More than 125 years ago, a small visionary group realized that by uniting together, the Italian community of Tampa Bay could overcome many of the social and economic challenges that confronted immigrants from Italy who settled in the Tampa area, and so they founded the Italian Club.
“It is those very immigrants whose commitment to their heritage and culture laid the foundation not only for our organization, but for the Italian community at large throughout Tampa Bay,” said Mark Stanish of the Italian Club. “Those very same immigrant families saw our organization through many moments in history, from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic to the Great Depression, through both WWI and WWII and many more.”
In its early years, the club served as a home base for Italian immigrants who had chosen the Ybor City and Tampa Bay areas to settle and begin their lives. The club stands today, just as it did over 100 years ago, although its specific purpose has changed.
“Today, our board and strong membership work as volunteers to ensure that the club remains open, with its elegance and beauty on display, but most importantly to ensure that the mission of the club is at the forefront of what we do,” Stanish said. “As we celebrate Italian History Month in October, we remain resolute in our mission to preserve and honor the culture, traditions and heritage of the Italian community. We remain committed to maintaining the historical facility as a functioning memorial to the working-class immigrants. We will support this mission through the dues and contributions provided by the members, their families, friends and government.”
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Italian Club, like it has with many other Tampa institutions.
“Our recovery will be planned out and gradual, but we will continue to work towards reengaging our membership and the community through various social events and activities, always with the conscious effort to maintain the health and safety of those who attend,” Stanish said. “Several years ago, our club adopted the Italian term ‘Sempre Avanti,’ which translates to ‘Always Ahead.’ Our club and our membership has weathered many a storm through our 126 years, always with the mindset that we must move forward, regardless of the hurdles before us. Our building has stood as a cornerstone in Ybor City through many economic turns and depressions, but with a committed and strong membership base and a community willing to come and enjoy the club, we are confident that we will once again thrive as our founding members knew we always would.”
To learn more about the Italian Club or to become a member, visit the club’s website at www.italian-club.org or call Stanish at 248-3316. The Italian Club is located at 1731 E. 7th Ave. in Ybor City.