In the early 1950s, a Roman Catholic Priest from Italy was touring the United States, visiting Italian American communities. His mission was to encourage the people of these communities to sponsor a fundraising dance. The proceeds of this event would go toward helping the Italian children orphaned by World War II. Responding to the request, the residents of the “Little Italy” neighborhood in Portland came together for such an event. Amid the food, drink, music, and laughter of the evening, community leaders realized that this was the kind of event that would help keep our Italian heritage alive, to be passed on to future generations as we lived and prospered in America. Thus, the idea was born to create an organization dedicated to the promotion of Italian culture.
In 1953, the Italian American Community Center was formed and housed in a building on Pearl Street, in the “Little Italy” section of town. For years this served as our home, and many wonderful events were held and funds raised to promote our culture and heritage. That building was sold in 1969, and in 1976, after years of searching for a site suitable for our needs and acceptable to the city of Portland planning board, our current facility was constructed. It was dedicated on January 16, 1977, following our first New Years Eve Gala. Since that time, we have seen our membership grow to over 1000 members, have renovated and upgraded the facility several times, and are currently hosting over 250 events per year. We continue to promote and encourage our Italian heritage through our cultural committee’s activities, and look forward to many more years of growth and prosperity.