48-Sabato Serrapede comes to America: First stop, Red Hook

Introduction

Gennaro and Emilia (nee Pappalardo) Serrapede’s daughter Filomena married Giuseppe D’Agosto in Agropoli during the summer of 1923.  When the New York State Census was taken in 1925 Filomena and Giuseppe were living in Brooklyn.  Their first child, a girl named Lillian, was 23 days old when the census enumerator visited in June.  Two months later, Filomena’s younger brother, Sabato Serrapede immigrated on the Conte Verde to America.  He departed from Naples on August 21, 1925 aboard the Conte Verde and arrived in New York City on August 31, 1925.

Sabato was called Sam after his arrival in America.  His entrance into the narrative of the family history marks a special point in time for us.  Sabato was Sammy’s father and EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.  Finding the passenger list for the ship Sabato came over on brought all the months of research on our ancestors right into the flow of our own life stories.

 

Sailing from Naples

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Passenger List of the Conte Verde, the ship Sabato Serrapede came to America on.

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Close-up of the Passenger List.  Sabato Serrapede was passenger No. 7.

The passenger list contains some information we think is inaccurate.  Sam’s profession is entered as “sailor.”  We never heard him talk about a time in the Italian navy or working professionally aboard a ship.  One of the trades he learned in Agropoli was that of the marinaro, a fisherman.  He knew all about the care of a boat, how to assess the weather and tides, and how to fish as well as repair nets.  We think that this may have been a misunderstanding on the part of whoever added Sam’s information to the list.

For the questions concerning ability to read and write in Italy, the answers are “Yes.”  This is correct since after the Unification of Italy education for all children was mandatory up to the 4th grade.  The passenger list also states that before coming to New York Sam lived with his father Gennaro in Agropoli.
Arriving in New York

 

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 Complete list of answers given by passengers to the questions asked by the Immigration Officer.  Passengers had to answer these questions before being allowed to disembark.

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Close-up of the States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival page that follows the passenger list.  Sam’s answers appear on row 7.

The answers Sam provided to the Immigration Officer tell us that Sam:

• Paid for his own ticket.
• He was never in the U.S. before this trip.
• He planned to live in the U.S. permanently.
• He was going to stay with his sister Filomena Serrapede in Brooklyn.

In Italy, women do not change their surname after marriage.  This is why Filomena’s name appears as Filomena Serrapede and not Filomena D’Agosto.  Sabato answered the question the way he would have if he were still in Italy.

Next Stop Brooklyn

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Headers on the page of the 1925 NYS Census page where the D’Agosto family appears.

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Close-up of entry for the D’Agosto family at 35 Avenue U.

The 1925 New York State Census was taken on June 1, 1925.  At that time Filomena and Giuseppe D’Agosto were living at 35 Avenue U in Brooklyn.

By the time Sam arrived in New York on August 31, 1925 Filomena and Giuseppe were living at 30 Union Street in Brooklyn.  When the census was taken Filomena and Giuseppe’s daughter Lillian was just 23 days old.  Having to move between the time the census was taken and before Sam arrived created much work for the family.  We wonder if Joseph Carnicelli was still living with the D’Agostos after Sam arrived.

We wanted to know what the neighborhood where Sam and the D’Agosto family lived was like.  To do this we searched some local history and real estate sites.  There were no photos of the neighborhood on West Street during the late 1920s but from those of the early 1930s we get an idea of what the area was like during the time the D’Agosto family continued to live there.  The photos we selected for this posting from the New York Municipal Archives Online provide a series of contrasts of the area between the Great Depression and the WWII eras.

Sometime before 1930, the D’Agosto family moved again, this time to an apartment house on West Street in Red Hook.  The members of the Red Hook community came mainly from the Italian and Irish immigrant communities.  Many of them worked in maritime industries.  Sam continued to live with the D’Agostos until March of that year.  His next place of residence was the in Dyker Heights, a quiet residential neighborhood with tree lined streets, schools, and parks.  The main shopping venue on 13th Avenue consisted of 2-3 story apartment houses with ground level stores after 69th Street.  Subway lines to Manhattan and other parts of Brooklyn were within a 5-10 minute walk.  A large Italian immigrant community was developing there.  Many of Sam’s paesanos and relatives from Agropoli were living there.  The change would mark a new phase of Sam’s life in America.

Brooklyn Neighborhoods:  Gravesend and Red Hook

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Google Maps provides us with an idea of the area in Gravesend where Filomena and Giuseppe D’Agosto were living in 1925.  The pink house you see on the corner was built in 1931  according to real estate listing site Zillow.  The neighborhood’s name has nothing to do with burial grounds.  One possible origin for the name is given at Forgotten New York, a website dedicated to preserving, photographing and documenting the history of Manhattan and the boroughs.  Gravesend was the one town where the English settled in Kings County.  The name Gravesend might derive from the Old English word grave which meant grove.

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The multi-family dwelling where the D’Agosto family next lived at 30 Union Street no longer exists.  It is now an empty lot.  When Sam first came to America, the first neighborhood where he lived was Red Hook.  Red Hook was once a base for many maritime industries and docks.  Forgotten New York explains that the Dutch settlers found the soil in this part of Brooklyn to be red in color.  Red Hook is the English translation of the Dutch name.

Red Hook Through the Years

We could not find any photos of Red Hook in the 1920s when Sam lived there.  The following photos show the neighborhood during the Great Depression and thereafter.  The photo from 1903 shows us the busy harbor which was the heart of the area.

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Red Hook in 1903.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives Online.

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During the Great Depression shanty towns called “Hoovervilles” developed across America as the poor and unemployed struggled to survive.  This photo is of a Hooverville in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY circa 1930-32.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives Online.

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 Mission Church on the site of a “Hooverville” shanty town in Red Hook, Brooklyn, 1930-32.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives.

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Aerial view of Red Hook Houses, 1930-1939.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives.
Housing projects were built by the government in the 1930s.  The idea was to provide a complete community life for the residents at affordable rents.  These houses eventually became known as projects.  Another term used today is public housing.  At the start they were populated by low income to middle income members of the middle class.  Tenants ranged from blue collar workers to middle management level office employees.  Many veterans of WWII moved into housing projects when they returned to civilian life.

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Red Hook, Brooklyn, Recreation Area, 1941.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives.

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Undated Photo of the Red Hook Houses site, Red Hook Brooklyn.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives.

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Red Hook, Brooklyn, public swimming pool.  Undated photo.  Courtesy NY Municipal Archives.

Discussion with Uncle Sammy, Sunday, December 13, 2015 11 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Uncle Sammy and I were very surprised by the discoveries we made while preparing this posting.  We had always thought Filomena and Giuseppe D’Agosto lived in Dyker Heights.  From the way my Mom spoke about her childhood I got the impression that The D’Agosto sisters were her playmates from her early years.  We never heard mention about the years the D’Agosto family lived in Red Hook.

Sam Serrapede never spoke about that time either.  The entire narrative of our own family history always took place in Dyker Heights.  Even when my Mom described how Grandpa Sam met Grandma Josie, it was in the setting of Dyker Heights.

Giuseppe D’Agosto passed away in 1943.  At that time his family was still living in Red Hook.  This neighborhood is distant from Dyker Heights and was not easily accessible by mass transit in the past.  How often the D’Agostos came to visit the Serrapedes during the 1930s and early 1940s is not known.  The impression remains, however, that the D’Agosto and Serrapede families were very close.  My Mom loved Giuseppe and Filomena’s daughters and son very much.  They were not just her cousins, they were also her best friends.  Sometime after 1943 Filomena and/or her children bought a house in Dyker Heights on 71st Street between 13th and 14th Avenues.  Uncle Sammy remembers it was about 4 houses up from the corner of 14th Avenue.  One way we might be able to place Filomena after Giuseppe’s death is to check the Brooklyn phone directories for 1940-1950.  A listing for a particular year will give us an idea of when the family moved in.

The information on the passenger list for the 1925 voyage Sam Serrapede made to America squares with all the facts Uncle Sammy heard from his Dad about why he came to America.  Sam had worked very hard to save the $500 he had by the time he sailed for America.  He had made up his mind years earlier to leave Italy and never return.  This is why he had started to take steps to establish himself in the U.S. permanently.  Sam did not like his father Gennaro at all.  Things back in Agropoli were no good.  Although we never learned the exact reasons for this state, they did motivate Sam to work very hard and to be very frugal.  This drive contributed towards the steady progress he made in life after arriving in New York.
Resources

Passenger List and Immigration Officer Questionnaire
Conte Verde, August 1925
New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
Year:  1925
Ancestry.com

1925 New York State Census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 60; Assembly District: 16; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 59
Ancestry.com

The Names of Neighborhoods in Brooklyn
Forgotten New York
http://forgotten-ny.com/2014/03/the-names-of-the-neighborhoods-of-brooklyn/

Google Maps-35 Avenue U/Gravesend
http://tinyurl.com/zllfvz9

35 Avenue U Listing
Zillow
http://tinyurl.com/hjfanpo

Google Maps-30 Union Street/Red Hook
http://tinyurl.com/zfhmy8k

Red Hook 1903
Photo from New York Municipal Archives
Collection Name:  Ports and Terminals
Identifier ddf_0803
Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Very dense)
Alternative Negative Nu. 335-A
http://tinyurl.com/gocm2px

Red Hook 1930-32
Photo from New York Municipal Archives
Collection Name:  Municipal Archives Collection
Identifier:  Mac_1354
Subject:  Great Depression
Date:  1930-32
Ground is now Red Hook Park.
http://tinyurl.com/hzyllpu

Hoovervilles
History
http://www.history.com/topics/hoovervilles

Mission Church 1930-32
Collection:  Municipal Archives Collection..
Identifier:  mac_1352
Subject:  Great Depression
Date:  1930-32
Description:  The Mission Church in Hoover City, near frame house erected on the dumps.
Notes:  Ground is now Red Hook Park, Brooklyn.
http://tinyurl.com/hjczj6a

Red Hook Houses, Aerial View, 1930-1939
Collection:  Municipal Archives Collection
Identifier:  mac_0746
Subject:  Housing Projects, red Hook Houses
Date:  1930-1939
Description:  Red Hook Houses, Otsego and Clinton streets, Brooklyn.  Rendering aerial view.
http://tinyurl.com/hdmhlqh

Recreation Area, Red Hook, 1941
Collection:  DPR:  Parks & Recreation
Identifier:  dpr_19683
Title:  Red Hook Recreation Area”  Sidewalk Block #4 Bay Street, Brooklyn.
Date:  January 20, 1941
Source:  NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation.

Red Hook Houses Site, undated.
Collection:  Municipal Archives Collection
Identifier:  mac_0801
Description:  Red Hook Houses site looking west from Dwight Street, Brooklyn, 3-story houses in foreground.
Notes:  Industrial buildings in background.  Houses exteriors look in good condition.
http://tinyurl.com/z5mrood

Collection:  Municipal Archives Collection
Identifier:  mac_1538
Subject:  Children, Pools, Parks-Brooklyn
Description:  Red Hook Swiming Pool.  Clinton, Bay & Henry Streets, Brooklyn.  Bathers as far as the eye can see.
Notes:  “Island” in middle of pool.
http://tinyurl.com/zz7v5e8

“If You’re Thinking of Living in Red Hook:  Isolated Brooklyn Area Starts to Awaken”
by Aaron Donovan
Published:  June 10, 2001
The New York Times Online
http://tinyurl.com/j3996cb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “48-Sabato Serrapede comes to America: First stop, Red Hook

  1. If I have not said it before your post are always well done with plenty supporting information. While our families are very different I find your stories interesting to read. Also people just getting into genealogy should follow your blog just to see how research can be done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, an interesting and well-researched post. I’ve been to Red Hook—to shop at Fairway. I have imagined it as the place where my grandfather was employed when he first became a milkman as it was really the port and industrial center of Brooklyn, as your 1903 photo displays.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I know. Actually, the cool and the hip sides are detracting from the ability of working families to stay in the borough. This is a hot button issue right now, one I wish I could be more engaged in but can’t be due to professional demands and personal health issues.

        Liked by 1 person

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