The townhouse at 132 East 65th street has had many identities. It was a gallery space, a spiritual home for members of the Baha’i faith, and an Italian-language school. But for decades it was also the home of Franca and John Lally, two immigrants to the United States, and their five children. On July 6, three generations of Lallys returned to the house to celebrate its new identity as Casa Lally and toast its present and future life as part of Hunter College. Some things are unchanged, like the elevator with the Peter Max wallpaper, but much of the building has been transformed. Donated to Hunter by the Caravan Institute in 2010 and renovated extensively over the last several years, this hub of language and learning boasts new classrooms, modern flooring, a refinished staircase, and detail work replicating the original Italianate architectural features. Next-door neighbor Jane Hudis, mother of a Hunter College High School graduate and Hunter master’s student, has helped to beautify the exterior with plantings and plaques.
For four decades before the gift to Hunter, the building known as Caravan House was home to Parliamo Italiano, the Italian language and culture school founded by Franca Pironti Lally and John Lally. When Franca died in 2009, it was stipulated that the space be handed over to a deserving institution. Hunter was deemed the perfect inheritor. The College took over Parliamo Italiano in 2010, and since then, more than 1,500 students have gone through the program.
Just down the street from Hunter’s other Upper East Side townhouse, Roosevelt House, Casa Lally seemed the ideal home for two other programs: Hunter’s LGBT Center and The Artist’s Institute, an exhibition space dedicated to the work of one contemporary artist at a time.