YBOR CITY, Fla. — A walk on 7th Avenue in Ybor City is full of history, especially in one of the most historic buildings.
The Italian Club sits proudly on 7th Avenue, it was founded in 1894 as a mutual aid society and was one of many clubs that was created for immigrants to get help with healthcare, a job or even a mortgage.
The library was a place where many immigrants, no matter their nationality, could come learn to read and write in English.
"Our library was open to anyone that wanted to come in to learn to read and write. So there was a natural community there. I think that that's coming back. I think it's ironic what's happened over the last couple of years, that people really want a sense of belonging. So people have come back together. And we've seen a surge and membership over the last couple of years," explained Board Chair Gio Fucarino.
While the original intent of the mutual aid society is virtually obsolete, its messaging today doesn't change.
"It's our job and our duty to preserve our culture. And to keep this here so that we don't remember our past moving forward in the future," said Fucarino.
Today, the Club stands to honor Tampa Bay's Italian roots.
Fucarino said, "I think a lot of that is attributed to our membership and the drive for the pursuit of the American dream as what they came for. So I think as we sit here on 7th Avenue, the largest and oldest club in the United States, I think that we have always taken the reigns to realize that we're a pillar of the community, and it's important that we take a part in what's going on to make it better."
The Club is always recruiting new members, too. They hold events that are open to the public, like a dueling piano show to celebrate their 128th anniversary in April.
"I think that's when you come down the street and I see all the diversity. I think it's a beautiful part. And that's the key of Ybor City," explained Fucarino. "I challenge people, come down here on a Saturday afternoon, and see how many families are walking down here shopping and seeing things now with the developments coming down. They were people coming back to life, we will once again be the community that people live, work and play in. And I think that's huge."
You can find out more about the club by clicking here.