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Giovanni Crozzoli, Pebble Flowerpot Artisan

Giovanni Crozzoli, Pebble Flowerpot Artisan

Joseph Sciorra (January 8, 2017)
Courtesy of Joseph “Chris” Crozzoli
Giovanni Crozzoli making pebble-decorated flowerpots in College Point, Queens, sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

The ongoing search to document New York City's pebble-decorated flowerpots.


For several years I have been documenting the flowerpots decorated with pebbles found on porches throughout southern Brooklyn and in other New York City boroughs.

I have written several blog posts in an attempt to make sense of their prolific presence and little-documented history in the city. I have located examples of individuals creating decorated flowerpots for their own use, such as those found in the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grotto in Rosebank, Staten Island. 

But the profusion of flowerpots decorated with similar designs ensconced on porches in row housing built after World War II—for example, along the Kings Highway corridor and in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood—suggests that someone or some group was creating these objects for sale, supplying building contractors and/or home owners. I was convinced that these pebble artisans were Italian Americans given a host of clues that I have detailed elsewhere in my blogs. 

Last month I came across another piece of the puzzle when I read Joseph Ditta’s blog post about Epifanio Nicosia (1882-1970), an Italian immigrant whose Nico Ornamental Works produced birdbaths, windmills, tables, benches, pagodas, among other garden sculpture, all decorated with pebbles. A 1952 Brooklyn Eagle article states that Nicosia had been making such objects since the early 1930s and that garden estates on Long Island and upstate New York featured his work. The Nico Ornamental Works even had its own postcards printed to advertise the shop.

Ditta’s find is an exciting one, one that prompts some questions: How big of an operation was Nico Ornamental Works? Was it a one-man outfit or did Nicosia have assistants?  Did he sell these to individual homeowners or was he subcontracted by housing developers? Ultimately, on what scale was he operating? Perhaps Nico Ornamental Works was not the only producer selling pebble-decorated flowerpots.

In November 2015, I published a post about Giovanni Crozzoli, an immigrant mason who had created miniatures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Bologna’s Two Towers each out of discarded marble in the yard of his home in College Point, Queens. I concluded my blog post with a promise of another one about Crozzoli’s pebble-encrusted flowerpots. Inspired by Joseph Ditta’s blog post about Epifanio Nicosia, I’m making good on my year-old promise.

Giovanni Crozzoli with Joe Fachine, College Point, Queens, sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Photo courtesy of Joseph "Chris" Crozzoli.

Giovanni Crozzoli was born in Tramonti di Sopra (Pordenone province), in the northern region of Friuli, in 1894. He immigrated to New York City in 1923 and his wife and two sons joined him six years later, eventually they bought a house at 1831 129th Street in College Point, Queens, which the family owned until in 2013. Crozzoli worked until his retirement as a mason for Facchin and Son Construction, a College Point company owned by a paesano.

Giovanni Crozzoli selling one his decorated flowerpots, College Point, Queens, sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Photo courtesy of Joseph "Chris" Crozzoli.

In 2015, Crozzoli'sgrandson Joseph “Chris” Crozzoli told me much about his family’s history and grandfather’s biography and provided me with a stack of historical photographs. Five of these images are of Crozzoli himself captured on film making and selling flowerpots in front of 1816 129th Street sometime in late 1920s or early 1930s. It is interesting to see the urn-shaped flowerpots Crozzoli crafted, as well as the circular patterns found on one of the rectangular containers. 

A Crozzoli family heirloom made by Giovanni Crozzoli. Notice the marble trim of the container. Photo courtesy of Joseph "Chris" Crozzoli.

I offer some of these images here, with Chris’s permission, in my attempt at tracking the mystery of the city’s decorated flowerpots and the artisans who made them. 

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Thank you, Joseph, for

Thank you, Joseph, for documenting these forgotten artisans so that we may recognize and honor their enduring work!