Dorothea’s House surely represents the best of Princeton.
It was founded as a living memorial to Dorothea van Dyke McLane, a volunteer social worker who assisted Princeton’s newly arrived Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. (They likely included my maternal grandparents; I still have the deed to their house on Pine St. which they bought for $5,000!) Similar Italian culture centers exist in metropolitan areas across the United States, but Dorothea’s House is a rare example of an ethnic settlement house that still thrives and serves the public today. It serves community members, regardless of their background, as an Italian-American cultural institution, providing programs, events, and a link from the Princeton of today to the Italian immigrants who settled in the area over 100 years ago.
Language and culture classes are held there, as is a long-standing series of Sunday evening get-togethers during the academic year with featured speakers and performers. Their annual Polenta Festa – a community potluck – is a truly special culinary event. There is also a scholarship fund for local students.
My late mother (a “Princeton Italian”) and I loved to attend some of these events, and re-connect with our Italian roots in the community. Sometimes those roots could seem tenuous since my father was Armenian, so we were pulled by two worlds – but both with great cuisines!
Dorothea’s House Cent’Anni Celebration takes place on October 5, 2014, 2-5 pm; rain or shine. Admission is free. Dorothea’s House is located at 120 John Street.
Entertainment will be by Coro d’Italia, an Italian-American singing and dancing group based in Upper Montclair, N.J., singers from Boheme Opera New Jersey, and specialties from area restaurants and food purveyors representing regions throughout la bell’Italia (list below).
A poignant memorial plaque at Dorothea’s House reads:
This is the house of
Dorothea van Dyke McLane
“Ray of Light”
“Song of Joy”
“Heart of Love”
Who Befriended the Children of Italy and
Worked for the Welfare of Princeton
This Memorial is Given by her Husband
For the Same Good Cause
The following food purveyors are generously supporting the Dorothea’s House Cent’Anni celebration. (I’ve posted before about Le Virtù restaurant in Philadelphia and Marcelli Formaggi, both represent the foods of my grandfather’s region of Abruzzo.)
Terra Momo/Mediterra – Princeton: Specialties from Piedmont
Procaccini Brothers – Princeton: Specialties from Molise
Mezzaluna – Princeton: Specialties from Campania
College Park Café – Princeton: Specialties from Campania
D’Angelo’s – Princeton: Specialties from Sicily
Bent Spoon – Princeton: Gelato pops
Small World Coffee – Princeton: Coffee
Princeton University – Princeton: Bottled water
Chamber’s Walk – Lawrenceville: Specialties from Calabria
Pondini Imports – Somerset: Regional cheeses
Marcelli Formaggi Importers – Montclair: Cheeses from Abruzzo
Rana Pastificio – New York City: Specialties from Emilia Romagna
Le Virtù – Philadelphia: Specialties from Abruzzo
Firriato Winery – Sicily: Wine