Raffaele LoStritto may have been listed as just an Italian laborer on the ship's passenger list, but he certainly behaved more like a cosmopolitan traveler as he zipped back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean before settling in in 1896.
He was already 50 years old at this point; had fought with Garibaldi as an artillery soldier to help unify the Italian nation; and had sired two families. With him in 1896 was his son, James, age 14. Two years later the rest of his family would follow.
He moved to East Haven, built a home near what is now , and started the family farm. There he would finish raising his nine children, live to be 98 years old, and leave 43 grandchildren and countless great-grandchildren when he died in 1941.
“Raffaele was my great-grandfather,” said Joe Buonome when interviewed in his office recently. “I didn’t know him, but he provided me with a lot of wonderful family. My grandmother was his daughter, Marianna, and she married my grandfather, Raffaele Buonome. They had a house and truck farm on Saltonstall Place that was a gathering place for the family.”
One street away from the original Buonome house was a home built by Marianna’s half-sister, Filomena, who married Alessandro Caruso. The Buonome and Caruso families would farm near each other for many years. Other siblings would settle in the area, as well. What with the descendants who would change the name LoStritto to "Streeto", and the Buonomes, and the Carusos, life around Saltonstall Place would be one large family gathering.
“I remember going almost every Sunday morning to my grandmother’s for breakfast – big Italian breakfasts with platters of meatballs,” Joe Buonome said. “In the woods behind the house, where the Saltonstall Ridge forms one side of the lake, we’d have pig roasts. My dad, Ralph Buonome, had five brothers and one sister, so I had lots of family to play with. It was a fantastic way to grow up.”
While in high school, Buonome worked at the Harry Davis Lunchette on Main Street. After graduation, he followed his grandfather and father to Sargent & Co, a New Haven manufacturer of metal hardware, such as doorknobs, casket handles, and fishing gear.
“I worked for Sargent for several years, then worked for St. Raphael’s as an orderly for 20 years,” Buonome said. “Around 1970, a friend talked me into taking the test for the police department. I really loved that job, but I had to retire due to a back injury, and eventually ended up running for Democratic . I just got nominated last night for my sixth term in office.”
As luck would have it, there’s another descendant of Raffaele LoStritto just down the hall from Buonome’s office. Roberta DeLucca, a member of the staff, is the daughter of Elizabeth Carbone, the only sister to Marianna Buonome's six boys — Joe, Ralph, Frank, Vincent, Victor and Tony.
“In the 1950s, my mom and dad built a house just down the street from my grandmother's farmhouse,” DeLucca said. “The kids in the family loved to play in the woods on the ridge, even though it was a steep climb to the top."
DeLucca also remembers being told that not only kids but goats used to roam the hillside since the Buonome’s raised goats as well as truck farming. Her mother also told her that she could remember the trolleys that used to take tourists out to Lake Saltonstall, which was just over the hill from their back door.
Joe Buonome’s daughter, , admits to being fascinated with her family history. She has been the one most interested in researching the family and keeping track of the old photos.
“I am currently a sixth, seventh and eighth grade English teacher at l in East Haven,” said Panzo. “I created a curriculum for a graduate project at Columbia University that centers on immigration, and our ties to it today, to use with my eighth grade students. I strongly believe in the importance of keeping traditions alive in an ever-changing society. What our immigrant ancestors sacrificed and the fortitude they had to persevere are tremendous role models for us (and my students) today. It shocks me when I do this unit, how little students know of their family history, stories, or even the countries where they originated.”
Her personal goal is to find out as much about her genealogy as she can to pass on to her two children, and to share with extended relatives. One of these is her “Aunt Louise,” a cousin named Louise Jastremski, one of the granddaughters of Filomena LoStritto Caruso.
Jastremski now lives in Branford in the home her grandfather, Alessandro Caruso, built in 1938 when flooding waters made it impossible for them to keep their farm near Saltonstall Place.
“My sister Judith and I have been tracking our family history for a while,” Jastremski said. “We have a number of family photos and stories. One of the photos is a picture from the New Haven Register in 1939 which shows old Raffaele surrounded by five generations of his descendants. He was 96 then, and died two years later.”
Those five generations, of course, were only the tip of the iceberg as far as the legacy of Raffaele LoStritto was concerned. Other families who became entwined with his included Joe Buonome’s other grandparents, the Morrones, as well as the Aceto, Messina, Carbone and Gentile families. In short, East Haven is filled with people who can call Raffaele ‘Grandfather.”
Few of the busy descendants who lived on Saltonstall Place gave much thought to the origin of the street name. Today, a few people remember that Gurdon Saltonstall was governor of Connecticut, but not many remember the recreational playground that was created at Lake Saltonstall.
The Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall was governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1708 to 1724. As a divinity graduate of Harvard in 1684, it was unusual for a clergyman to cross into the political arena, but Saltonstall had been the executive assistant to the popular colonial governor, Fitz-John Winthrop. Since he was Winthrop’s choice as successor, the legislature passed a law allowing him to leave his Congregational church in New London to take the reins of government.
At the time, both New Haven and Hartford shared the distinction of being capital of the colony. The governor spent six months living in Hartford and six months in the New Haven area.
Staltonstall’s home was built on a hill on the east side of the lake — then called Furnace Pond. It remained a private home until it was destroyed by fire in 1909, caused by a spark from a passing train engine. By that time, it had witnessed the explosion in popularity of the lake.
In its heyday, Lake Saltonstall, no longer called Furnace Pond, attracted large crowds of visitors looking to enjoy boating, fishing, and picnicking as well as ice skating in the winter. George Townsend purchased most of the lake property and began to stock it with fish as early as 1858.
He lobbied the to extend its service from New Haven to Lake Saltonstall, then opened Lake View, where early visitors would find a station house with extensive waiting area, a refreshment center and a dock. He put the 75-passenger steamer Cygnet on the water and people could cruise the four and a half miles to the north end of the lake to Glen Cove for 25 cents. There they found a pavilion with picnic tables and chairs.
Families, school groups, courting couples and visitors from as far away as New York City found they could also take the Shoreline Railroad to the lake’s station, then walk to the lake. The silence of the wooded hills and the picturesque setting caused attendance to rise. It was a different experience from the one they could find at Cosey Beach, but equally popular.
By 1894, Townsend had added tennis and croquet courts to Glen Cove, along with a busy confectionery offering ice cream and soft drinks. He put in walking and carriage trails around the lake, and continued to stock the lake with a variety of fish for sportsmen.
The trolley line extended from the New Haven Green to Lake Saltonstall, with cars leaving every 20 minutes. By 1895, newspaper headlines announced that 3,000 people were using the lake’s facilities each weekend day. In the winter, 2,000 skaters could be found on the ice.
The barge Governor Saltonstall and an electric launch from the Chicago World’s Fair had been added to the sightseeing fleet. Yale and Harvard scheduled crewing races, and people were talking about putting up resort hotels for overnight stays.
Then it all came to a crashing halt. The New Haven Water Company purchased the surrounding land and closed it to the public to “keep the water supply pure,” according to company president Eli Whitney Jr.
Public outrage did get a small concession. Fishermen were still allowed to enjoy the teeming waters of the lake if they got permits from the water company. That, too, ended in 1966 when no trespassing signs went up. And that was the end of Townsend's dream.
Ironically, all this was happening just about the time Raffaele LoStritto settled in the area. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, though, would all have an opportunity to climb in the woods behind their family homes for pig roasts — and look down on the secluded lake that sits on the other side of the ridge that dominates their backyards.
It should be noted that the lake's current owners, South Central Connecticut Regional Water Athuority, now sell year-long permits that allow holders to fish, hike, and cross-country ski on lake property. The fishing is still considered some of the best in the state. Lake Saltonstall has a 70-ft long, wheelchair accessible fishing dock.