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Providence Pledges to Fix Broken Fountain at DePasquale Square, After Months of Embarrassment

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Iconic fountain still in disrepair

It's hard to believe that the cherished center of Federal Hill — the fountain at DePasquale Square — has been left for months broken and dilapidated.

Finally, Jorge Elorza’s administration has promised to fix the broken fountain after a few weeks of finger pointing between store owners and the city.

The Providence City budget, which passed the City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday night, includes $210,000 to fix the broken fountain.

“I am pleased to announce that we are holding the line on tax increases, ensuring that our yearly fiduciary responsibility to the pension fund is met in full, and investing in quality of life initiatives to benefit all Providence neighborhoods – like the Council’s initiative to save the Federal Hill fountain located in DePasquale Plaza,” said Committee on Finance Chairman and Council Majority Leader John Igliozzi.

But for Federal Hill businesses the broken fountain is a proverbial thumb to the eye by City officials. Some are questioning why it took an onslaught of public attention and meetings with the Elorza administration last week to get a public fountain repaired.

For many on Federal Hill, the incident is just the latest — the area’s merchants and some elected officials like State Representative John Lombardi have raised concerns about the adverse impact that the City’s policy of parking meters has had on business.

There is yet no timetable as to how long the repair will take place.  The repairs are expected to begin just as the summer tourism season begins.

The city has yet to explain why the repairs did not take place in the spring before summer events begin.


Related Slideshow: Violence on Federal Hill:  A Chronological History

“There is a perception that things were less violent on Federal Hill during the Raymond Patriarca era but I disagree since it is only the NATURE of the violence that has changed," argues former Attorney General Arlene Violet.  

To see a brief chronological history of the history of violence on Federal Hill -- from the 19th century through the 1990s -- check out the slides below.   

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Murder of Waterman Irons

1888:  Murder of Waterman Irons by Dennis "Spiker" Murphy and "Pete" Hackett

In 1888, an 82 year old leather merchant named Waterman Irons was murdered by Dennis “Spiker” Murphy and “Pete” Hackett.  According to a Providence Evening News article from April 27, 1912 Irons' murder:

“..took place at the man’s little shop on High Street, now Westminster Street and Dean Street.”  [1]

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Ethnic Tensions on Rise

Late 19th Century:  Tensions Rise Between Irish & Italian Immigrants

Federal Hill was initially settled by English immigrants.   Irish immigrants began settling on the Hill during the 1830s and Italian immigrants followed suit later in the 19th century.   By the 1880s tensions between the more established Irish and the new Italian arrivals began to erupt on Federal Hill resulting in acts of violence like the "stab and shoot" referenced in the accompanying photo.    

Photo Courtesy of Providence City Archives  

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Macaroni Riots

1914:  The Macaroni Riots 

The Macaroni Riots of 1914 began when a local wholesaler on Federal Hill, Frank P. Ventrone raised the price of macaroni by 50 percent.   A monthlong series of labor unreset and riots ensued on the Hill.   As Tony Marrocco(“Monaleek”) wrote at that time in the Italian Echo:   

“It was Sunday afternoon when about 12 immigrants held a rally in Olneyville Square and then marched to Federal Hill. They proceeded to Ventrone’s Grocery on Atwells Avenue to protest the rise in the price of macaroni. They smashed windows and stole cheese, macaroni, salami, capacollo and most anything in sight.   Twenty mounted police put a stop to the riot in two hours. The riot made a point and the price of macaroni returned to its pre riot price.” http://www.italianamericanwriter.com/?p=2672">Source

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Frank P. Ventrone

Frank P. Ventrone:  The "Macaroni King" of Federal Hill 

Federal Hill shopkeeper Frank P. Ventrone's wholesale shop was boarded up during the Macaroni riots.   

According to Providence City Archivist Paul Campbell:

"At the end of it Ventrone agreed to lower his prices, and things quieted down around the World War I period when the Providence Police Department started to bring in Italian speaking police officers.” 

Photo Courtesy of Providence City Archives  

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"Daddy" Black Murder

1932:  Murder of Arthur "Daddy" Black 

From Providence Police Department [Campbell, P., Glancy, J., Pearson, G.(2014), Arcadia Publishing]

"The Jazz Age in Providence produced many great personalities, but none greater than Arthur"Daddy" Black who, during the 1920s, was kingpin of an illegal numbers pool that offered local blacks the long-shot opportunity to win big. A 20-year Navy veteran who was cited twice foil bravery during World War I, Daddy Black's investments included sponsorship of black and white professional baseball and basketball teams. His entrepreneurial skills earned him the accolade "Providence's Richest Negro," but his success in the numbers racket earned the attention of a new generation of violent gangsters. On September 24,1932, Black was shot to death in his office on 160 Cranston Street by a group of black assassins working under the direction of Italian mobsters. An estimated 3,000 mourners attended his funeral."  

Photo Courtesy of Providence Police Archives  

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Raymond Patriarca

1954:   Raymond Patriarca Becomes Mob Boss 

Excerpt from ​Rhode Island Monthly Federal Hill Timeline 

1954 Organized crime boss Philip Buccola flees New England for Sicily, leaving Raymond Patriarca in control. Patriarca becomes a notoriously ruthless mob overlord and is ultimately arrested twenty-eight times.


Photo Courtesy of Providence Police Archives

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Tiger Balletto Murder

1955:  Mob Hit on George “Tiger” Balleto at Bella Napoli Cafe

From Providence Police Department [Campbell, P., Glancy, J., Pearson, G.(2014), Arcadia Publishing]

"A victim of a period of mob violence in the 1950s in Providence under the consolidated power of crime boss Raymond Patriarca, George "Tiger" Balletto was shot in the back several times on the night of August 10, 1955 while drinking an orangeade and vodka at the end of the bar at Bella Napoli Cafe on 93 Atwells Avenue.  Police reported that a dozen witnesses of the shooting "had been sticken with total loss of memory." 

Photo Courtesy of Providence City Archives 


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Marfeo & Malei Murder

1968:  Mob Hit on Rudolph Marfeo and Anthony Melei inside Pocasset Avenue Grocery Store

Marfeo and Melei were gunned down inside grocery store on Pocasset Avenue on April 20, 1968.

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RI v. Raymond Patriarca

1973:  State v. Raymond Patriarca

Excerpt from STATE v. Raymond L.S. PATRIARCA. No. 1566-Ex. &c. Supreme Court of Rhode Island. July 20, 1973:   

"It appears that at about 2:30 on the afternoon of Saturday, April 20, 1968, Rudolph Marfeo and Anthony Melei were shot to death while shopping in a market on Pocasset Avenue in the city of Providence. Apparently, it was Marfeo's custom to shop for groceries in that market on Saturday afternoons, and while he and Melei were in the market two masked gunmen entered and shot them both.

Thereafter, on June 2, 1969, as a result of these homicides three indictments were returned by the grand jury. Indictment No. 69-769 charged the appellant here, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, with conspiring to murder Rudolph Marfeo. Others named in that indictment were Maurice R. Lerner, Robert E. Fairbrothers, John Rossi, and Rudolpho G. Sciarra. In Indictment No. 69-767 the appellant here and Sciarra were charged with being accessories to the murder of Marfeo, while Lerner, Fairbrothers, and Rossi were charged with the murder of Marfeo. In Indictment No. 69-768 the appellant here and Sciarra were charged with being accessories to the murder of Anthony Melei, while Lerner, Fairbrothers, and Rossi were charged with Melei's murder."

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Dickie Callei Murder

1975:  Mob Hit on Dickie Callei at the Acorn Social Club

From a Providence Journal article on March 15, 1975.    

"Police say Callei was killed sometime overnight and his body driven into the woods and buried between 1:30 and 6:30 yesterday morning. Rehoboth Police Chief Raymond McKearney said snow lined the bottom of the grave, leading police to conclude that the grave might have been dug hours or even days before Callei was buried in it. Police said Callei was clad in a blood-soaked white shirt and green tie and buckskin shoes. A green and white sports coat was buried beside him. He was wearing a watch and two rings with initials on them.

Chief McKearney said it appeared from the marks and blood stains in the snow that he was dragged from the car by more than two persons, but wouldn't say how. There were blood stains between the tire marks at the end of the trail, indicating the body probably was taken from a car trunk. Chief McKearney called the slaying "brutal" and said it appeared to be a gangland killing. Dr. Shamey said Callei suffered three skull fractures caused by blunt instruments, stab wounds in the face, chest and abdomen and several bullet wounds in the back, the bullets going through the heart and lungs. He said shots were fired from close range."

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Joe "Onions" Murder

1978: Mob Hit on Joe “Onions” Scanlon at Andrew Merola’s night club.

From the New York Times (In Rhode Island, an Old Mobster Lets Go of a Long-Kept Secret, 21 December 2008) 

Thirty years ago, organized crime in Rhode Island was still like a rogue public utility. Raymond L. S. Patriarca, the old man with bullet tips for eyes, still ran the New England rackets from a squat building on Federal Hill. And men, from the merely dishonest to the profoundly psychopathic, still followed his rules.

Among them was Nicky Pari, who supposedly declined the honor to join the Mafia because he preferred the freelance life. If not made, he was known, in part because he had done time for helping a Patriarca lieutenant hijack a truck with a $50,000 load of dresses.

In April 1978, he and another freelancer, Andrew Merola, decided to address the delicate matter of a police informant within their ranks, a droopy-eyed young man from Hartford named Joseph Scanlon. The theories behind his nickname, “Joe Onions,” are that he made the girls cry or, more prosaically, that his surname sounded like scallion.

One morning Mr. Pari lured Mr. Scanlon and his girlfriend, who was holding their infant daughter, into Mr. Merola’s social club, in a Federal Hill building now long gone. Mr. Pari struck Mr. Scanlon in the face. Then Mr. Merola fired a bullet that shot through the man’s head and caught the tip of one of Mr. Pari’s fingers.

The girlfriend was ordered to leave the room. When she came back, her child’s father was wrapped in plastic near the door, his jewelry gone, his boots placed beside his body. A package, awaiting delivery.

The girlfriend, once described as a “stand-up girl” who wouldn’t talk, did, and the two men were convicted of murder in a case lacking a central piece of evidence: the body. They successfully appealed their convictions, but in 1982 they pleaded no contest to reduced charges in a deal that required them to say where the body was.

Dumped in Narragansett Bay, they said.


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"Slick" Vecchio Murder

 1982:  Mob Hit on Raymond “Slick” Vecchio

According to a Rhode Island Monthly Federal Hill timeline, in 1982: 

Raymond “Slick” Vecchio is shot at Vincent’s restaurant on Atwells by two masked men. Police suspect mobster strongman Kevin Hanrahan, who himself is shot outside of the Arch restaurant, also on Atwells, in 1992. 


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"Bobo" Marrapese

1987:  "Bobo" Marrapese Charged With Slaying Callei 12 Years After Murder 

According to a March 13, 2005 Sun Chronicle article:    

"Frank L. “Bobo” Marrapese, who reputedly ran gambling and loan sharking operations in Providence, was charged with Callei's slaying 12 years after the murder.  Despite the age of the evidence, a 29-year-old Rhode Island prosecutor named Michael Burns was able to convince a jury that Marrapese had stabbed, bludgeoned and shot Callei in Providence's Acorn Social Club." 

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Keven Hanrahan Murder

1992:  Mob Hit on Kevin Hanrahan Under the Arch on Atwells Avenue

Allan May writes:  

"On September 18, 1992, after having dinner with Buehne, Paulie Calenda, a millionaire businessman and mob associate, and others, Hanrahan went to a North Providence bar called The Arch, where he told several people he was expecting a "big score." After leaving the restaurant Hanrahan was walking down Atwells Avenue when two men confronted him. One pulled a .38 and fired three bullets into his face ending the life of the Irish tough guy."  


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