Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Wooster Square Tour

Paul Russo Home and Bank

541 and 585 Chapel Street

(former)

Paul Russo Home and Bank, c. 1930s at 541 Chapel Street. Courtesy Joe Taylor.

One of the leading bankers, real estate dealers, and philanthropists of early 20th century New Haven, Paul Russo was born in 1859 in Viggiano, in the province of Basilicato, Italy. The Russo family emigrated to New York in 1869 and moved to New Haven three years later. As a young boy, Paul assisted his violinist father in financial support of the family by playing violin and selling peanuts in the city’s streets. Within a few years, he built a business on the corner of Congress Ave. and Oak Street that was the first Italian store in the state.

From an early age, Russo was called upon in the courts as an interpreter for the Italian community. His talents were in demand not just in Connecticut but in New York City. Paul’s involvement with the courts sparked an interest in the law and he was encouraged to apply to the Yale Law School, from which he became the first Italian to graduate in 1893. Russo spent 10 years in private practice before turning to real estate and investments. Among his successful developments was the Foxon Park neighborhood. He established a bank and a newspaper, “La Stella D’Italia,” to assist and encourage others in becoming successful American citizens.

Paul Russo’s vision for the Elm City was vast and far-reaching. He became a political leader and an eminent figure in the Italian community of the early 20th century. We salute our early pioneer for his efforts to establish St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church and his sponsorship of the Columbus Monument, which now stands in its present location on Wooster Square. Paul Russo Memorial Park across from the green on Chapel Street was named in his honor. In the 1960s, the family of Paul Russo had a travel agency at 585 Chapel on the corner of Academy Street.


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