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NauenThen

A walk in Williamsburg

Every once in a while last summer I would jump on the subway, get off at a random stop, & walk around to see what I saw. In Williamsburg it was the Manhattan Special factory, clanking quietly, a combined funeral home–bakery, and a lovely grotto on a quiet street commemorating someone named Vito Abate (1890–19 3 (there's a missing number on the sign)).

I found a lovely piece by Abate's grandson that explained how the grotto came to be. He said Vito’s daughter had died of pneumonia at age eight in the '30s. "Heartbroken, he decided to build a grotto at his local parish church, Saint Francis of Paola, as an offering to the Virgin Mary in hopes that she may look after the daughter he could no longer care for himself."

Apparently, he would walk from Williamsburg, over the Manhattan bridge, across Canal Street, and through the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey to collect stones left over from when the tunnel was under construction (1920–24). "Hunched over his little wooden wheelbarrow, he hauled 6-8 stones at a time back to Brooklyn to be used to erect the structure. I can’t even imagine how much his back ached from the journey or the countless miles he logged, gathering the hundreds of stones needed to complete his beautiful grotto."
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