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Panther Hollow

A Pittsburgh Little Italy

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Panther Hollow Plaque

This 1919 painting of Panther Hollow by Edward Redfield
was auctioned by Christie's in New York on May 20, 2010 for $362,500.

Triumph! Triumph! Triumph!

February 18, 2022

Panther Hollow residents extend their deepest gratitude to Mayor Ed Gainey for his decision to abandon the Mon-Oakland Connector project that would have constructed a roadway through Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run, to connect Hazelwood Green to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Truth and justice have prevailed.

That important decision signifies a new consciousness at City Hall that upholds the dignity of city residents. Should Mayor Gainey continue on this Pathway of Dignity, he will surely be remembered and revered as one of the great mayors of the City of Pittsburgh.

We extend our deepest gratitude to all those individuals who saw the injustice of this project from the very beginning and provided support. They helped us to move forward even when the outlook seemed insurmountable.

We are most grateful to the courageous Four Mile Run residents who cared just as deeply for their neighborhood as we stood together in solidarity, and for organizations such as Pittsburghers for Public Transit. Their fearless and continuously strong actions were vital to this triumph.

We are also grateful to those who opposed us, and to those who chose silence and offered no support. They only strengthened our resolve and determination to end the injustice.

The means to an end is more important than the end itself. When individuals are confident in their own abilities to achieve success, they proceed with harm to none. Words were the primary means to the end to achieve this triumph; thousands of words were used from the very beginning when this project first became known to the community on August 29, 2015, in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The next step is for Oakland organizations to unite with one another, as well as with the mayor and his administrators, to demand hundreds of millions of dollars or more in compensation, from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, for the severe impact they have had on their host community.

The monies received will be used to realize the shared vision of residents, and of the mayor and his administrators, for a new beginning for Oakland’s community.

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Panther Hollow Memorial Arch
Panther Hollow sign
Panther Hollow Memorial Arch
Panther Hollow sign
Panther Hollow Memorial Arch
Panther Hollow sign
Panther Hollow Memorial Arch
Panther Hollow sign
Panther Hollow Memorial

Panther Hollow

Panther Hollow was one of Pittsburgh's first Italian neighborhoods, a place where everyone knew your name, or at least your nickname. The early settlers, immigrants from the towns of Gamberale and Pizzoferrato in the Abruzzi region in Central Italy, arrived in the 1880s. The neighborhood was essentially one street (Boundary) with two small side streets. In 1900, over 200 Italian immigrants lived there, and in 1920, at the height of the Italian immigration experience, the number grew to 470.

Their homes provided shelter not only for their families, but also for Italian immigrant boarders who wanted an opportunity to live in America. Nestled in a small valley below the University of Pittsburgh, the early settlers did not have easy access to other businesses, so the neighborhood became self-sufficient. There were two banks, six grocery stores, a travel company, a cow pasture with chickens, vegetable gardens, an outdoor bread oven, grape vineyards, and an Italian social club.

Families pitched tents and celebrated weddings at an open field in the neighborhood, complete with their own resident musicians. Dozens of young men enlisted or were drafted in the military during World War II, while the elderly men at home built a Victory Garden to support the war effort. The women of Panther Hollow played as large a role as the men in establishing the character and personality of the neighborhood. From the early days when women stayed home, caring for both their own large families and sometimes numerous boarders, to the later years of seeking employment outside of the home, their hard work provided for the welfare of their families and advancement of the neighborhood.

The open field was also a place for residents to play bocce, football, softball, and it-taggers, and to roast potatoes and marshmallows. The nearby Panther Hollow Lake was a venue for additional recreational activities such as fishing, ice skating, and boating. The renowned Forbes Field, a five-minute walk away, provided not only additional entertainment but also a second job for many hard-working residents.

In 1963, the Panther Hollow community was faced with a defining moment. University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Edward Litchfield sought to destroy 60 homes and displace over 250 Italians in order to build a futuristic 21st Century Research Park. He aligned himself with the largest foundations, wealthiest banks and organizations, and city government. He made one major miscalculation – he underestimated the fighting spirit and courage of the Abruzzese.

My parents' generation moved into battle. They were led by men like Eugene "Jeep" DePasquale, Nicholas "Nicky Bull" Diulus, Gervasio "Jerry" Cafardi, Carl "Gimp" Giampolo, Anthony "Delly" DelVecchio, Raymond "Clark Kent" Veri, and Robert "Mort" Casciato. These men had fought in the jungles of the Pacific, the deserts of Africa, and the hills and valleys of Europe. In the battle for their community, they had support from the power of the women of Panther Hollow and from my grandparents' generation, the toughest of the tough that gave birth to America's Greatest Generation. Litchfield was defeated and within two years, he was ousted as chancellor.

In my own generation, efforts should be directed toward making Panther Hollow the birthplace for an Italian Cultural Center of Pennsylvania. Instead, we are faced with a choice for a defining moment. The same forces that supported Litchfield now want to build a roadway through the neighborhood, which will bring massive development and destroy this cultural treasure.

Albert "Al Bell" Bellisario passed away on December 30, 2018 at the age of 94. His last wish to his family one week before he died was that they drive him through Panther Hollow. A cousin's last wish to his family before he passed away was that they scatter half of his ashes in Panther Hollow.

To those who support a roadway through Panther Hollow from Hazelwood Green to Pitt and CMU, Panther Hollow is only a stretch of land for economic gain. To all of us who love this neighborhood, Panther Hollow is sacred.

We deeply honor the legacy of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that enriched our lives and made us all proud to be Italian. Our generation will also triumph because these forces cannot defeat the spirit of the Abruzzese and their supporters.

Carlino Giamplo

Carlino Giampolo

The above article, with slight modifications, was published in the April 2019 edition of La Nostra Voce, the official and national publication of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America.


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