SISTER CITY TOUR TO ITALY COMMEMORATES Giuseppe (Joe) Murer
Seats still available — sign up today
This annual tour to Italy, sponsored by Historical Murer House in Folsom, will take place from April 9-19 2018. The group of 20 “ambassadors” for Folsom will meet the citizens of Crespano del Grappa, near Venice in northern Italy. Crespano is waiting and planning a special concert and dinner, guided tours and much more. Tour leader Norma Petta from Italy Easy Travel in Folsom can answer specific questions for those interested in the tour in the Veneto region, which begins in Venice and includes Crespano del Grappa, Montello Prosecco Wine Region, Lago di Garda, Bassano del Grappa, Monte Grappa, Verona and ends in Florence. There are a few available reservations left of this tour. Contact Norma Petta firstname.lastname@example.org (916 985 3250) if you would like more information about this tour or a different, private group tour of your own.
Historic Murer House, Learning Center and Museum are located at 1125 Joe Murer Ct., Folsom, Ca. 530 985 7324. Open House is the first Saturday of the month from 10a.m. until 2p.m. Information about classes and events at http://murerhouse.org/home.
History of Murer in Folsom (Murer House Photo)
Giuseppe (Joe) Murer was born in Crespano del Grappa on November 15, 1885. He apprenticed in and mastered carpentry, cabinet making and finish work. After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Joe and three other young men came to California when they heard of the plentiful work for carpenters. He was 21 years old, and an entrepreneur at heart. He became an American citizen, organized local groups, belonged to many civic organizations, and served as Chief on the Folsom Volunteer Fire Department.
He built the back-bar in the Folsom Hotel, which survives to this day. “Joe,” as he became known, eventually bought the Folsom Hotel and went on to design, build and operate other businesses on Sutter Street including a gas station and garage, the Folsom firehouse (which survives on the north side of the 700 block), and the old Folsom post office at 627 Sutter Street.
Joe acquired the property along Folsom Boulevard in 1921 and by 1925 had expanded his holdings to include four vacant lots and two small wood frame houses, which he rented out. In 1925, Joe began building his own home, a simple but well crafted design in the Italianate style of the northern Italy of his youth. Joe was something of a renaissance man, incorporating many modern concepts into his home. The one foot thick, poured concrete walls and tiled roof kept the house comfortable on all but the hottest summer days when he would retreat to the loft room to sleep more comfortably.
The house was plumbed for both hot and cold running water even though he did not install a hot water heater until the 1960s. The built-in sideboard and bookcases in the dining room reflect his cabinetry skills and Joe succeeded in having the Natomas Company water line extended to his house during its construction. When Joe built his house, he also constructed a garage on one side and a workshop on the other.
Antonio Zanetta, joined him in 1927 to do much of the finish work. Antonio’s son, Fred Zanetta was also a builder in Folsom, and his contribution to the Folsom Historical Society, Zanetta’s Barn, sits behind the museum on Sutter Street today. Fred was responsible for building a community of homes in the Natoma area with remarkable stone and brickwork, including a working aqueduct to 1/8/scale along the lines of the Pont du Gard in Southern France. Patricia Zanetta, Fred’s wife is a docent at the Murer House Museum. “I remember Joe Murer well,” she said. “He was always pleasant and sociable and liked people. I would bring him a Christmas cake each year. Joe was not tall,” she recalled. “Maybe 5’ 5”. I could look at his face at eye level.” (Photos of Fred Zanetta’s homes and aqueduct)
She said that her husband was related to an entire generation of contractors, and particular in his work. “Joe Murer hired him to complete the stucco and tile work, and that stucco, now 90 years old, hasn’t a crack in it.”
Joe never married but welcomed his large group of friends to his home and gardens for gatherings during his life.
There were two other houses on the property that Joe rented out. Today they are part of the Murer House compound. Cindy Baker, past president and programming director of the non-profit Historic Murer House Foundation and Learning Center, remembers Joe’s gentle nature with kids. “Joe was always happy to see us show up for a visit. He was usually in his yard or workshop doing something. A big treat was getting to feed his gold fish in the fountain out front. Joe used to pick up chestnuts for me in his garden when I was a little girl. He would carefully use his pen knife to peel off the outer layers. His fruit trees were wonderful and he always had us come pick Bing cherries by the bag full when they were in season. Preserving the site and helping tell his story, along with his role in Folsom history, has been a great joy.”
Joe passed away in November 1972 and is buried in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, just across Folsom Boulevard from his home.
Crespano Learns of Murer
The formal relationship between Folsom and Crespano came together after a visiting Italian researcher, Alessandro Trojani, dropped in on Folsom. He learned of the life of Giuseppe Murer when he visited a Folsom History Museum exhibit on the contributions of Italians during the Gold Rush and the Murer House site.
In August 1999, encouraged by Trojani, a Crespano delegation including Mayor Lorenzo Capovilla and council member Michela Belo traveled to Folsom and the Murer House. They marveled at architectural touches from their hometown in Italy clearly visible in some of the buildings on Folsom’s historic Sutter Street. After tours of Intel, Kikkoman and other prominent businesses, the Crespano contingent was feted at a dinner held in Lanza’s Family Italian Restaurant on Sutter Street where Mayor Capovilla suggested that the two communities seek a long-term relationship. In June 2000, Crespano issued a formal invitation to enter into a sister relationship. Soon after, the Folsom City Council approved a proposed Declaration of Friendship signed in Crespano del Grappa at an official ceremony held September 29, 2000.
Highlights of the Veneto Region include the architecture Andrea Palladio of Padua (1508-1589) is noted for, namely, villas, churches and palaces. This is the architect who, according to acclaimed researcher Bruce Boucher, was the most influential architect the western world has ever produced. His influence was held in high regard in England as well as in the U.S. Thomas Jefferson is said to have followed Palladio in designing the estate home in Virginia.
Canaletto (1697-1768), the “painter of Venice” painted “Capriccio View with Palladio’s Design for the Rialto Bridge” in 1742 using a black and white woodcut design by Palladio who was asked for a design for the bridge. Antonio Da Ponte’s single-arch design was chosen for the Rialto instead and built between 1588-1590. The bridge Palladio did build and was eventually restored according to his design is the wooden pontoon bridge in Bassano del Grappa.
In addition to its production of the Italian register-marked liqueur Grappa, this region is well known for the memorial to the thousands of soldiers killed in World War 1 atop Mount Grappa close to the Austrian border.
Famous people and war generals came and went from this region including Napoleon, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. During its war torn years, at “the battle of Codroipo” in 1917, losses were catastrophic and represented 75% of the total Italian force on the battlefield. https://www.historychannel.com.au/h100/battle-of-caporetto/.
Submitted by Betty Albert
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