This is actually the story of two houses that were once occupied by the family of an Italian immigrant who was a respected and successful New Philadelphia fruit merchant.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names can change over time.
The expansion of railroads into Ohio, and the industries that took advantage of them, encouraged recent immigrants to travel to the region seeking work in those industries. Other immigrants travelled as well in order to establish their own businesses to serve these immigrants, and those already living there. Among those immigrants was the Crescio family that settled in New Philadelphia in the late 1880s.
The Crescio family was originally from the Italian port city of Genoa and immigrated to the United States in 1870 or 1871. Later records indicate that John “Giovanni” Crescio (1856-1944) and his brother Charles “Carlo” Crescio (1854-1933) likely immigrated to the United States with their father. The three eventually made their way to Cuyahoga County, Ohio where they were residing when John Crescio married a daughter of Italian immigrants, Rosa Massoni (1864-1914), in 1884. John was working as a janitor in Cleveland, but soon he and his brother decided to go into the mercantile business and planned a move to New Philadelphia, Ohio where they could open their own store.
The first reference to the Crescio brothers being in New Philadelphia appears in the June 1891 New Philadelphia newspaper, the Ohio Democrat. According to that article, one of the Crescio brothers (likely John, because his brother’s shop was regularly recorded as a confectionary) had opened a fruit stand in New Philadelphia. John Crescio and his growing family were living a few doors down from his brother’s family, renting a house on the 200 block of East Front Street. John’s brother had purchased his home and, shortly after, began the construction of a brick home at the rear of his property along Salmon Alley. Once that house was completed, around 1902, John and his family rented it from his elder brother.
John Crescio’s fruit stand was located on the Public Square in New Philadelphia, next to Senhauser’s store on the southwest corner of the square. Evidence that John took his 1888 naturalization oath seriously, and that anti-immigrant ugliness and discrimination is nothing new, was recorded in the newspaper in September 1902. John was working at his fruit stand when an itinerant peddler referred to John as “a mafia.” John took matters into his own hands and the offender found himself “landing upon the sidewalk in a heap.” The newspaper went on to state that John was “a true blue American, and that’s all there’s to it.”
John and Rosa Crecio’s family had grown to include eight children by 1910, far too large a family for the small brick home owned by his brother. John purchased a home a few doors down from his brother’s East Front Street house in the spring of 1912. The house, built in the 1880s, is another New Philadelphia example of the very popular Italianate style of architecture. While many of the common details associated with the architectural style have long been removed or covered up, it still retains the tall narrow windows, deep eaves, side porch and entrance, and decorative front entrance surround typical of the style.
Rosa Crescio died of stomach cancer only two years after the family moved into the home, leaving John to raise the children on his own. John continued to operate his fruit and newspaper business on the square until his retirement in 1917; perhaps it was too difficult to carry on after the death of his wife. John Crescio continued to reside in the house on East Front Street, along with some of the children who continued to live at home, until his death in August 1944. He, and Rosa, are buried at Calvary Cemetery, New Philadelphia.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.