By the nineteenth century Italy had been divided into a number of competing states for over a thousand years. The French, Austrians and Spanish had all dominated at different periods.
At the start of the French Revolutionary Wars the Austrians controlled Lombardy and Tuscany, while branches of the Bourbon family ruled in Parma, Modena and Naples. Much of central Italy was ruled by the Pope, forming the Papal States.
After the final defeat of Napoleon the pre-war status quo was almost restored. The Bourbons returned to Naples, the House of Savoy to Piedmont-Sardinia and the Habsburgs to Lombardy. The Papal States were restored.
Italy didn’t settle down under the restored status-quo. A series of revolutions broke out across the country. Some of the fighting was between the French and Austrians (Second Italian War of Independence, also called the Franco-Austrian War.)
“The war which had broken out in Northern Italy (was) brought to a close by the peace of Villa Franca”. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 17, 1859)
Wait, this is not about Villa Franca in Italy … let’s look at Hawai‘i.
The archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean; the Azores are divided into three districts, subdivided into nineteen “conulhos” (municipalities) with 120 “freguezias” (parishes) – Villa Franca do Lamqo (is one, with 4,000 inhabitants.) (Daily Press, December 25, 1885)
“The last official census of this Kingdom acknowledged here 9,377 Portuguese; but, as the Luso Hawaiiano justly remarked some time ago, that number is far short of the actual truth…”
“… the above figures do not include the last arrival of immigrants 370 In the Dacca nor does It enumerate the number of Portuguese children born in this country, which go into the ‘foreigners, Hawaiian-born,’ nor the children of Portuguese married to Hawaiian or half-white women, which go under the heading of ‘half-castes.’”
“It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the Portuguese colony in these Islands numbers now over 10,500 souls, which makes one-eighth of the total population.”
“Thus they have become quite an important element amongst us, and as very few of them, if any, come from Portugal itself, the majority of them having come from the Azores …” (Daily Press, December 25, 1885)
As the population grew, one developer looked to market a Hilo subdivision to provide a place for them to live.
“Villa Franca is the name of the Waiākea addition to Hilo, thrown open for settlement by CS Desky of Honolulu. It will without doubt become purely a Portuguese villa and Mr Desky anticipating this has named the streets now being constructed, Lisbon, Lusitana and Funchal.” (Evening Bulletin, May 12, 1897)
“(H)e bought some land most unprepossessing in an out-of-the-way part of Hilo and cut it up into 96 lots of about 1/8 of an acre per lot and sold every lot for $100 per lot. That was a selling price of $800 per acre (at) Villa Franca …” (The Friend, October 1916)
It seems his marketing worked, early owners in Villa Franca includes Antonio, Carvalho, da Camara, da Costa, Francisco, de Gouvea, Medina, Rocha, da Silva, Souza, Soares, Santos, Serrao, Liborio, Medeiros …
It appears Desky didn’t name the streets as initially planned; the area is now just mauka of the County and State municipal buildings in Hilo, with Panaʻewa, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea as some of its streets (bounded by Hualālai, Kinoʻole, Kilauea and Wailoa River.)
One historian called Desky ‘Hawaii’s first subdivider;’ he developed a variety of residential and commercial properties all over the Islands. Villa Franca was described as “a working class neighborhood”.
“A few years ago even the most progressive citizens of the Paradise of the Pacific would state that there was ‘nothing in real estate’ in Honolulu, and every man with money was chasing after sugar stock or doubling his coin in the business which justly, if not politely, must be described as usury.”
“New blood and fresh ideas were wanted to shake up the community from the lethargy in which every body apparently had fallen.” (The Independent, April 25, 1898)
“One day CS Desky arrived on the scene, and it didn’t take him very long before he had realized the wonderful opportunities which the islands offered …. Desky treated the public to surprise after surprise. …” (The Independent, April 25, 1898)
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Bowman Olds says
My first home as a baby growing up in Hilo was in Villa Franca.
Susan Nunes says
I lived there, too, in the late 1940s. On Mauna Loa Street, next door to Bob Lee’s family. They used to give luaus for the neighborhood, imu in the back yard, pigs brought down from Puhakuloa. Generous people. There was a Castro family couple houses down. Mr. Castro played steel guitar in his back yard. Also a Kanno family across the street, persimmon tree in their yard, furo downstairs. And a lady who taught hula in her home, played the ukulele, kids danced on lauhala mats. We lived there for a couple years at least, so I still remember the house, painted yellow, small porch, banana trees in back yard, macadamia tree, too, and pipinola vines on the fence, mountain apple tree next door, lots of kids running wild in the neighborhood. I will never forget Villa Franca. It was magic.