As Keene State students and staff stroll down Butler Court to their residential halls and offices, they cannot help but notice the laundromat adjacent to Carle Hall. Located at 61 Butler Court, this building has been used as a laundry facility since 1988. However, 61 Butler Court has not always been occupied by Residential Life. It was once home to my great grandparents, Giovanni and Annina (Dintino) DiGiulio.
To me, this laundromat is not just a building on this campus. It is a reminder of the intersection of genealogy and place. At the age of eighteen, Giovanni left Abruzzi, Italy bound for America. After arriving to Keene in 1911, he purchased his first home at 82 Butler Court. Giovanni and Annina lived at 82 Butler Court until Giovanni decided to take on a challenge.
My great grandparents received the news that their daughter (my grandmother) Ann had gotten engaged. Knowing their daughter did not want to leave her childhood neighborhood, my great grandfather purchased land across the street from their property. The neighborhood children’s “Baseball Field” would become the site of their new residence. Giovanni and his brother-in-law, Clemente DiBernardo, applied their Abruzzi brick making skills to lay the foundation of 61 Butler Court. After laying the foundation, Giovanni hired construction workers to complete the house. Upon the house’s completion in the fall of 1964, my great grandparents moved into their new homestead. Two weeks later, after marrying, my grandparents Francis and Ann (DiGiulio) Eastman moved into 82 Butler Court.
Eleven months later, my mother Ann (Eastman) Derry was born at Elliot Community Hospital (now Elliot Center). My grandmother’s dream had come true. She was living in her childhood home, she had started her family, and her parents were right across the street. However, this dream only lasted a short time. In the fall of 1967, the college demolished 82 Butler Court to build residential halls. The loss of this home was heartbreaking, and my grandparents and mother relocated to 298 Water Street.
Even though my mother only lived across the street from her grandparents her first two years of life, she has fond memories of visiting them. As an undergraduate at Keene State, my mother would stop by between classes. Her “Nona” would always have homemade bread for her when she arrived. In 1973, the college purchased 61 Butler Court, and a life tenancy agreement was put into place allowing my great grandparents to live there until they died. After Annina’s death in October 1987, the college received full ownership of 61 Butler Court.
There is not a day when I step foot on this campus that I forget my heritage. When I walk down Butler Court with peers, I see a reminder of my ancestors’ existence on this land. As I work on the Time Capsule column, I look forward to using the knowledge that I have of local history to educate the campus community.
Theresa Derry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org