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Garlic Gulch Wedding

Rainier Valley’s Italian heritage goes more than a hundred years. Back then, the Valley was largely forests and farms, with the streetcar running down the middle. Many of the area’s farmers were immigrants, and many of those immigrants were from Italy. In fact, the neighborhood around Atlantic Street was so heavily dominated by Italians that it was called “Garlic Gulch.”

The Borracchini family opened a bakery in the Italian neighborhood in 1922, and their son Remo, still operates it. Remo describes the neighborhood when he was a child: “Our church was Mount Virgin church. We had several Italian grocery stores at Atlantic Street, Italian pharmacy, Italian barbershop. The residents were mainly east and west of Rainier Avenue going all the way up to Beacon Hill. As far south as – oh, a little south of McClellan Street. We had the ballpark. We had the Vacca Brothers farm. And we had the Italian language school here, at Atlantic Street.”

Photos courtesy of Patricelli Family.

Our Lady of Mount Virgin Catholic Church was the spiritual heart of the Italian community, watched over by Father Lodovico Caramello from 1913 to 1949. Mr. and Mrs. Mike Eronemo, pictured at left above with their attendants, were married at Mount Virgin in 1915, no doubt by Fr. Caramello himself. The bride and her maid of honor wear traditional Italian wedding garb. The happy couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1965 with a daughter, two sons, and five grandchildren.

In 1940, Interstate 90 sliced through the heart of the Italian Community in North Rainier and tunneled through the Mount Baker neighborhood to reach Lake Washington and the first floating bridge. Garlic Gulch never fully recovered. Mount Virgin still stands today in the shadow of the I-90 lid.

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