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New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, June 21, 1908, Image 20

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1908-06-21/ed-1/seq-20/

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What Italians and Frenchmen Do
tcith Miniature Farms.
A good hard times lesson for the average
American is to be been in the thrift and re
sourcefulness ■:* some of our new citizens, par
ticularly those from Italy and from France, in
getting a living, with comforts that the rest of
us might envy, despite the Fact that they earn
very small v.a- tas laborers. Anybody who
goes by way of Jerome avenue, either by trolley
or motor car, for an outing in Van Cortlandt
Park can look at a pleasing instance of this
readiness of ... who come from among
the peasantry of Southern Europe to take ad
vantage of every opportunity to get near to
nature, own in the middle of the bustling city,
which gets rid of nature as fast as possible to
make njom for more business.
Thousand of Italians have been at work for
a dozen years upon the Jerome Park reservoir.
and a considerable colony has settled to the
eastward of the excavation. The families of the
mat lied men live in the old houses that stood
there when the reservoir work began. Of course
th^re are hundreds of young fellows in the col
ony, within which a large number of the thou
sands of laborers now busy in small building
operations in Tiie Bronx Iso find their homes.
The Italian, like the Frenchman, insists upon
good food. He may not know much about the
delicacies scheduled among the Bund and
weekday "menus" in the housekeeping maga
in,.. but centuries of living in a natural way
close to mother earth have told him the whole
some tilings that are good for the healthy appe
tite and that he can pet, for the most part, out
of the ground for himself. It always surprises
.... average American to see the deftness, as
■well as the genuine pleasure, with which the
Frenchman or Italian who has come from the
peasantry takes bold of a little bit of ground
and gK.s „ut of it enough salads, potatoes, onions
and other nutritious foods to make up a satisfy
ing dinn«-r. with the addition of a little meat and
a little win**, or maybe without them, if there is
any reason for going without.
Now if you will climb a little steep hill near
the pumping station with the big red tower. Just
off J.-rome avenue, you will get an Impression of
this. You may have noticed the dozens of little
garden patches fenced in with hedges of brush
woo visible from the avenue. You cannot
realize what this squatter occupancy of unused
land means, however, until you get to the top
of the liilL There you will overlook a stretch
Charles, has no porch from which the famous Canton style ° f "^P*' 9^. P the pillars, wh.le his closer friends could group themselves
of these little "farms." Individually only a few
feet long and wide, but together covering a
square half mile. The thrifty Italians have
spent their spare hours in the early morning and
after work bo.fore sundown and part of Sunday
laboriously thatching together the hedges, then
breaking the soil and rendering It fit for culti
vation. You can see that they have often car
ried rich top soil for blocks to make a garden
belter for salads.
Ingenuity is shown in (he construction of gates
to these tiny incJosures, each with its padlock.
Narrow lajies wind through the little farming
It has recently been erected on the sea beach at Snettisham, in Norfolk, and has two rooms
only. It is designedly rough and primitive in appearance. A deep red brownstone is the
principal material employed in construction. The ceilings are coarsely plastered and stones
and shells from the beach are embedded in them. Her majesty has always been fond of this
particular bit of seashore. —The Bystander.
: -:>ct. between the gardens and walled in by
the tall hedges. When you overlook them from
the I •;■ >f the rocky hill you see that many of
• :is have a roughly constructed hut in tlv*
::: . or at the highest and most comfortable
point. The Italian laborer, living alone nr with
s me ba helor crony in one of these, sees to it
-■ r he lias a shady place adjoining his hut
wl. re he can play cards or sleep .m hot summer
• ■ .- ■ and S::r: lays.
The South Europe genius for making the
earth bring forth delicioosly is seen on every
hand. The well tilled soil is lined with rows of
green, and every plant seems a. perfect one. In
the early morning every patch will have its
owner at work weeding, loosening the soil and
petting each plant. It Is an exhibition of the
economical use of land. It is not only here
where the Italians have started to do what the
Irish squatters did among the rocky hills of
Harlem years ago (for the larger shanties and
the herds of goats are not wanting), but all over
the city, wherever an Italian can find a bit of
black ground that the sun shines on, he tills
the soil and makes it give him the best part of
his dinner. And not only that, it is likely that
much of the excellent green stuff that Italians
sell to each other so cheaply in Bleecker street,
or in the neighborhood of Mulberry Bend Park,
romes bit by bit from some of these little gar-
The average American would starve prob
ably before he would think of getting his living
in this way. However poor, he would probably
be too proud to let old neighbors see him doing
it. Living between his "job" and thn grocery
Store, Jn a Int. he i* helpless when work is so
scarce that hf> loses his w< >:-k!y wages. He has
f, it gotten how to use his hands
It la different with the new Americans There
!s a little settlement called Newark-on-the-Hill,
not far from the Springfield turnpike and th»
old Jersey town of Milburn. where a few years
ago a real estate concern made money by cut
ting- a farm up into minute plots, with lanes be
tween them, and selling them to Italians and
others who would buy. The average lot was
14 feet wide and 35 feet long. These lots sold
as low as $14 each and averaged about $25,
title being guaranteed by a Newark company.
They could be bought on "easy terms," •>."> down
and as low as 50 cents a week. Italians who
worked miles away heard of the offer and
bought. A number of negroes took advantage
of it. too.
The outcome of thfs experiment is interesting
and just a bit amusing. The Italians and th -:r
negro neighbors caught the American spii la
well as holding to the thrifty Italian ■ r ■;.
They bought up two ir ' ! :■ ■ ■ lots and >mbined
them !'<>r themselves; then bought :i few more
as a speculation. There is hardly one of tha
first rough shacks to be seen now. It is primi
tive enough, but the shanties have either \> ■ -n
torn . 1 < » vv : i . .>r. when they were large and strong
enough, have been modernized by covering th -rri
with weather boarding an I sh ngles -i::d by plas
tering inside. Little ;a:t:— as have been added.
The twenty-five dollar lots are now ratci at
$50. Just us one sees villa sites along Riverside
Drive plastered with "for sale" signs, the visitor
to this little settl^m^nt sees boards painted a
bright yellow bearing the sign "For sale** and
with the little piot mapped out by lines and fig
ures as carefully as if it were in Broadway, iv
the heart of the skys< raper district. You notic*
that nearly all of the owners who want to sel>
give addresses away off in Newark, or Ruthen
ford, or in The Bronx, in New York. The name*
ar>- characteristically Italian
A negro scrub woman has a well built house
with at least lour rooms, on a lot forty feeG
square, all having cost about ?•>*). The whole
amount of her yearly taxes would not pay for r.
dirty, dark un.l stuffy tenement of two or three
rooms in the worst part of New York for two
A number of the inhabitants of the settlement!
are '.tut of work just at this tim-\ It is not
worrying them much. One fellow was seen .-it
ting under the shade of a little veranda playing
cards with hi.^ wife, the children at play near
at hand. It was :n the middle of ti.e day. H<>
had evident!) done all he could do in the wel
kept little garden that is supplying a I irge par'
of the <laily menu, helped mt by the g at thai
roams a field near by and by a minimum pur
chase from an Italian general store in a struct
ure about ten feet wide by twenty long. He
was enjoying life in spite of the industrial de
This place may be wiped out within a fevw
months, at some ad* ml ige to the pn - nt own
ers. Surveys are bei .-; ma le on the propertj
adjoining for lay:.'!;; >ut plots of highly re«
strict. -d property. The Italians and •'.! :rs »wn.
ing lots in the settlement are watching the pro
ceedings with great interest. They say that
their new neighbors will not want to be so n>- ir
them and that they will probably buy out i\\r
undesirables at a good advance in pries.i es.
The thrift of foreigners does not always mean
that they devote themselves unceasingly ta
hard work and accumulation. A Frenchman
who plays the violin In a big downtown res
taurant has bui!t with his own hands an tm«
posing country house in the outskirts of a fosh
lonable New Jersey suburb. He plans I » live
thr".- months of the year at ea?e there when he
has it finished. Adjoining him is the property
of a waiter, who has built a house that is not so
imposing, but is comfortable. He cultivates h
garden, raises chickens, rabbits and pigeons ar.J
spends three-quarters of the year pottering
around this place, content with t.ie monej that
he can earn in the work of a few weeks in
"I'd rather be good than great."
"Then you wou't be annoyed by any serious
amount of competition." — Cleveland I'lalu
Washed, Cleaned, Repaired and Stored.
Tel. SU73 M<iai»uu. 297 nra AVK.

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