Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the neighborhood south of Union Square was a hub for leftist and labor organizing, which manifested in a multitude of forms. The Communist Party of the United States had headquarters at several buildings in the area; teachers, lithographers, transport, garment, packinghouse, steel mill, and automobile workers developed unions throughout these blocks; leftist bookstores, schools, theaters, and leading civil rights institutions were established; and artists living and gathering here sought to bring attention to issues of class and equity. The neighborhood’s history as a center of leftist ideology is also exhibited in the tremendous number of publications that emerged from these historic structures. One of the most striking of these was an Italian anti-Fascist paper founded and published by a prominent member of the Democratic Socialist Party of Italy.
The eight-story loft building at 80 Fourth Avenue was designed in 1898 by architect William J. Dilthey for McKinney & Von Schow. The building features a strong classical vocabulary in its decorative elements, including a rusticated second floor and paired arched windows at the sixth and eighth floors. Just under a half-century after its construction, it housed the influential bi-weekly Italian anti-Fascist publication Il Mondo, developed in 1938.
With the fall of France in 1940, many Italian anti-Fascists who had fled Mussolini and took refuge there then came to the United States, particularly New York. This led to a flowering of Italian language anti-Fascist publications. Il Mondo was the first of these, as its publishers’ escape to New York pre-dated Hitler’s victory in France. Il Mondo was also arguably the most influential of all these publications. Upon its launch in 1939, Time Magazine said, “The best Italian refugee and Italian-American brains in the U.S. last week launched in New York City a new anti-Fascist paper, Il Mondo (“An Italian Daily with American Ideals”). Even as it appeared, democracy won a dramatic victory over Fascism in the U.S. Italian-language press.”
In its pages, Il Mondo worked to influence Italian Americans to oppose the Fascist regime in Italy. It also, especially in the later war years, tried to influence American policy towards regime change and reconstruction in Italy, with an eye towards supporting social democratic forces within the country. In the years leading up to and upon America’s entry into the war, Il Mondo consistently called out Fascist sympathizers in America, and its reporting and investigation was used by both the mainstream press and the U.S. government to highlight and address creeping Fascism in the United States. One such paper which used this material was Fortune Magazine, which in 1940 called Il Mondo “the finest anti-fascist paper in the United States.”
Il Mondo’s founder and publisher was Giuseppe Lupis (March 28, 1896 — October 19, 1979), a journalist and prominent member of the Democratic Socialist Party of Italy who left Italy in 1926 along with many prominent Italian leftists and anti-Fascists in the face of Mussolini’s crackdown on political opponents. New York City directories from 1940 until 1946 list Lupis at 80 Fourth Avenue, indicating that he perhaps lived at this address in addition to managing Il Mondo’s offices here.
After the war, Lupis returned to his homeland and was elected to the Italian National Assembly as a Socialist representing Ragusa in southern Sicily. He went on to hold various offices and served in several government positions in Italy, including as Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, and Minister of the Merchant Navy.
While Il Mondo was located here, it would have been surrounded by a number of like-minded organizations and publications and — especially along Fourth Avenue — bookstores. At the same time Il Mondo operated here, the largest second-hand bookstore in the country was also located at this address. Schulte’s, founded by Theodore E. Schulte, contained around a million volumes and stayed at 80 Fourth Avenue from 1917 until the 1980s. This was the longest any Fourth Avenue bookstore survived in a single location. Notable customers of Schulte’s included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fritz Kreisler, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Steve Allen, and Marion Davies.
Protect the Neighborhood South of Union Square
Without a doubt, the history Il Mondo and Giuseppe Lupis are inextricable from the deeply overlapping trends of leftist organizing and publishing in the neighborhood south of Union Square. Still, the lack of recognition of this unique history by the city and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission puts the future integrity of this area at risk. Given the increased pressure on the neighborhood exacerbated by the construction of the 14th Street Tech Hub, the demolition of the St. Denis Hotel (80 East 10th Street), and the completion of the woefully out-of-scale tech office tower at 808 Broadway, the time is now for the city to act to protect 80 Fourth Avenue and its surroundings, an incredibly historically rich but endangered area.
Urge the city to protect this vital history and neighborhood NOW – click here.