Near the end of the nineteenth century, when San Antonio’s population was 37,673, a small group of Italians, most of them recently arrived in the Alamo City and most of them immigrants, decided that for their mutual aid and benefit they should unite and form a fraternal organization which would assist the Italian families in adapting to a new language and new way of life.
The Christopher Columbus Italian Society (known to the first generation of Italians living is San Antonio as “Societa’ Italiana Cristoforo Colombo”) was chartered under the laws of Texas on the 14th of May 1890. Signers of the application for the Charter (dated April 30 1890) were Carlo A. Solaro, Anthony Battaglia, Marco Bargna and Giacinto Garroni with J. Burda and Augusto Battaglia signing as witnesses. Thad Smith, County Clerk of Bexar County, Texas, signed and issued the Charter on May 13th, 1890
The first meeting of the newly formed Society was held in the historic old Veramendi Building at the corner of Main Avenue and Veramendi Street. Its second location was on the second floor of a building occupied by San Antonio Meat Company, but the officers soon began to look for another location and for a short time, they relocated to the corner of West Commerce and South Presa streets.
In 1927, on land donated by the Society, the Italian community built its Church of San Francesco di Paola. Members of the Society were among the leaders in the planning, funding and building the Church; and on the same tract of land on which the Church had been built, the Christopher Columbus Italian Society built its permanent home, the Italian Hall, just a step away from the Italian Church, both fronting on Columbus Square.
The Society opened its building in 1928. It was the first Italian Hall in the State of Texas and on October 12, 1957, the Society donated a statue, made in Italy, of Christopher Columbus to the City of San Antonio. The statue was appropriately placed in Columbus Park.
Through the years, since its founding, the Christopher Columbus Italian Society has carried out its original purposes, and as the Italians of San Antonio have prospered and assumed position of leadership in social, political and economic life of San Antonio, the Society has extended its benevolent services to include the donation of an entire room at the Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, the establishment of free Italian language classes opened to anyone in the San Antonio area interested in learning to speak Italian, providing shoes each year to children of St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s Orphanage Home, support the Carmelite Day Care Center, and support many other projects and organizations.
Beside these contributions to the City and people of San Antonio, and its continuing dedication to its founding principles, the Christopher Columbus Italian Society has become, like its Ladies auxiliary and other Italian organizations, noted for its members’ countless hours of hard work preparing the homemade pasta, authentic Italian sauce, the meatball and pastries for dishes offered at the annual Food Fest; and it is famous for the spaghetti dinners throughout the year served at the Italian Hall.
After more than a century, members of the Christopher Columbus Italian Society and United Brotherhood of San Antonio, Texas continue to be proud of their heritage and equally proud to be citizens of the United States and the City of San Antonio. As evidence of the pride, numerous artifacts are permanently displayed in the Italian section at the Institute of Texan Cultures.