In the early 1900s, Front Street in Itta Bena was on both sides of the railroad tracks. The business district developed first along the south side of the tracks. In my earlier trips to Itta Bena, I had not paid much attention to the south side, but while waiting for the Ralph Lembo marker unveiling in May, I took a couple of photographs. This story is focused on the second building, to the right of the vine-covered building. It was the long-time home of John Favara’s Southern Cafe.
Tracking down the story was a little complicated, so I will break this topic into several smaller posts. The one-story painted brick building was last used as Tyrone’s Sports Bar and Grill, but apparently not in the last 10 years. That appears to be the metal awning that has fallen on the sidewalk–It was still mounted in 2009, and the building had a relatively recent paint job, but it’s been all down hill since.
Mississippi Department of Archives & History lists it as c.1905, and describes it as:
…1-story painted brick…flat parapet…decorative corbelling at cornice…6-panel transom in wood frames…
The dates for Itta Bena buildings are complicated by the fact that a “disastrous conflagration” in 1902 destroyed six stores along Lake Front, as well as fires destroying parts of down town Itta Bena earlier in 1897 and again in 1905. But first, how did John Favara end up in Itta Bena? Giovanni “John” Favara immigrated from Cornice, Italy, arriving via New Orleans. Apparently, he came with his brother who was two years older, in 1898, according to the 1900 US census. He was 25 and single, living in the home of his brother B. Favara, a 27 year old grocer. John’s occupation was listed as fruit peddler. John, his brother Biaggio, and B’s wife Philamina and their daughter were the only Favaras in the 1900 census. Biaggio and Philamina had a son in 1901, whom they named John B. Giovanni “John” and Guiseppa Domino (Josephine or Josie) married in 1901 in Itta Bena, although she, too was born in Italy and immigrated.
In 1910, Itta Bena census listed John Favara, born 1860 in Italy, married to Filomon, and who immigrated in 1894, and was a grocer with sons John, 12, and Sam, 4, and daughter Josie, 10, and also the above John Favara. It is unclear why the John who arrived in 1894 was not in the 1900 census, but I assume he lived elsewhere. I am unable to locate him and his wife in any 1900 census for the US, but it is possible he/they returned to Italy and then came back to the US, perhaps for the purpose of marriage? He is listed as Alien and not naturalized in the 1910 census. There is no indication these two John Favaras are related, but that also complicated utilizing newspapers due to the similarity of the names.
Visible left to right in the photo of Front Street: 207, c. 1915, 211 Southern Cafe, c. 1905, 213, c. 1909, 215, c. 1919, 219, c. 1909 per MDAH/HRi. Next, I will look at those buildings, and specifically the Southern Cafe, using the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1905, 1909, and 1918.
Will there be surprises? Stay tuned to see!