In the early 1900s, Italians in Racine established two distinct communities, North Side and Lakeside. The North Side Italians lived near the foundries where most of the men worked. The area was bounded on the north by High Street and south by Prospect Street, and on the east by Milwaukee Street and on the west by Carlisle Avenue. The Lakeside neighborhood was located between the south city limits (21st Street) and Case South Works, Lake Michigan on the east side and the Northwestern railroad tracks on the west. These Italian neighborhoods became communities within the city of Racine. They were almost self-contained units, where a family could find nearly all the necessities and amenities of life. These first Italian immigrants, although unskilled, uneducated, and struggling in the New World, prospered largely by the sweat of their brows. Other Italians became small business owners of barbershops, restaurants, and grocery stores.
In 1907, North Side Italians formed a mutual aid society, which later became affiliated with the national organization, the Order Sons of Italy in America. In 1923, a permanent Roma Lodge building was opened at 1300 North Memorial Drive. In 1917, the Lakeside Italians established Roma Hall.
Both the Roma Lodge and Roma Hall, as mutual aid societies, helped Italian immigrants find jobs and housing, paid sick and death benefits, provided instruction in English language and civics. They also helped preserve Italian customs, language, literature, and culture. As populations in Racine shifted and relocated, membership in Roma Hall declined. However, the Roma Lodge continued to grow and expand.
In 1979, the Roma Lodge began holding an annual Italian Festival to showcase Italian customs, food, and heritage within the Racine community. The Festival also served as a prime fundraiser for the Lodge, and its plan for future growth and expansion. The festivals proved to be great successes. The Racine community recognized the Italian Festival as an event that offered good food and entertainment for the entire family at reasonable prices.
With the growth in membership, functions and activities, the Lodge was outgrowing the site on Memorial Drive. Plans for a new Lodge building at a new location were developed. In the late summer of 1987, the Roma Lodge moved to its present facility at 7130 Spring Street. Continued growth in the Lodge led to several additions to the original building, including a new Members Lounge and Dining Room, Hall of History, expanded and remodeled in-door bocce courts, additional storage facilities, and the remodeling of what is now the Vittoria Colonna Hall.
Today, Roma Lodge is one of the most successful fraternal organizations in Southeast Wisconsin. Members reside throughout Racine County and neighboring communities in Kenosha and Milwaukee counties. The Lodge continues to provide a center for Italian-Americans to gather and foster Italian-American culture through social, cultural, and entertainment events, scholarships, and gifts to local charities. But most importantly, the Lodge membership continues to take pride in its Italian heritage and the Italian immigrants who strived so hard to find a place for themselves and their children in the United States.