South End: Immigrant Neighborhoods
Several districts within the South End became distinct neighborhoods: the “Abrigador” near Scovill’s; “Washington Hill,” south of Washington Avenue; and Hopeville, south of Piedmont Street. Neighborhood loyalty was reinforced by family networks and ethnic identity, and the shared experiences of neighborhood-based jobs, shops and churches.
"I had family who lived on Baldwin Street… and we lived on South Main Street and there was sort of like a little rivalry [between] the Puerto Ricans that lived on South Main Street, and the Puerto Ricans that lived on Baldwin Street."
~ Robert Lopez
" My father always used to say, “You didn’t cross”, [meaning] you didn’t cross the Baldwin Street bridge unless you were Irish, or you got [beat up]."
~ William Fitzpatrick
Immigrant workers and their families settled in the South End where they raised families and built close-knit communities among their neighbors. Irish, Italian, French Canadian, Lebanese, Albanian, Portuguese, Hispanic immigrants arrived in the South End over the last century and a half. For more than a century, the factories in the neighborhood offered economic opportunities to new arrivals.
"In 1930 my father came [back] over to Italy for us and brought us to Waterbury. And at first they did like most of the immigrants did, we lived in with some other family, you know, boarded, and he earned a living working part time in the factories… and he worked with the WPA. "
~ Armond Fonti
"Between me, my brother, my father and my older brother in New York, we probably brought about 150 [Albanians to this country in the 1980s], signing the papers through the church [agreeing] to help them out, which we did. Matter of fact, about 12 people, at different times, we kept them home for 4-5 months or 6 months. We fed them, we clothed them and then we found them jobs…."
~ Ali Demerali
The rich immigrant traditions of the South End have supported a wide array of Catholic churches, schools, and convents, along with festivals, sports and social clubs connected with the church. Immigrants from the Middle East, arriving in Waterbury after the break up of the Ottoman Empire and the political turmoil following World War I, have also established Christian and Moslem communities to continue their traditions in a new land.
"[We organized] the Portuguese Club and the soccer players, and men’s programs on the stage…. I organized a group, and we travel with kids to New York City, to Philadelphia and to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Newark, New Jersey, to the World’s Fair in 1965…. It was an emotional moment at the World’s Fair when the kids... were playing at the USA Pavilion. We have a group of 400 students for CCD class that we attend on Sunday mornings and on a Tuesday night."
~ Fr. Nelson Ribeiro
"We felt there was a need to have a [mosque] where [Albanians] could worship and get together. There used to be a store [across from St. Anne’s], so we got the store and we just emptied it out…. We painted it up and all that…. I was teaching the kids the religion, the language… Albanian poems and dances, different costumes "
~ Ali Demirali