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Oral histories/Documentary

The mission of the Little Italy Celebrations is to honor the residents who lived in the former North End of Portsmouth and to share the history of these families who lost their homes and businesses to Urban Renewal in the 1960s. Our Oral History Project Coordinator Laura Pope is leading this important effort to gather and preserve the stories for both film and print. Follow this page as we share additional stories and photos.

Laura Pope is a career arts journalist turned author/historian who, just out of college and working as an archaeologist at Strawbery Banke Museum, learned about the Vaughan Street Urban Renewal Project that demolished 30 acres of Portsmouth's North End. 

Shocked by this event, she began conducting oral history interviews with residents and descendants of residents and soon after, wrote articles for the museum's newsletter and local newspapers to inform readers about a neighborhood called Portsmouth's Little Italy.

In 2013, she wrote a chapter about Rose Fiandaca, a community matriarch and midwife living on Russell Street,  in an anthology of history she created and edited called Portsmouth Women.

For the LIC, and as part of Portsmouth400 celebrations, Laura has coordinated several oral history sessions with more descendants of residents from the old neighborhood to further explore and celebrate the culture and character of the district. These sessions capture conversations between two or more people with ties to the district and are filmed. A first edit of the footage will be screened at the Little Italy Celebrations' Masquerade Ball at Jimmy's on Saturday, August 29th, and the Family (tented) Carnival at the Granite State Minerals site on Sunday, August 6th.

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From left: Joe DeStefano, Lisa DeStefano, Mary Carey Foley and Phil Geraci look at family photos at a taping session hosted by Little Italy committee member Mary Carey Foley at Wentworth by the Sea). Joe, Lisa, and Phil are cousins and descendants of Fernando and Victoria DeStefano, who settled in Portsmouth's North End in the early 20th century. Their children are Edie DeStefano Geraci, Rose DeStefano LaMarca, Joseph Albert "Albie" DeStefano, and John DeStefano, Lisa's grandfather. (Photo by Laura Pope, Oral History Project Coordinator


Pictured from left to right: Dotty Pesaresi, and her niece, Donna Pesaresi Garganta, with Zoe Giordano, of Compass, preparing for their North End Oral History videotape session. Dotty and Donna detailed the arrival of their ancestors in the North End, remembered the gardens and cuisine that distinguished Portsmouth's Little Italy, and spoke highly of Portsmouth's sister city in Italy, Santarcangelo di Romagna, (near the Adriatic Sea), the home of one of their ancestors. (Photo by Laura Pope, Oral History Project Coordinator)

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Pictured is Terry Risden with LIC board member, Dawn Przychodzien moments before Risden sat in conversation with his friend from the old neighborhood, Paul Wiseman, at Massimo's Ristorante. Risden and Wiseman shared compelling stories -- some poignant, some hilarious -- about their close-knit community.

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Terry Risden and Paul Wiseman (Oral History)


From left to right, Wayne Semprini, Jaye Morton, and Tom Cocchiaro. They shared vivid memories of their ancestors who lived in the North End -- the homes they left in Italy, how they immigrated to Portsmouth, where they worked, and the delicious meals they enjoyed. (Photo by Laura Pope)

*Postings and photos regarding oral histories will be added weekly.

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