Antonio “Tony” Mecca’s journey from modest beginnings led him to become one of Camden’s most prominent figures during the first half of the 20th century. Born in Italy in 1873, he set foot in America in 1888. After a year spent picking berries in nearby Hammonton, he arrived in Camden in 1890, embarking on his entrepreneurial path. Antonio Mecca’s business career commenced with the sale of fruits from a humble pushcart. By 1902, he had progressed to the ownership of a liquor store. In 1906, he ventured into the funeral business, establishing a funeral parlor at the intersection of South 4th Street and Division Streets. Antonio Mecca played a significant role in the Camden Italian American Building Association and also engaged in real estate and fire insurance activities. He facilitated the purchase of steamship tickets to and from Europe, served as a notary public, and operated a substation of the Camden Post Office. His building, constructed in 1908, became widely known as “The White House” due to its distinctive appearance and its central role in the Italian-American community.
Located at 819 South 4th Street, The White House is a two-story structure designed in the Mediterranean Villa style. It sits in close proximity to two Roman Catholic churches, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church at 832 South 4th Street and the church of St. Peter and St. Paul at the intersection of Spruce and St. John Streets, just east of Broadway.
From The White House, Antonio Mecca assumed the role of a guide for countless immigrants who spoke no English. The post office substation that he managed assisted local residents in sending money to their families in Italy. In addition to serving as a notary public, he provided interpretation services for fellow Italians in Camden’s courts, aided neighbors in obtaining citizenship papers, and waived funeral fees for families facing financial hardship. Affectionately known as “Tony Mec” in the neighborhood, he introduced a pre-paid funeral plan for working-class families, charging just fifty cents a week. Antonio Mecca also operated a limousine rental service.
Antonio Mecca passed away in 1952. The funeral home at 819 South 4th Street continued to serve the community under the leadership of Richard Troncone and his family until the late 1960s.
Today, The White House at 819 South 4th Street still stands as a testament to its historical significance. Over time, the building had fallen into disrepair, becoming entirely unusable by the early 1990s. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Sal Scuderi and neighbors such as David Prado, Jose Reyes, and Robert Rivera, the building underwent a remarkable restoration. In May of 2001, it was once again put to use, drawing the enthusiasm of a crowd that included hundreds of current and former residents who gathered for its re-dedication.
His building, constructed in 1908, became widely known as “The White House” due to its distinctive appearance and its central role in the Italian-American community.
The Camden Chiselers Club was organized by Larry Doran, attorney Rocco Palese, and other members of Camden’s political and business community, making up a “Who’s Who” of Camden in the 1930’s.
Miss Emma Palladino, one of the fairest daughters of Camden’s “Little Italy” yesterday became the bride of Joseph Montana, heavyweight wrestler, at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Fourth and Division streets.
Hospitality was rampant at the First Ward Young Republican Club last night. The occasion was the annual meeting. Following the election of officers there was a delightful entertainment and a splendid feast, – the honors being done by Captain William E. Alberts, simply resplendent facially in his new bunch of whiskers; Recorder O, Glen Stackhouse,…