from the Foreword   |   from the Introduction


Introduction
by Christine G.H. Franck

According to the American Dream, this nation offers opportunity and success to anyone willing to work hard, regardless of that person's birthplace or birth station. The story of José "Joe" Allegue belongs in the annals of American Dreams Fulfilled. In fact, it exceeds most accounts of personal achievement. In realizing success in his adopted country as an exceptional builder of fine homes, Allegue left a legacy on the landscape, places where the dreams of succeeding generations might flourish.

Between 1928 and 1968 Allegue worked in southwestern Long Island building custom homes at a rate of about one home per year. Allegue preferred to build a carefully designed and crafted personalized home for a particular client rather than churn out stock houses for anonymous clients. His is a story of ascendancy from immigrant to a builder respected and beloved by his clients. José Maria Allegue was born on a farm in 1901 in the coastal Spanish village of La Coruņa, located in the agricultural region of Galicia in northwest Spain. The youngest son of a prominent family that included a mayor of the village, Allegue was a creative and musical child who played the piano and cornet in a local band. No doubt, he developed a facility for working with his hands and a familiarity with tools from spending his childhood on a farm.

At seventeen, as a youngest son seeking his own way in the world, Allegue boarded the Bordeaux Nais and sailed for Cuba, embarking on the first chapter of a long journey. Upon arriving in Havana, Allegue joined a brother who allegedly had the good fortune to have married a woman of the Feria family, owners of a department store and the famous National Hotel. Despite having a wealthy sister-in-law, Allegue took a job in a local sugar mill.

While working at a sugar mill he fell ill when he contracted malaria. He had tuberculosis as a child, and the effects of it never left him: he was sickly throughout his life. To make matters worse, while recovering, from his malaria in an Havana hospital, Allegue was robbed of all of the money he had saved from his work in the mill - money probably meant for passage to America. Fortunately, he was able to borrow money for the journey from his brother, and he booked passage on the Moro Castle to New York, despite the lingering effects of the malaria.

In 1919, like so many other immigrants, Allegue sailed past Liberty's torch and landed at Ellis Island. Still sickly, he was denied entry in the cursory medical examination meant to weed out the sick, weak, and unemployable. But fortune smiled on Allegue again when a cousin who had been sent to retrieve the new arrival recognized him, despite his infirmity, and assured the authorities that he would care for him. Finally cleared through Ellis Island into the land of opportunity, Allegue opened the next chapter of his American Dream...

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