In his time, Charles Carmine Antonio Baldi – C.C.A. Baldi – was a first-generation Italian immigrant entrepreneur and community leader of great renown.
Arriving in Philadelphia from Cilento di Castelnuovo, Salerno, in 1876, C.C.A. (who later brought three brothers and one sister – Ferdinando, Virgilio, Alfonso and Grazia – to South Philly) founded his own coal yard (with its own mine in Schuykill County), opened an insurance and real estate business, organized a savings-and-loan bank, operated Philly’s only Italian daily newspaper, L’Opinone, and, most crucially, started the C.C.A. Baldi Funeral Home on South Eighth Street – all by the turn of the century.
That C.C.A. is also Reading, Pennsylvania-born pop star Taylor Swift’s great-great-grandfather on her father’s side is just the frothy icing on a very traditional Italian rum cake – one that just got its cherry on top with Friday’s addition of his Green Street home in Manayunk to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
“C.C.A. was among the first Italian funeral directors in this city, and the reason why I do what I do today,” said Victor Baldi – who, along with Peter Jacovini – owns Broad Street’s Pennsylvania Burial Company/Baldi Funeral Home. If you really want to complicate matters, Victor Baldi’s great-great uncle Pietro not only married C.C.A.’s sister Grazia, he was the editor of C.C.A.’s L’Opinone and had his first funeral parlor in the Italian Market where Claudio’s Cheese currently resides. “My dad was C.C.A.’s brother, and the 8th and Kimball area where they had their bank, the newspaper and the funeral home, which was an old tannery with stables and horses – they built that area up,” said Victor Baldi.
When the Baldis merged with the Jacovinis in an arranged marriage, they also got another celebrity connection, to Norristown-born actress Maria Bello, who is related to the Jacovinis. “Funny, right,” said Victor Baldi of his connection to Swift and Bello. “I don’t know either of them personally, though I do tease people how my cousin is a national singing treasure.”
The only fame that matters here, however, is that of C.C.A. Baldi, as Swift had zip to do with the initial nomination or the addition of the local funeral icon’s 319 Green St. home (built in 1891, currently a multi-unit property) to the Historic Registry. “I had no idea Swift had any connection to Charles Baldi until Vic Baldi told me, so she was never part of the picture,” said Philadelphia historian/author Celeste Morello, who nominated the Green Street house to the register in March.
“C.C.A. Baldi was a great man in his day and continues to be an inspiration, so my focus was on him, his three sons and his accomplishments,” said Morello. “My nomination stated that if you are going to write about the history of Italians in Philadelphia and what they stood for, you have to write about Baldi.”
Among what the nomination defined as “Italian causes” were aiding in establishing Columbus Day as a national holiday, owning a significant number of local properties and helping to raise money for the candidacies of Presdients William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. According to the nomination, Baldi was also responsible for reducing literacy requirements for naturalization, all of which combined for the C.C.A. Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia to be named for him in 1976.
“We have these big family reunions with cousins, uncles and aunts – all generations – and last year, we all brought memorabilia, photos and other bits of history to the party,” said Victor Baldi, whose Broad Street office is populated with vintage photos and newspaper clippings of the Baldi/Jacovini union. “We’re all pretty proud of their accomplishments – C.C.A.’s in particular – and just as pleased to have that house deemed historic.”