Friday, December 07, 2007

THELMA (MICOSSI) GILL- EYEWITNESS REPORT TO THE BURNING OF THE HOTEL D'ITALIA






**Top photo: Part owners of the Hotel: Maria and 'Bepo' Ferlizza with Carabiniere (Francesco Bragazzi)the Gentle Giant. (C. 1935). This is a rare photo of a relatively young, and healthy Carabiniere. Source: Thelma (Micossi) Gill.

Next Photo: The Hotel D'Italia (c. late 1920s or early 1930s), in all its glory.
Notice the roadway winding down the hillside, passing the old Hotel to the front and then winding back up the hill on the other side. State Hwy 1 (Coast Road)now is straight and passes to the rear of where the Hotel used to be located. Photo sent to me by Len Klempnauer.

**Bottom photo: Thelma Micossi (Gill),photographed as a young girl (c.1938), standing at the right. Her mother (my Godmother),Pina Micossi is standing at the left next to Tony Micossi,Thelma's Uncle (my Godfather). Attilio Tomada,better known to us as 'Massimo'(my brother's Godfather), is the tall gentleman standing at the center. Carolina Micossi,my brother's Godmother,is standing behind Thelma. (Carolina was then married to Nardin Micossi [not in photo],Tony Micossi's brother.)At the front wearing a sailor hat,is my bother Giovanni Primo (John). Gervasio Comelli ('Bronco')is seated and hanging on to John. My mother,Valentina, has the cutiest child 'la costa' has ever seen on her lap. Ivano Franco appears a bit bored in this photo. Photo of my baptism,circa 1938, is from the 'La Nostra Costa' Photo Archives.



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IN 'LA NOSTRA COSTA' I WRITE THAT THE HOTEL D'ITALIA IN DAVENPORT WAS A PLACE FOR ITALIAN RANCHERS AND THEIR FAMILIES TO GATHER AND SOCIALIZE. THE HOTEL WAS OWNED AND MANAGED BY FURLANS,-- MY GODMOTHER 'PINA' MICOSSI AND HER HUSBAND FRANK, FRANCESCO BRAGAZZI (CARABINIERE) AND GIUSEPPE 'BEPO' FERLIZZA. DECEMBER 15, THIS YEAR, WILL BE 62ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE TERRIBLE FIRE THAT DESTROYED THE STRUCTURE. THELMA (MICOSSI)GILL (MY FATHER'S GOD DAUGHTER), MAY BE THE LAST SURVIVING EYE WITNESS OF THE FIRE. SHE WAS MOST GRACIOUS TO WRITE HER ACCOUNT OF THAT EVENING FOR READERS OF THE LA NOSTRA COSTA BLOG. THANKS THELMA. -IVANO

Davenport Hotel - Blaze Burns Hotel D’Italia To Ground ----that’s what the Santa Cruz Sentinel Headlines read the day after December 15, 1945.

The Hotel D’Italia was built in 1906, one of the old landmarks of Santa Cruz County. The hotel was completely destroyed by fire on Sunday, December 15, 1945 when defective wiring was believed to have started the blaze in an unoccupied room of the building.

The fire was first noticed about 8:30 p.m. by residents of the area who rushed into the building and traced the smoke coming from behind a locked room. The room was broken into to was found to be a mass of flames. Immediately afterward the lights went out throughout the building.

Three divisions of forestry trucks were called, two from Felton and one from Soquel as well as the Santa Cruz City Fire Dept were all rushed to the scene. The Davenport Voluntary Fire Dept. was on the scene as well as the Fire Chief, Leonard Domenichelli. All these fire departments were unable to stop the flames which tore through the wooden structure, completely burning it to the ground in approximately 45 minutes. The facilities to fight the fire were very inadequate and the water in the main was very low. There were no ramps and water in nearby creeks was unavailable as the streams were too far distant.

The fire was under control by 10:15 p.m. The Fire Departments that were there did prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby blacksmith shop and other stores including butane tanks in the area.

That Sunday night I remember getting ready for school when I heard a knock on the door a man informed me that the hotel was on fire. I immediately let the gentlemen inside and he pointed to where in the building the fire was a blaze. By the time I went out to see where the fire was located and the time I came back inside to inform my mother and all others, the flames were already coming through the hallways. Suddenly all the lights went out, leaving the building in total darkness.

Everyone present seemed to want to help to remove what they thought could be salvaged; however, as I recall it took about 45 minutes for the entire building to come down completely. I remember being near the room where all the liquor was stored and hearing the bottles explode.

As I watched the hotel burning there was so much chaos, but to my surprise there was also so much looting. There were a few residents of the hotel that were in their rooms and had to jump out of their windows to escape the blaze. We had slot machines in the hotel and of course those were salvaged only to find out that they were gone the next day. There was not much that could be salvaged because the intense heat just destroyed everything. The safe was the only thing that remained. It must have been approximately 8 inches of thick steel. After finding the key it was opened to find the silver had melted into a chunk of silver. The paper money was very charred and had to be sent to the mint to be replaced.

That Sunday, we had no where to go; we had to rely on friends to put us up for the night. The Caiocca family certainly was very good friends with my mother and offered whatever they could to her. She stayed with the Caiocca family. I was friends with Yoli Moro and they graciously housed me for over a week. The rest of the people who were residents at the hotel went to the Ocean View hotel to sleep.

My mother owned a house in Davenport but had renters in it and we had to wait for a couple of weeks before we could occupy the house.

The following days we kept visiting the rubbles. My mother now had to begin another life in settling all the problems ahead facing her. She subsequently entered into a partnership with the Caiocca’s at their place of business and opened up an inn where the liquor license could be used.

The Hotel D’Italia was built in 1906 shortly following the San Francisco earthquake, by the Coast Land and Diaries Company of Davenport. Around 1923 it was purchased by my father, Frank Micossi, Frank Bragazzi and Giuseppe Ferlizza from the land company. This era was during prohibition where there was a lot of bootlegging going on. About 1935 the premises were remodeled and were built to include a kitchen, bar, dining room, dance hall, and other accommodations as well as about 65 rooms.

In operation for many years, the large rambling building was partly being used for housing Mexican nationals and Filipinos who were being employed in the fields along the coast in the Davenport area. This was a time when Mexicans would come to work the seasonal crops, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli. Housing was a problem for these transients. Carabiniere (Frank Bragazzi) and my mother (Josephine Micossi) with the help of Louis Poletti who brought these workers to work in the crops entered into an agreement to rent out approximately 30 rooms, kitchen, common areas to house these workers. The fire started in the area where they were residing.

The insurance amounted to $4,000. This amount now had to be shared with the other two partners – the Frank Bragazzi estate and the Ferlizza estate. The liquor license and beer and wine license was in the name of Josephine Micossi.

But to conclude, these words were said before, “It was a night in infamy” for me. It’s difficult to express what a lifelong impact such a disaster could have on you.

Thelma Micossi Gill


IVANO SAYS; MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL. DON'T FORGET TO VISIT THE LA NOSTRA COSTA WEBSITE; www.lanostracosta.com-a.googlepages.com





ED IN ITALIANO---- GINO "D'BAFFI" CAMPIONI, TRADUTTORE
Nel libro "La Nostra Costa" scrivo che il Hotel D'Italia in Davenport era un posto per gli ranceri italiani e loro famiglie di fare riunioni e divertimenti. I padroni del hotel erano Furlani Mia madrina "Pina" Micossi e suo marito Frank, Francesco Bragazzi (il Carabiniere) e Giuseppe "Beppo" Ferlizza. Il quindici Dicembre di quest'anno sarà l'anniversario sessanta duesimo di quel fuoco terribile che ha distrutto quell albergo. Thelma (Micossi) Gill (per cui mio padre fu il padrino), potrebbe essere l'ultima sorvivente che vide il fuoco in persona. Essa fu molto graziosa di scrivere suo conto di quella sera per i lettore di La Nostra Costa Blog. Grazie, Thelma. Ivano Davenport Hotel ..Fuoco brucia Hotel D'Italia al suolo. Queste parole apparveno alla capo pagina del giornale Santa Cruz Sentinel, il giorno dopo 15 Dicembre, 1945. Il Hotel D'Italia fu costruito nel 1906, un posto caratteristico della Contea Santa Cruz. Il hotel fu distrutto completamente dal fuoco di domenica, 15 Dicembre, quando credemo che fili elettrici difettosi hanno iniziato il fuoco in una stanza vuota del edificio. Vicini hanno veduto segni del fuoco verso le 8:30 di sera, ed entrando hanno trovato fumo che usciva da una stanza chiusa à chiave. Quando hanno potuto entrare, trovarono la stanza in fiamme. L'elettricità fallì subito nel intero edificio. Tre divisioni di pompieri di foresta furono chiamati, due da Felton ed una da Soquel, insieme dei pompieri da Santa Cruz. I pompieri volontari di Davenport erano subito presente con loro capo, Leonard Domenichelli. Fra tutti questi sulla scena del disastro, non trovarono mezzo di fermare le fiamme che saltarono fra tutta la struttura di legno, bruciandola completamente al suolo entro 45 minuti. Gli equipaggi per combattere il fuoco non bastarono per un fuoco così grosso, e la pressione di acqua era molto debole. I fiumi erano troppo distanti. I fuoco fu finalmente controllato alle 10:15. Almeno i pompieri hanno potuto fermare il fuoco che non incendiasse il negozio del fabbro ed altri posti vicini, incluso anche parecchi serbatoi di gaz fiammabile. Quella Domenica mi ricordo che mi preparavo per andare alla scuola, quando senti un uomo bussando alla porta. Era un uomo che mi ha informato che l'osteria era in fiamma. Subito lo ho fatto entrare e mi ha indicato dove era il fuoco. Dal tempo che lo vedevo e che sono tornata in casa per informare mia madre e gli altri, le fiamme gia entravano tutti i corridoi. Poi le luce erano spente, lasciando tutto l'edificio nello scuro. Tutti presente sembravano di volere levare tutte le cose che potrebbero essere salvate, ma mi ricordo che in 45 minuti tutto l'edificio era completamente distrutto. Mi ricordo essendo vicino la stanza dove erano i liquori e sentire l'esplosioni delle bottiglie. Mentre guardavo quando bruciava l'osteria, c'era tanta confusione, ma ero sorpresa che c'era anche tanto saccheggio. C'erano dei residenti del albergo che erano nelle loro camere ed ebbero da saltare dalle finestre per scappare il fuoco. Avevamo macchinette da gioco nel albergo, e naturalmente quelle furono salvate, poi scoprire che il giorno dopo erano scomparse. Non c'era tanto da salvare, perchè il calore aveva distrutto quasi tutto. La cassa forte era l'unica cose che rimaneva. Era composta di acciaio molto massiccio. Dopo trovare la chiave per aprirla si trovò che l'argento era diventato un solo pezzo. La moneta di carta era tutta nera e fu necessario di remandarla alla zecca per farla scambiare. Quella Domenica eravamo senza casa. Abbiamo dovuto dipendere con amici per darci posto per dormire la notte. La famiglia Caiocca erano certamente buoni amici ed hanno offerto qualunque aiuto per mia madre. Essa stette con la famigila Caiocca. Io avevo amicizia con Yoli Moro e loro mi hanno tenuto in loro casa per piu di una settimana. Il restante degli residenti al'osteria sono andati al Ocean View Hotel per dormire. Mia madre aveva una casa in Davenport, ma era occupata e abbiamo dovuto aspettera due settimane avanti che la potremmo occupare da noi. I giorni seguenti visitavamo spesso le rovine. Mia madre ora debbe cominciare unaltra vita, per risolvere tutti i problema che aveva di fronte. Poi entrò in compagnia con i Caiocca nel loro negozio, ed apri un osteria con sua licensa da vendere liquore. Il Hotel D'Italia fu costruito nel 1906, poco dopo il terremoto di San Francisco, dalla agenzia Coast land and Dairies Company di Davenport. Circa 1923 fu comprato da mio padre, Frank Micossi, Frank Bragazzi, e Giuseppe Ferlizza dalla agenzia. Questa era l'epoca di proebizione (di alcole) e c'era tanto traffico di contrabbando. Circa 1935 il sito fu ricostruito per includere cucina, bar, sala da cena, e da ballo, con circa 65 altre stanze. Operato per tanti anni, il grande edificio era usato in parte per Messicani e Flilppini cui erano impiegati dagli agricoltori nella zona di Davenport. In quei tempi i Messicani venivano per cogliere verdure della stagione, cavolini di Bruscelle, carcioffi, broccoli. Trovare case per questi lavoranti di passaggio era un problema. Carabiniere (Frank Bragazzi) e mia madre (Josephine Micossi) con l'aiuto di Louis Poletti, che fece venire questi lavoranti, fecero d'accordo di fornire circa 30 stanze con cucina e salotti per quei lavoranti. I fuoco cominciò nel posto che occupavano. L'assicurazione fu $4,000. Questa somma ora debbe essere condivisa con gli altri due compagni, le tenute di Frank Bragazzi e di Ferlizza. La licenza per liquore e birra era nel nome di Josephine Micossi. Ma per finire, queste parole furono dette prima, "Era una notte infama" per me. Lo trovo difficile esprimere che effetto lungo e brutto un disatro di questo genere puo fare. Thelma Micossi Gill Ivano dice, Non dimentircare di visitare La Nostra Costa sul Internet. www.lanostrascosta.com-a.googlepages.com

4 comments:

Hank Bradley said...

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This comes almost on the anniversary of the burning of the Hotel d'Italia, but I did let one day pass, out of respect. The message?

Merry Christmas to Ivano and all the other contributors and readers of this down-home blog. Thanks for illuminating some of the Coast history that never got in my noggin.

ivano said...

Thanks Hank. It's people like you that keep the interest in the 'Blagga', going. Merry Christmas and hope to see you down her soon. ivno

bryan said...

Bryan is a new 'blagga' fan who has contacted me for more info on the 'Old' Coast Road. What follows is very interesting e-mail to me;followed after that by my reply to him. ivno



Hi Ivano,

Thanks for your speedy reply!

And I am definitely interested in the map by Norma (Dinelli) Wilson.

I suppose what drew my interest is simply seeing the BEAUTY on drives to Davenport/Swanton, and the charm of the old ranches and farms. Then a few years ago I was looking for a place near the dump to take my girlfriend for Valentine's Day. I know it sounds weird, but we'd had some really fun trips to the dump! So one day I stopped to talk to a fellow there on Dimeo Lane to ask if there was any place nearby that I could take my girlfriend for this romantic occasion with view. He said, "Just drive up around behind my house onto the hill." So I did, and it looked perfect, and I took her there, and she loved it! So later, she and I went back to visit and thank him. You probably know him--Charlie Modena. Consequently we've had a few wonderful visits with Charlie and Teresa (Dimeo)! They are so great. I suppose this has also made me more interested in knowing more about "La Costa". And, I know Bob Pena who lives in the old Laguna Inn, and have talked with him about things... So it's sort of a recent discovery. I just a drawn to the remains of things up there that seem to have lots to tell--which I'd like to know!

Great to "meet" you!

-Bryan Robinson

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Norma (Dinelli) Wilson has a copy of the map. I am sure that she can provide you a copy. If not, maybe we can get together after the holidays. I also have a copy.

Charlie and Teresa are old friends. Teresa is a Dimeo. Her sister Margaret (since passed away) was married to John Fambrini. I write about them in the book. (P.39). Their son and daughter, Ray and Nadine are still living. Ray lives in Santa Cruz, and Nadine in Scotts Valley. The old house that Charlie and Teresa live in is the old Dimeo Ranch cookhouse.

The last time I visited them, it was like stepping into a time warp. Teresa still has some of the old furniture from the late '40s. Reminded me of our house on the Gulch Ranch. Charlie started criticizing my book, saying that some of the tales I tell were not quite right. So I said, "Well Charlie at least you read the book". He answers, "O I haven't read it, it’s just what I hear". So in my defense I gave them a book. Unknown if they have read it.

The remodeled house across from the Dimeo's is the old Fambrini home. Danny Rodoni and his family live there now. I also write about the Rodoni Family in the book
(201). Mario, his father, and I were boyhood friends. Mario,Danny and his other Son Billy still run the Rodoni Ranch locate on the west side of the Coast Road at Dimeo Lane.

I met the Hsu (s) last year and they have come to a couple of my book signings. "Il Buco" (The Hole.p.35) where they live, was the site of the 'Old Cookahousa" (p.81-82).
The barn,which is still standing, is where my mother used to 'clean' sprouts. (p.57). The Hsu(s) seem to be proud of the fact that they own a piece of 'La Nostra Costa' history. They are a great couple

Regarding the Laguna Inn. I have a photo in the book (241) of the Inn in its glory days. It is sad that the building has been allowed to become so run down. It is one of the last historical (Inn) buildings still standing, (most of the others have either burned down or been torn down.) Wouldn't it be great if it were restored? What a tourist attraction that would make. (In fact, I was thinking about doing an article about it for the 'Blagga')

Anyway, thanks for contacting me. Buone Feste, Bryan. Keep in touch. ivano