SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A piece of Scranton’s Italian-American history is shutting down.
After operating for more than 80 years, the Dante Literary Society has closed its social club in South Scranton.
Members say there are several factors.
First, the economy.
Members say insurance and electricity rates have been rising and people just aren’t spending as much money.
Second, declining membership.
The current board of directors says the number of active members at the club has recently dropped off significantly.
From outside the Dante Literary Society’s building in the 1900-block of Prospect Avenue, the building itself may not look like much, but it actually has a very rich history in the Electric City.
Current members decided to close the social hall because of a lack of new members.
“At one time there was almost 500-600 members here and you just can’t keep it going for 60 members,” Dante Literary Society president Vincent Gaglione said.
As you look around the hall, historic pictures line the walls.
This club started to help teach English to Italian immigrants.
It later tried to adapt, teaching Italian to Italian-Americans.
“It really hurts me to have to do do this here, you know!” Neil Trama said.
Neil Trama is the current treasurer but his father was the Dante Club’s first president.
He says in recent years they tried to open-up the club to everyone but it just didn’t remain viable.
“It brought in some new interest but not enough to really make it viable,” Trama said.
As current president Vinny Gaglione looks over the club’s original charter from the 1930s, he says they plan to sell the building and give away the money.
“We’re going to donate to different non-profit groups, probably those that are related to literary, maybe the library, maybe the high school,” Gaglione said.
Besides the social club and bar on the first floor of the building, members also rent out a top room to a dance group who might soon have to find someplace else to go.
Members are hoping to get their building sold within the next few months but they don’t have an exact timeline for any possible sale.