Jan 20 2018

Update: The Vanderbilt Cup Race Driver who was Developing a Unique “City” Near the Motor Parkway

Historian, publisher and musician Sheri Mignano Crawford recently discovered the role of a Vanderbilt Cup Race driver in developing a planned  "city" south of Hicksville and less than one mile from the Motor Parkway. 

My favorite co-author Al Velocci and I assisted Ms. Crawford in uncovering some details of Dante City.

Updated January 21, 2018: Sheri Mignano Crawford added comments.


Howard Kroplick

Pietro Tesio

Peter Tesio (1869-1923) was the earliest Italian instrumental music publisher in Manhattan. With the success of his music publishing business,Tesio expanded his interests in 1906 and developed a planned community called Dante City, a few miles south of the heart of Hicksville.

In 1906, Tesio created the the Latin Realty Company and bought 20 acres near Hicksville and less than one mile from the Long Island Motor Parkway (see the red highlighted area). This was to be an international settlement reflecting Italian poet Dante Alighieri' s vision of a unified community. Sheri Mignano Crawford comments: "Tesio planned a community based on the mother tongue of Latin and its linguistic branches of Italian, French, and Spanish. He sold lots to anyone who appreciated the Latin heritage."

Dante City was bounded by Jerusalem Avenue and Division Avenue with street names honoring an Italian inventor (Alessandro Volta), a poet (Dante) and Italian cities (Roma, Palermo, and Milano). Sheri Mignano Crawford adds: "Volta's electric battery discovery has become more significant in time..especially in electric cars".

To help promote his real estate venture, Tesio enlisted Italian daredevil and celebrity Emanuel Cedrino to become the president of the Latin Realty Company. Sheri Mignano Crawford notes: "There is reason to believe that Tesio’s racing interest was a matter of familial connections. His paternal grandmother was Vittoria Diatto of the Diatto family. They were carriage inventors and predecessors to the Fiat business in Turin where he was born. Another racing connection as the Diatto family was connected later to Bugati and Maserati. "

The former chauffeur to Queen Helena of Italy, Cedrino and his mechanic wife Placida arrived in New York in 1904 and became a race car driver for the Fiat dealership of Hollander and Tangemann.  The couple set up a home in Lynbrook in Nassau County on Long Island.

From 1905 to 1908, Cedro drove the Fiat in many races on the East Coast. On August 22, 1905, Cedrino made a world's track record of 53 minutes and  12 seconds for 50 miles in Long Branch, New Jersey.

In his only Vanderbilt Cup Race appearance, Cedrino drove the #12 Fiat in the 1905 race, but broke down in the second lap.

Sadly,  Cedrino was killed on May 29, 1908 while practicing at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.  The New York Times May 29, 1908

Despite the loss of Cedrino, Tesio contined to develop Dante City. He became president of the Latin Realty Company and promoted his ideal city.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 25, 1909 Courtesy of Sheri Mignano Crawford.

Tesio even published and arranged music for mandolins and violins praising Dante City. The cover of his Dante City sheet music (still to be found) even featured "a view of the motor parkway with several high-power machines going at full speed." Courtesy of Sheri Mignano Crawford.

"The plan for 250 lots to be occupied by Italians, Spaniards and Frenchmen who shall build houses characteristic of their country rather than concrete contraptions... It has not gotten very far yet because one president of the Latin Realty Company has died." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 29, 1909. Courtesy of Sheri Mignano Crawford.

The Search for Dante City- Al Velocci and Howard Kroplick

On December 19, 2017, my favorite co-author and I went on a Hicksville field trip to research Dante City and the relocated wing of the Long Island Aviation Club clubhouse.

Al also found this 1907 document in the Nassau County real estate archives. Although Tesio sold 80% of the 250 lots from 1913 to 1918, very few homes were actually ever built, likely reflecting the uncertainty in Europe.

In this newspaper clip, Louis W. Keller was building two "bungalows" for the Dante City Construction Company in Dante City. The construction company was owned by Pietro Tesio. The Long Islander, June 26, 1914.

Sheri Mignano Crawford discovered: "Emanuel Cedrino’s brother-in-law and mechanician Carlo Capra bought lots, too. Capra continued to live in New York after his sister, Cedrino’s wife, Placida returned to Italy with her toddler."

As seen here in another Velocci document, the last Dante City transaction on this card was dated September 17, 1921.

By June 1922  the Latin Realty Company had been dissolved. Nine months later, Tesio died from a chronic condition.

This 1926 aerial of Dante City shows that fewer than ten houses were built by the Latin Realty Company.

Dante City Today

Although Dante City is long gone and, before Ms. Crawford's research, long-forgotten, its memory lives on through two still-standing houses and the current Hicksville street names: Dante Avenue, Roma Street, Palermo Street, Milano Street and Alexander Avenue (a variation from the original Alessandro Volta Street).

These two houses were both built in 1913 and, likely, the only two original Dante City buildings left standing.

The typical Dante City street today.

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