Italy's history is woven with remarkable stories, particularly those revolving around the nation’s unification. Two important figures in this chapter of Italian history are Antonio Meucci and the iconic hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Dubbed the "Father of the Fatherland", Garibaldi once resided with Antonio Meucci in Rosebank, Staten Island, New York.
Recognized as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, this simple country residence was built around 1840, in what is called a “Gothic revival style.” Ten years later, Antonio Meucci and his wife Ester arrived in New York and moved into a small cottage on Staten Island. Shortly after moving into the house, Giuseppe Garibaldi, fleeing conflict-ridden Italy, found refuge in New York. Meucci would offer his home as hospitality, working together with Garibaldi in his candle factory. Garibaldi stayed in the Rosebank house until 1854 before traveling back to Italy to marshal troops for the Unification of Italy.
After his death in 1882, a committee was formed to honor the Italian hero's time in the United States. A commemorative plaque was placed at the house in 1884, with Antonio Meucci present. In 1907, the house was moved from its original location to an open-air colonnaded memorial pavilion to honor Garibaldi on his 100th birthday. A tribute to Meucci was constructed in 1923. Eventually, the New York Grand Lodge Order Sons of Italy in America took possession of the home, transforming it into the "Garibaldi-Meucci Museum" in 1956.
The museum hosts a multitude of artifacts that echo the lives of Meucci and Garibaldi. Among the most intriguing pieces is the "Death Mask" of Antonio Meucci. While living on Staten Island, Meucci devoted himself to inventing one of the earliest telephones. His original model "teletrofono" can be viewed in the museum. Visitors can also explore Garibaldi’s bedroom on the second floor. The room, meticulously preserved to resemble its state during Garibaldi's residence from 1851-1853, houses numerous personal items including his ceremonial shirt and smoking cap, tobacco pouch, sword, hunting rifles, walking stick, and travel bag and crate.
Both Italian luminaries have rooms dedicated to them within the museum. The Garibaldi Room exhibits artifacts and artworks that tell the life of the key contributor to Italy's unification. In the Meucci Room, visitors can delve into the life of the Italian immigrant and inventor, where, like the Garibaldi Room, numerous artifacts and artworks, including the original model of the "teletrofono", are on display. The museum also features "Rolling Exhibits", offering local artists and historians a platform to exhibit their work and enlighten the community about their discoveries.
Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works.