purpose was to run the Society bar, and banquet business.
The first House Committee Chairman under the new by-laws.
The property at the 54
Exchange Street was purchased. Although the property at 52
Exchanged Street was also available, we could not see our
way clear to purchase it, and the Board of Directors decided
to make it their next venture.
The Ladies of Mt.
Carmel Society asked the Society to run the Feast of Mt.
Carmel. In doing so, the Society moved the Feast from the
church up to the club lot where there was more room to carry
out the activities. The annual clambake also flourished
The property at 52
Exchange Street was bought and the building demolished
leaving the club lot free and clear for parking as it is
The annual clambake
and the Feast of Mt. Carmel were still very successful as
the years went by.
The outside garage was
build to store the many items that were accumulating in the
club’s building. Both sides of the club building were faced
with brick and the building was finally completed.
In 1975, a Building
Committee was appointed to work with the Board of Directors
to have a complete renovation of the upstairs banquet house.
This venture was sorely needed and the outcome was great.
December of 1975 it was decided to purchase a parcel of land
in the back of the club from the Tobin Packing Co. This was
voted on and passed, giving the Society more space for
The Society and other
Italian organizations in the outlying districts joined
together and formed the Italian Cultural Foundation in 1975.
In 1976, members
decided to work together on a total renovation of the
downstairs bar area and member’s rooms. This was completed
within the year.
In 1983 an outside
foyer was erected in the main entrance in the front of the
building. This foyer was necessary and it adds comfort to
people upon entering the building.
Today the Society is
still a nucleus for the gathering for friends and families
for various activities. Along with meeting in the Halls’
bar, many dances and social events are held throughout the
Our bowling league,
city league team and a members’ recreation room round out
the program of membership activities. It is now 1984.
Twenty-five years have passed since we celebrated our 50th
Anniversary. We are now in our 75th-year. Gone are many of
our old timers who were the backbone of the Society. Since
1959 their places have been filled by the same kind of
people, a “rub off” if you will, of men dedicated to the
well being of the organization.
Sports were always a
part of our good times. We had an I.B.S. Softball team. This
team always had a good record, as they placed against other
local fraternal organizations. We also had our own bowling
league and a City League team. We also utilized the member’s
recreation room for various activities, including shooting
pool, and of course we continued to enjoy our number one
sport – Bocce!
As we approached 1988
it was time for further expansion of our facilities. A new
lounge was added to our building, along with an
exercise/health facility in the lower level. This lounge
greatly enhanced the beauty of our building, along with
giving us more space to operate and provide for more lounge
Our health facility is
used by not only our younger members for there “body
building”, but by a host of our senior members. These older
members can be seen in the early morning hours pumping away
on the exercise bike or utilizing the treadmill. Of course,
this is all followed by a steam bath or sauna. It is real
The Club membership
continued to expand, and now there was a need to recognize
the women in our lives. Consequently, the West Albany
Italian Benevolent Society Women’s Auxiliary was formed. On
March 8, 1989 their Constitution and by-laws were adopted,
making them an integral part of our organization.
In 1992 the local
Italian Fraternal Organizations, in cooperation with the
City of Albany, formed a Columbus Day Parade Committee. We
are proud that our members have played such an important
role in the undertaking.
This Columbus Day
Parade seems to get bigger each year, and gets a lot of
publicity and notoriety for our Italian Community. In 1996
they moved the reviewing stand from Washington Avenue in
Albany, to Washington Park, where upwards of 5,000 people
have gathered for the celebration. Our I.B.S. group is
always represented in the parade, as well as having a float.
Our food stand has always featured the latest in Italian
food such as pizza, sausage and pepper sandwiches, pizza
fritta and much more.
Here we go again – its
time for further expansion. In 1995 a plot of land adjacent
to our parking lot was purchased. On November 8, 1996 an
agreement was signed with a local contractor to build a
large pavilion in the rear of the club. The Planning
Committee decided the pavilion would provide space for 6
bocce courts as well as a large picnic area available for
parties and Friday night pizza.
This pavilion has
proved to be a boon for the organization. To give you an
idea of how these 6 bocce courts are utilized, we start by
having a mixed bocce league on Tuesday nights. Wednesday
afternoon features our Senior League and Wednesday nights
there is a Classic league. Thursday nights we find our
Ladies Auxiliary manning the courts followed by our I.B.S.
men’s league on Friday nights.
With regard to our
picnic area and concession stand, business has been booming
on Friday nights. The House Committee is serving pizza,
antipasto, chicken wings and clams to a very hungry crowd,
and each week we find new faces in this crowd. This really
has been a great improvement in the overall activities of
In 1997 a Dedication
Committee was formed. They were looking to establish a
permanent remembrance of all of those people affiliated with
our Society. They established a Tree of Life, Unity and
Fraternity. The “Tree” which was installed in our lounge
area, near the entrance, can be described as a bronze trunk
with multiple acrylic islands growing outward. Each island
contains bronze “leafs” that may be engraved . A campaign
was undertaken to solicit our members to purchase a “leaf”,
“Acorn” or “foundation stone”. The idea behind purchasing a
leaf, for example, is to perpetuate that person’s name, and
your feelings for a loved one for time immemorial.
Another phase of the
Dedication Committee was to have each of the 6 bocce courts
named after a family member or loved one. In each case a
bronze plaque has been erected, denoting the family or
person who contributed it. These plaques are prominently
displayed on a wall within the pavilion, along with a
President’s Plaque, naming the entire past President’s of
Over the years our
Club maintained the monument, naming many of our members who
served their country during World War II. The monument was
located in an inconspicuous space on lower Exchange Street,
and was in a state of disrepair. Through their efforts the
monument was restored and moved to a new site at the West
Albany Pocket Park, along with a World War I monument. On
October 18, 1998, both monuments were dedicated in a very
impressive ceremony held in the Pocket Park. This consisted
of a parade, and speeches by local dignitaries, which was a
real tribute to our Club.
We are now moving
forward in the millennium, where we expect our Society will
continue to prosper, and lead the West Albany community into
even greater prominence.