Several well-known medical professionals whose practices were located in or along the periphery of Brooklyn Square shared a common heritage and origin: Italy. Dr. Vincent Castile came to Buffalo from Italy in 1909. After attending and graduating from the University of Buffalo Dental School in 1918, he arrived in Jamestown and practiced dentistry until 1964 in an upstairs office of the Rogers Building at 13 N. Main Street in Brooklyn Square. As Rosella Agostine stated in her booklet “Something About the Italians in Jamestown,” Dr. Castile was known for his “kindness and generosity.” As a child, Ann Dahl Luce lived in the Rogers Building with her family. Her father, Fillmore Dahl, was the building’s custodian. Ann recalled in a chapter from her book Smackers and Tootsie Toasters that she would make the rounds of the businesses in the Rogers Building, mentioning that she would visit Dr. Castile’s office where she was allowed to sit on the low sill of his office that overlooked the Square and watch as he tended to his patients. 0nce in awhile Ann would be given a stick of Dentyne gum from Dr. Castile while his daughter Josephine informed Ann that among the unfamiliar languages she was hearing was Italian.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, two well-known Italian American physicians had offices on Allen Street within close proximity to Brooklyn Square: Dr. James F. Valone at 25 Allen Street and Dr. George F. Caccamise at 63 Allen Street
Dr. James Valone’s mother came to America from Valledolmo (Valley of the Elm), Sicily, with her sons and settled in Fredonia among relatives, where she helped harvesting fruits and vegetables along with her older children. With the money they earned, they succeeded in putting James through Fredonia Normal and then the University of Buffalo where he graduated with a medical degree circa 1914. He was, according to Agostine, “the first doctor of the Italian community in Jamestown where he came to set up practice.” As a footnote to Dr. Valone’s home, which also housed his office, my father was employed by him and kept Dr. Valone’s front lawn immaculately mowed and hand-edged!
Our family doctor for all of the years of my youth was Dr. George F. Caccamise whose office was at 63 Allen Street. His brother Joseph was also a medical doctor; his brother James was a dentist, and his brother Charles was a pharmacist. Dr. George Caccamise’s parents came from Valledolmo, Sicily, but he was born in Buffalo in 1896. His parents worked at a variety of jobs that demanded hard physical labor in the fields as well as working at French Cannery (later Welch’s) and the United Canning Company. Sometimes his father would bring home sacks of string beans that the whole family snapped for factory processing and canning, earning one cent a pound. Through long hours of hard work by his parents, siblings and himself, George attended and graduated from the University of Buffalo. Upon entering the medical profession and setting up a private practice, he took on the responsibility of putting his three brothers through college. (Dr. George Caccamise)
In 1921, Dr. Caccamise set up an office on Allen Street, directly across Institute Street from St. James Church. ( 63 Allen Street) Many residents of the Lost Neighborhood filled his office. According to Agostine in a Post-Journal article in 1975: “No doctor has given so freely of his services to so many people in the area.” The Italian-American Club of Falconer paid two dollars a year per family which gave them medical services such as births, house calls, and operations. As a member of the Club, Dr. George gave these services for 20 years. During the years of the Great Depression, Dr. Caccamise often took care of his patients without payment.
From 1933-1951, he served on the Jamestown General Hospital Board and the Chautauqua County Health Board in 1957 until 1974. Dr. George died in 1979 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. To many, he was a giving physician. As his son David recalled in a phone conversation with me in 2013, his father “truly practiced medicine solely for the good of his patients.” (Photos courtesy Jim Auria and Ardith Caccamise)