As Mario Lanza's childhood home is torn down, neighbors recall his golden voice

Locals remember the impact the Lanza family had on the neighborhood.

Steve Tawa
July 02, 2018 - 4:30 pm
Demolition crews have taken down the boyhood home of Philadelphia opera singer Mario Lanza. A new residential development will go up in its place.

Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

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SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Demolition crews have taken down the boyhood home of Philadelphia opera singer Mario Lanza.

A new residential development will go up in its place. 

As crews leveled 636 Christian St., a man around the corner on Seventh Street remembered the Lanza family back in the late 1940s and '50s.

"I remember when I was like 5 or 6 years old, my grandfather speaking to Mario Lanza's father in that glass front window," said local resident Mike, who watched the demolition from a distance.

He recalled his grandfather putting the famed opera singer's 7-inch vinyl records on the record player.

"When he used to sing 'Mamma [Mia, Che Vo' Sapè],' my grandfather would think about my grandmother, and tears would flow out of his eyes whenever Mario Lanza sang that song," he added.

Lanza grew up in that two-story row home, typical of others in the neighborhood. At one point, he was dubbed "the most famous tenor in America."

A Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker stands outside of the house, but those markers do not protect historical structures. The head of the Bella Vista Neighbors Association said fewer than 10 properties in the district retain historic status.

Mike looked around: The former elementary school he attended across the street is now a condo, and the Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, housed in a former convent around the corner on Montrose Street, has been sold to a developer.

"Bella Vista progress, I guess," he sighed.