Opera singer Amelita Galli-Curci had a connection to St. Louis Park through her second husband, Homer Samuels. Samuels was her accompanist and they married in 1921. It was Samuels’ brother, Dr. Harvey C. Samuels, who resided in the Oak Hill section of the Park, on Minnehaha Creek. Many a former kid remembers swimming in the creek while listening to Galli-Curci practice her singing.
Where was the house? Anne Vonhof tells us:
I had a friend down at the large house down on Texas Avenue close to Minnehaha Creek, at 334 Texas Avenue (the address then), and was always told that it was Galli-Curci’s home in St. Louis Park. As I remember, it was large and rambling, and set back considerably from Texas Avenue. The basement rooms were quite dark and had an enormous old billiards table. My friends moved out in 1964, I believe, and I heard that the house had been demolished when Texas Avenue was rerouted around to join with Lake Street NE (Lake Street ended southwest at the intersection with Blake Road, just north of a dairy at the Soo Line RR tracks). The Galli-Curci House would have stood right around where 4102 Texas Avenue North now stands. Minnehaha Creek made a wide, horseshoe loop around the house, which must have been extremely pleasant before the traffic got so bad on Blake Road and before the refrigeration plant was built just across the creek. South Street (now Edgebrook Drive), which was only 3 blocks long and followed the Soo main line from northeast to southwest, came to a crest just above the house, and I would ride my bike up to the top and around down to the intersection of Texas and Lake Street, where the driveway was for the Galli-Curci house. I spent a very nice winter, probably in 1962, sledding with my friend on the drifts on the banks of the creek around the house.
Galli-Curci was born in Italy on November 18/19, 1882. A coloratura soprano, she first sang in Milan and South America. From 1916 to 1925 she performed in Chicago as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. She sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1920-1930. She also had an exclusive contract with the Victor Talking Records Company. Her recordings were sensationally popular, at times outselling Caruso. In 1930 she developed a thyroid condition and retired – in 1935 she had surgery for a goiter.
She died on November 26, 1963 in LaJolla, California, and is buried at Cypress View Memorial Gardens in San Diego.
THE SAMUELS FAMILY
Sometime between 1910 and 1920, Charles J. and Amaretta Samuels moved from Minneapolis to St. Louis Park. The 1920 census shows them on “St. Louis Park Road” with son Homer, 31, a pianist, and son Harvey, also 31, a dentist. In 1930 the family is listed on Columbus Ave., which is now Texas. Harvey still lived with his parents in 1930, but Homer doesn’t seem to be listed at all in 1930. By 1940 Harvey lived in Minneapolis and Homer lived in Los Angeles and the Catskills.
For more information see Something in the Water.