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Towson University

A Fortuitous Find

The 19th century building that lodges the Italian Cultural Center, Inc. on Baltimore's Cathedral Hill symbolizes the spirit of the Italian experience in the United States.

"The building was first constructed in 1830, and to our knowledge the construction took three years. It was complete in 1833," said President and Chairman Francesco Legaluppi. "It was originally built as a private residence for the Morris family."

Director of the Bank of Maryland and board member of the B&O Railroad, John B. Morris was the owner of the house until 1890, according to a Cathedral Hill brochure written by Frank R. Shivers Jr.

"In 1890 the Roman Catholic Church acquired the building and built the rear section," said Legaluppi. "In 1891 it established the cathedral school here. From 1891 to 1961 this was the cathedral school of Baltimore. In 1961 the cathedral school was moved north and was built next to the new cathedral, the church maintained this property until 1972 while it housed the Maryland Science Center. After the Science Center moved out the building was sold it to an architectural firm by the name of Goodrow and Associates."

During this time the building underwent a series of extreme renovations until 1983 when they sold to a group of professionals.

"Seven attorneys and seven CPAs held onto the building until 1999, when the Italian Cultural Center acquired the building from them in October of that year," said Legaluppi.

The structure at 7-9 West Mulberry has an exceptionally rich history, but this was not the only reason why it was chosen to be the home of the Italian Cultural Center.

"The building was basically a fortuitous find; the building is directly smack dab in the cultural district of Baltimore," said Legaluppi. "Pratt Library, the Basilica, Walter's, it's all here. The Italian architecture is probably one of the most Italian in the city, with the exception of small private homes. We found that at the moment we were looking for a home, this was one of the most historic and emblematic type site to put the cultural center."

Little Italy may seem to have been an ideal place for the center, but it was not.

"There wasn't anything available," said Legaluppi.

Needless to say the Italian Cultural Center is extremely happy with the cultural gem that was found in the heart of Historic Charles Street, directly across for the Basilica of the Assumption. The perfect place to celebrate Italy through various events and programs.

"We love this building," said Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Susan Tifft. "I can still remember the first time I was brought into this building. I was hooked immediately. Just to see the sense of history that is here and the sense of what the building could be again, should be, and taking a hand in that, maintaining it, making something out of it. It's a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun."

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Palazzo Italia Events and Programs: The Italian Cultural Center is flourishing with activities to commemorate Italy past, present and future.