This restored Juliet balcony of this 1908 duplex has a great musical past.
This property was purchased by Rocco Antonio Graziadei, one of the very first Italians to settle in Ottawa & one of it’s first professional harpist. Born in Laurenzana, Italy, on February 16th, 1859, he began his musical career at the age of seven. He toured most of the principal cities of Europe with his father, also a musician. By1866,he had not only mastered the harp, but the flute, cello and violin.
In 1870 he travelled to New York city and became a travelling musician visiting nearly all of the major cities in Canada & USA. He returned to Italy in 1880 to marry his childhood sweetheart Maria Carmelia Nicolini. In 1884 he took up permanent residence in Ottawa. You can see him here in this photo in front of the old structure at 63 St. Andrews Street before the new house was built. The sign reads “Available for Balls, Parties and Receptions”.
He also owned co-owned a small grocery store /travel agency/lending agency at 85 George street in the market called Banco Graziadei.
The new structure at 61 & 63 St. Andrew was believe to be constructed in 1908. As the family grew( 5 boys and 5 girls – Anna, Mathilda, Leonella, Stella, Rosa) so did the Graziadei Orchestra. Domenico (violin), Guiseppe (flute), Sylvio (Harp), Giovanni (drums), and Michelo (saxophone). Prominent from the 1890s playing at my Capital function, Russel House Hotel rotunda, Chateau Laurier ballroom, Rideau Hall and many more. This continued through out till 1930s
This page was researched and written by Nancy Miller Chenier. Nancy is a long-time resident of Lower town and currently co-chair of the Lowertown community Association Heritage Committee. She has a strong interest in the social history and the built heritage of this founding part of Ottawa
When a young Italian musician called Rocco Antonio Graziadei settled with his wife, Maria Carmelia Nicolini, on St. Andrew Street in the 1880s, Lowertown’s celebrated one-family dance orchestra was launched. Rocco was already skilled at playing the harp, the flute, the cello and the violin and each of his ten children – five boys and five girls – eventually learned a musical instrument.
Lorraine Graziadei Laflamme, whose father Michael was the youngest child in this family, shared some memories about her illustrious family from her Clarence Street home. Her grandparents, Rocco and Carmelia, decided to reside permanently in Lowertown and their children grew up in the community, with some staying to raise their own families.
Lorraine remembers that the Graziadei orchestra was prominent from the 1890s, playing at multiple functions in the Capital – under the central rotunda of the Russell House Hotel, in the ballroom of the Chateau Laurier, at Rideau Hall and other venues in and around Ottawa. Through the 1920s and 30s, the family dance band adapted their earlier classical repertoire to the era of jazz and swing. When the band numbers dwindled, four sons continued as a quartet. In 2008, a Bytown Museum exhibition featuring the Ottawa Italian community displayed a magnificent harp used by this early Ottawa music group.
Grandfather Rocco promoted his family orchestra by hanging a sign on the St Andrew Street house indicating that their musical talent was available for “Balls, Parties, and Receptions”. In addition, he co-owned a small grocery store on Dalhousie Street known as “Sardo and Graziadei” where, among other items, he sold olive oil imported from Italy. He also conducted a loan and travel service for new Italian immigrants at “Banco Graziadei” on George Street.
Lorraine’s father, Michael, continued to live on St. Andrew Street after marriage – working by day at the post office and playing his saxophone by night. From this family enclave replete with cousins her own age, Lorraine could roam to nearby parks at Major’s Hill, Nepean Point and Bingham Park. Unlike many of her francophone neighbours, Lorraine’s family preferred movies at the Rideau Theatre rather than the Théâtre français on Dalhousie Street.
Her family attended church services every Sunday at St. Brigid’s Church and after mass, went for a special treat at a Dalhousie Street restaurant popular for its delicious hamburgers and fries. As a pupil at Our Lady’s School on Cumberland, Lorraine remembers coal-heated furnaces, where the charred ashes would be thrown on the playground and cause cut knees for the girls at recess. After further education at Immaculata, a private Catholic secondary school for girls, she secured a government position at the Employment Insurance Commission.
While marriage took Lorraine away from Lowertown, she is now back in the neighbourhood to share the story of this early Lowertown family that chose to move from Laurenzana, Italy to Canada’s capital. And our community has a compelling narrative about a legendary musical group that spanned two centuries of change in Ottawa.