Unlisted Philadelphia: Banca Bozzelli

March 20, 2019 | by Ben Leech


Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Spring 2019 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Unlisted Philadelphia highlights interesting and significant Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the local designation process and how you can participate in nominating a building to the Philadelphia Register, visit the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s website for more information.

BUILDING: Banca Bozzelli

LOCATION: 735-37 S. 7th Street


YEAR: 1893 (with alterations by Watson & Huckel in 1903)

During the Italian immigration boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cultural biases and language barriers often shut new immigrants out of the traditional banking houses of Philadelphia. As a result, a number of informal and unregulated “immigrant banks” popped up in neighborhoods like South Philadelphia to manage savings, advance credit, and remit funds overseas. Usually founded by immigrants themselves, these banks tended to operate discreetly out of existing taverns, grocery stores, and other local businesses. Steamship agent Lorenzo Bozzelli, though, threw discretion to the wind and constructed Banca Bozzelli, a grand, purpose-built edifice surpassing the stature and prestige of traditional banks. A decade later, rival Banca d’Italia, which eventually absorbed Banca Bozzelli, constructed an equally impressive tower down the block. Although both survive remarkably intact today, neither has been listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. 


About the Author

Ben Leech Ben Leech is a preservationist, architectural historian and illustrator based in Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Instagram @bentleech and support his capitalist alter-ego at Archivolt Press


  1. Bob Skiba says:

    I love strolling through Queen Village, looking at the architectural remnants of Philadelphia’s Italian immigrant history and this bank building has always been my favorite. Your drawings are delightful, Ben.

  2. Lawrence Bozzelli says:

    Thanks for the story. Too often we walk through life without contemplating the history of those who came before us. I’m wondering if you can reach out to me if you did any additional research on this building. I am trying to figure out if Lorenzo Bozzelli is a relative of mine. Thanks.
    -L. Bozzelli

    1. Bonnie MacVaugh says:

      Hello Mr. Bozzelli,
      I am the granddaughter of Frank and Rose Bozzelli who migrated from Vasco
      Italy. I am looking for other Bozzelli family members in Phila.Do you know others?

      1. Rick Bozzelli says:

        Bonnie, I’m the greatgrandson of Lorenzo Bozzelli and grandson of William P Bozzelli. Are you related to Lorenzo? Looking for other distant Bozzelli family members.

    2. Anthony Sutera says:

      If you Lorenzo Bozzelli change to residence, change to Philadelphia he’ll be listed Census,1900-1910-1920 all Family or Boarders.

    3. Rick Bozzelli says:

      Lawrence, my name is Richard Lawrence Bozzelli, i’m the great grandson of Lorenzo Bozzelli, and grandson of William P Bozzelli, son of Lorenzo. Lorenzo had seven children, are you related to one of them?

  3. Anthony Sutera says:

    Ben your drawing is fantastic ! Your article is flawless, in its accuracy. Other writers, Inga Saffron, (Good EyeBankers Row) butchered ! BVNA Banca d Bozzelli misleading, inaccurate (completed in 1903 by Watson and Huckle) absurd w/date stone 1893 Thank You, The current owner ! Nice work ! Congrats on the spectacular job ! Well done !

  4. Hello Rick and Lawerence,
    Thanks for reaching out, as near as I can tell we are likely distant cousins. My Grandfather, Grandmother and 3 children came through Ellis Island later than your family. Sadly,due to the depression my side of the family seriously fractured. I have lost track of everyone.

    Do you know if your family was part of the Banca Bozzelli? I may take a trip to Phila. this summer and stop to see the building.

    1. Richard Bozzelli says:

      Bonnie, Lorenzo Bozzelli, founder of the bank was my great grandfather. Have you traced your ancestors back to Lorenzo?

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