Register of the Papers of
David H. Sutton
Vincent Russoniello was born in St. Andrea de Conza, Avellino, Italy in 1890. His father, Luigi, was a trained surveyor and also collected taxes to supplement his income. When Vincent was twelve his father emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he found a job as bookkeeper in a local Italianowned bank. In the meantime, Vincent was pulled out of technical school in Amalfi, Italy due to lack of funds, but his study of surveying and mapping aroused in him a keen interest in drawing.
After three years in America, Luigi Russoniello sent for his family. In 1905 Vincent arrived in Scranton with his mother, brother and sister. He attended public school for a short time, but within a year or two began work along side other Italian immigrants at a stone quarry near Nicholson, Pennsylvania owned by the Carlucci Cut Stone Company of Scranton. Initially, Vincent learned to cut and dress stone as it came from the quarry walls; later he moved to the stoneyard in Scranton where he cut the blocks to specification and helped set the stone in place at building sites. Finally, at the insistence of his mother, he took a nonpaying position in the office where he learned to do design drawings and plans for stone setting.
In about 1908, Russoniello began taking courses in architecture through the International Correspondence School (ICS) system and within two years was hired as a draftsman with John J. Howley, a local Scranton architect. He continued the ICS courses in his spare time and completed them in about 1913. Full time work for Howley, however, provided him an opportunity to hone his drafting skills and to gain firsthand knowledge of architecture as a business.
After several years of experience, Russoniello and fellow draftsman Gaylord Price struck out on their own, setting up an office at 226 Scranton Life Building in 1921. The two young entrepreneurs were successful in getting several contracts, but conflicts led to Price leaving in 1922. Russoniello purchased Price's share of the enterprise and remained in business. To supplement his meager income, he took a parttime job drafting for the Wyoming Cut Stone Company. Soon, however, he had enough business of his own to require fulltime attention, and by the mid 1920s Russoniello had launched a profitable, lifetime career as a registered architect.
With the exception of hiring draftsmen from time to time and subcontracting structural steel designs, Russoniello was a one man operation. He was involved in each step of the process from contracting jobs to inspecting work sites. He received numerous jobs from large nationality parishes in Scranton and other places, and designed over 300 homes and businesses in the city and surrounding territory.
The largest and most complex structures were some twenty churches built during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. As a result of his experience with stone, and the presence in Scranton of an Italian sculptor who imported Italian marbles, Russoniello quickly became adept at designing unique and imposing churches. The erection of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Wilkes Barre in 1929-1930 was typical. The size and future location of each stone was predetermined before the order was given to sculptor A. N. Russo. Russo supervised the quarrying, cutting and crating of each stone at Carrara, Italy, then shipped them by boat to New York and by rail to Scranton. Italian immigrants, stonecutters, masons, and laborers, assembled the building like a giant puzzle around the structural steel that Russoniello and engineer Fred DeWilde designed for the job. Friezes and statues were done in Italy to conform to general motifs agreed upon by the architect and the parish. The combination of Russoniello's design talent and the skill of the workers produced very pleasing results and led to contracts with other parishes in the region.
In 1949, Vincent Russoniello was joined in business by his eldest son Louis, who, after service in World War II completed architectural training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Louis brought new life and current design technique into the office, contributing much to the survival of the family enterprise. Father and son continued as partners until Vincent's death in 1980. As of 1986, the business was still in operation. Louis's son, Daniel, also became an architect, practicing in Philadelphia.
In addition to a successful architectural career, Vincent Russoniello was a well known member of the Scranton Italian community. He was a member of St. Lucy's Roman Catholic Church, which he designed, and a founding member of the Victor Alfieri Literary Society. He belonged to several other Italian organizations including United Italian Societies, San Rocco's St. Angelo's and Ricciotti Garibaldi Societies. He served as director of the Scranton chapter of UNICO National, and was financial secretary of the Scranton branch of Foresters of America. In 1915, he was married by arrangement to Maria Cassese of Weymouth, Massachusetts. The couple had three children, Louis, Jennie and Lawrence.
(For additional background and family information see "Building a Local Heritage: The Work of Vincent Russoniello An Exhibit of Architectural Drawings," May 1985, and an undated draft transcript of an oral history interview done with Russoniello by one of his grandchildren contained in Box 1 of these papers.)
The Vincent Russoniello Papers were donated to the Balch Institute in 1985 by Louis Russoniello. Their acquisition and processing were supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The papers were arranged and described by David Sutton with assistance from Carla Zimmerman, Spring 1986.
SERIES DESCRIPTIONS WITH SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
Series I: Education and formative years of Vincent Russoniello as stonecutter, draftsman, and architectural student, 1907-1921; awards and citations, 1978. One oversize box, one oversize folder.
This group of materials reflects Vincent Russoniello's work and studies beginning shortly after his arrival in the United States (1905) and continuing through 1921 when he went into business for himself as a private architect in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The series includes several drawings and renderings he did as assignments for International Correspondence School classes in architecture, together with the grading certificates received for them.
Also very important for understanding Russoniello's development and interests in architecture are eightythree drawings and sketches done during this period for various clients in Italy and the United States. These are informal drawings reflecting his influences and varying levels of proficiency as a novice in the profession.
The series also contains a few emphemeral items such as business brochures, a contribution card for the Journeymen Stonecutter's Association? 1907, and award certificates for civic contributions, 1978.
Series II: Records of Vincent Russoniello's architectural firm, Scranton, PA, 1920-1953. 4 linear feet, 6 boxes.
This series represents the few surviving business records found in Russoniello's office. The greater portion of the records are comprised of specifications, correspondence and other material related to specific architectural jobs between 1921 and 1949. In fifty-six instances there are corresponding architectural drawings for these files. The files are arranged alphabetically by job title within each building type and are cross referenced to the drawings.
Series II also contains scattered business records, correspondence and brochures from the period 1919 to 1948 which are not related to specific jobs. General correspondence, bills and receipts date primarily from 1920 to 1924 with nothing falling into the middle years of the business.
Also included here are miscellaneous materials such as Russoniello's notebooks of rough sketches, notes, and mathematical calculations for numerous jobs, usually not named.
The final part of the series is madeup of advertisements and solicitations from building material suppliers who made every effort to keep the architects apprised of their latest products and innovations. These letters and ads, which reflect to some extent the types of materials the architect had available, are from the years 1921 and 1922. They are arranged alphabetically by type of building material.
Series III: Vincent Russoniello Architectural Drawings, 1921-1962, 1,621 drawings, 10 map cabinet drawers. Arranged in subseries according to building type: churches and rectories (CH), residences (RES), businesses (BUS), garages (GAR), residences and businesses combined (R/B), schools (SCH), clubs (CL), mausoleums (M), Veterans of Foreign War buildings (VFW).
Churches and rectories: About 22.5 percent of the drawings fall into this category, which includes churches built primarily in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, but also ranging as far as Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Hartford, Connecticut. The drawings are all for Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, with the one exception of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Scranton, PA, 1927. In many cases, the churches were built for nationality parishes with Ukrainian, Italian, and Slovak groups as the most frequent clients.
The drawings themselves are large in format (ca. 20 X 40"), and the medium is either ink on linen or pencil on vellum. There are a few scattered blueprints and blueline drawings. With a few exceptions, the drawings are in good condition.
Residences: Residences make up the largest group of drawings in the series at about 32 percent. The geographic range is Scranton, Pennsylvania and surrounding towns. The clientele is predominately Italian American. A large number of the drawings in this group are for additions and alterations to already existing structures, although a number of wellknown Scranton families such as Suraci, Carlucci, Mastri, Fiorani, and Fricchione commissioned new homes and sometimes businesses.
Drawings for the residences are medium sized (ca. 20 X 25") and are primarily pencil on vellum. With a few exceptions they are in good condition.
Businesses: A wide variety of businesses, including restaurants, meat markets, hotels, distilleries, and warehouses were designed by Mr. Russoniello. They make up about 23 percent of the drawings, reflecting the growth and expansion of Scranton and surrounding towns including Dunmore, Pittston, and Carbondale. As with residences, a significant portion were additions and alterations, such as new store fronts and expanded facilities. The majority were done for Italian American businessmen, some of whom Russoniello knew quite well and counted among his circle of friends.
These drawings are medium to large sized, usually pencil on vellum, in good condition, with the exception of some damaged drawings and those which were rolled for many years.
Garages: Garages became more prevalent with expanded use of the automobile, and Russoniello was called upon to design the new structures. There are relatively few drawings for garages (together with all remaining categories, they make up 22.5 percent of the collection), but they are a conspicuous part of both new buildings and additions to older ones. The drawings are small to medium sized, pencil on vellum, and generally in good condition. When they appear as part of jobs by the same title, they have been cross referenced in the folder lists.
Residences and businesses combined: This category is made up of 103 drawings for structures designed for living above or adjacent to a place of business. In all other respects, they are typical of the residences and small business places described above.
Schools, Clubs, Mausoleums, and VFWs: These four building types comprise the remaining sections of the drawings. There are 195 drawings for schools, both religious and secular, seven drawings for clubs, three drawings for mausoleums, and forty drawings for two VFW Posts. Particularly noteworthy, from an ethnic perspective, are the three club buildings in Scranton done for Italian societies and numerous drawings for Ukrainian seminaries and seminary camps in Connecticut, New York, and Washington, D.C.
The drawings are medium sized, pencil on vellum in fair to good condition.
The box list of the register of the papers of Vincent Russoniello is
thirty-six pages long.