CALORI, ANGELO BATTISTA, labourer, hotelier, real-estate investor, and community leader; b. 19 Feb. 1862, probably near Genoa, Italy, of unknown parents; m. 1888 Teresa Martina (d. 1934), probably of Italy; he adopted her daughter and they had a second daughter; d. 7 May 1940 in Vancouver.
In many ways, Angelo Calori was typical of the early Italian immigrants who arrived in British Columbia between 1858 and the early 1880s: he was born in the Italian northwest, he probably left because of desperate poverty, and he emigrated to California and later moved north to find unskilled work in the province’s labour-short, resource-based economy. Calori’s first years in Canada are undocumented. He is said to have come from San Francisco to Victoria in 1882, worked as a coalminer in Nanaimo, gone to the lower mainland in 1884 to work as a section foreman on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and returned briefly to Vancouver Island to work again as a miner in 1886, but none of these details can be confirmed.
Calori’s activities later in 1886 and after are easier to trace. A fire in June destroyed every structure in Vancouver with the exception of one wooden building, which Calori purchased and transformed into the European Hotel. Five years later, after the city’s population had increased from approximately 1,000 to over 13,000, the establishment became known as the Hotel Europe. A photograph of Calori taken in 1893 reveals a confident businessman with dark eyes and a neatly trimmed full moustache. By that time a severe depression was undermining the North American economy; the discovery of gold in the Yukon territory in 1896 would help to bring the downturn to an end. According to family tradition, Calori got rich in the Klondike gold rush, but the only evidence possessed by his heirs is the gold-nugget jewellery he left them in his will. It is not known whether he made his wealth by staking a claim, selling supplies to prospectors, or providing them with accommodation or transportation.
A dandy who had more than enough money to support his taste in clothing and jewellery, Calori, in appearance and status, contrasted sharply with the majority of Italian men living in the boarding houses of Vancouver’s Little Italy. Many of the city’s inhabitants, 85 per cent of whom had British roots, placed Italians in the same category as the Chinese: foreign, single men with strong backs who would work for low wages. These labourers had left their families in their native land and often had no one to care for them when they were sick or to bury them when they died. Accordingly, in 1905 Calori, with Agostino Gabriele Ferrera and 57 other men, founded the Sons of Italy, a mutual-benefit society. Calori suggested the original name, Società di Mutuo Soccorso Figli d’Italia (Sons of Italy Mutual Benefit Society), and served for years on its board of directors; he would remain a member throughout his life.
Italians constituted a small part of Vancouver’s population and Calori was one of only a handful of successful Italian businessmen. In 1908 he exhibited his prosperity by commissioning architects John Edmeston Parr and Thomas Arthur Fee to design a grand addition to his hotel. Built of reinforced concrete, which was a recent innovation, the four-storey building still commands the triangular block at the junction of Alexander and Powell streets. Calori moved his extended family, including his wife, daughter, son-in-law, grandson, his own brother, and perhaps his step-daughter, into the hotel, and in 1912 he took them to Italy. When they returned to Vancouver in 1915, they went to live in a 25-room house at 1281 Burnaby Street in the city’s West End.
A large home far from Little Italy and the acquisition of much more real estate, such as the Lux Theatre and other properties on East Hastings Street, did not buy Calori acceptance in Anglo-Saxon Vancouver. His business and social life seems to have focused on his compatriots. In 1937 he was one of the community leaders who welcomed the new Italian consul, Dr Giuseppe Brancucci, in an announcement placed in the newspaper L’Eco Italo-Canadese [Italo-Canadian Echo] (Vancouver). Since the late 1920s the consuls had encouraged Italian-Canadians to join clubs called fasci (political groups), which were part of Fascist leader Benito Mussolini’s plan to enlist the support of the Italian diaspora. Calori’s son-in-law, William Gennaro Ruocco, was one of the men to fall naively into line. By the time Ruocco became a member, Calori was too frail to participate. He died on 7 May 1940, at age 78. His funeral was held two days later from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral, and he was interred in Mountain View Cemetery. On 10 June Italy declared war on Great Britain and its allies, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began to arrest Italians suspected of being potential traitors. Ruocco, who was the executor of Calori’s will, and 40 other Italian men from Vancouver were interned at Kananaskis, Alta. He divided the fruits of Calori’s years in Canada among his father-in-law’s heirs while behind a barbed-wire fence.
Calori stood out among the few Italian immigrants in British Columbia who achieved success beyond owning a small business or working in a low-paying job. His example and his community leadership would be an inspiration to the thousands of Italians who arrived after World War II and who found places in Canadian society undreamed of by their predecessors.
City of Vancouver Arch., Add. mss 957. Private arch., Lynne Bowen (Nanaimo, B.C.), Interview with J. A. Ruocco. Vancouver Daily Province, 30 March 1909, 8 May 1940. Ancestry.com, “Ancestry”: www.ancestry.com (consulted 5 Oct. 2009). Lynne Bowen, Three dollar dreams (Lantzville, B.C., 1987). Building the west: the early architects of British Columbia, comp. Donald Luxton (Vancouver, 2003). Raymond Culos, Vancouver’s society of Italians (v.1, Madeira Park, B.C., 1998; v.2, Vancouver, 2002; v.3, Montreal, 2006), 1. Enemies within: Italian and other internees in Canada and abroad, ed. Franca Iacovetta et al. (Toronto, 2000). R. F. Foerster, The Italian emigration of our times (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1919). R. A. J. McDonald, Making Vancouver: class, status, and social boundaries, 1863–1913 (Vancouver, 1996). Souvenirs = Ricordi: of the progress and activities of the members of the Italian colony of Vancouver, 1935 [ed. Marino Culos] ([Vancouver, 1935]). “viHistory”: www.vihistory.ca (consulted 5 Oct. 2009).