Our first tour of the house was arranged by Wanda, the granddaughter of the original owners who had come to pick up an old sewing machine of her grandmothers. When Ernie Guglielmo passed away in Feb. of 2012, Wanda represented her family in the secession of a title that had not changed hands since 1928 from its owner Guisseppe. Over the next few months we heard and are contiuing to hear many stories about our house and the family that occupied it for over 80 year
If the name Giuseppe Guglielmo didn’t give it away, the family is of Italian, or more specifically Sicilian, descent. The neighborhood at one point was primarily Italian with corner groceries on nearly every block. Carmelo Fava was originally betrothed to Giuseppe’s brother, but married Giuseppe after his brother’s untimely passing. Giuseppe “Joe” Guglielmo and Carmelo Fava (a.k.a. Mama Joe) had ten children who were raised in the home, with many family gatherings once the children started families of their own. Giuseppe supported his family as a fisherman, selling his catch at the historic French Market just down the street.
One of our favorite stories is that all the family would come to the house after church on Sunday’s to eat lunch. If you hadn’t been to church, Mama Joe had a shrine set up in the corner so all prayers could be said before you were allowed to eat.
Here is another memory shared by Cheryl Purcell Gianforte, granddaughter of Nancy (Nuncia) Guglielmo, one of the daughters raised in the house:
I am one of the great granddaughters of the original occupants, my great grandma and grandpa Guglielmo. Although my great grandpa passed away before I was born, we did spend many days (and nights) with my grandma Guglielmo in the house. The house was filled many times with loud Italian cousins and aunts and uncles, all talking over each other. I have fond memories of playing hopscotch in the back and sitting with my grandma watching the Lawrence Welk show in the ‘dining room’. We never ventured into the ‘parlor’ and the old building out back was off limits, as well. My cousin and I once removed a loose brick from the back yard wall and buried some ‘treasure’. The smell of basil today still brings me back to my grandma’s garden. There are also stories of ghosts (friendly, of course) and I can attest to one encounter myself when I spent the night there as a young girl. Several members of the family lived within two blocks of the house and many days it would be the impromptu gathering spot.
In addition to family members, we’ve had many neighbors tell us about Mama Joe and the respect that was given to her by all of the neighborhood. Our immediate neighbor, Mrs. Rose, has a brother named Tootie who remembers Pasquale and Ernie Guglielmo (brothers to Nuncia) fixing a boat in front of the house.
It is apparent from these stories that the ties in our neighborhood are strong and the 7th ward has always been diverse. We like these stories because they give us a stronger connection to the house and it’s surroundings.
Here is an grave listing for Mama Joe with a picture – we can certainly see some resemblances! Hopefully we can track down some other historic photos, many were lost during Katrina.