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.