Work is just getting underway on the new Italian American Museum in Little Italy. Located on the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets, the revamped museum will be six times larger than the existing space once it is complete. Under development by Oved Group and Nexus Building Development Group, the museum is part of a 12-unit apartment building that will take two years to complete.
Making Plans for a New Museum
The building a 185-189 Grand Street was purchased by developers in February of last year for nearly $15 million. As part of the sales agreement, the museum will enjoy rent-free occupation of the basement within the structure as well as a portion of the ground floor for an indefinite amount of time. According to current plans, the four levels of the museum will feature both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The building will also include a 50-seat auditorium that can be used for film screenings, theater performances, lectures, meetings and dance recitals.
The lower levels of the museum will receive natural light from a central skylight located on the ground floor, while a museum gift shop will be located on the same floor. The museum, which will open into an atrium at its entrance with a 20-foot-tall ceiling, will have a separate entrance on Mulberry Street.
Exploring the Building’s History
Once the home of the Banca Stabile, which is a financial institution that served the Italian-American community in 1885, the building became home to the Italian American Museum in 2001. With the opening of the museum, the hope was to celebrate the legacy of Italians in the country. To pay additional homage to the history of the building and the community, the museum will incorporate artifacts from the bank into a lower level gallery.
During its heyday, the bank served newly arrived Italian immigrants in a number of ways. Not only did the bank provide financial assistance, but it also served as a link between immigrants in the United States and their relatives in Italy. Additional services provided by the bank included notary public, post office, telegraph, travel via steam ships and import-export.
Chartered under the aegis of the University of the State of New York, Education Department as a museum on June 12, 2001, the museum is dedicated to the struggles of Italian Americans, their achievements and their contributions to American society. The museum also serves to collect, preserve and exhibit memorabilia, oral histories, documents and other materials while also sponsoring lectures, musical programs, festivals, film, symposia, theater and art exhibits.
Construction on the new building is expected to be complete sometime in 2019. Until then, the museum will remain closed. Once open, the façade of the museum will be illuminated at night.