The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 2, 2013

History Walk spurs history talk

OTTUMWA — However their side of the family pronounces it, the Celanias have been in town since at least 1890.

One side of the family, which typically lives on the south side of Ottumwa, leaves off the sound of the final letter, “A” sound. The Celanias on the north side of town keep the final “A” sound.

“My name has been [Sel LAY Nee] all my life,” said Mike Celania of Ottumwa.

Some other Celanias in town are cousins. All that he knows, however, are descended from an enterprising Italian immigrant: Columbia Celania, who, with her husband, came to the United States in 1870. When her husband died, she packed up her children and moved to the growing town of Ottumwa.

“That was in 1890,” said Mike. “My great grandmother ran a fruit [store] which my grandfather (one of her sons) expanded when he came [to Ottumwa] from Italy.”

Main Street Ottumwa's Third Annual History Walk, celebrating the 1920s, will present interactive tours starting at 2 p.m., Oct. 13 in the 300 block of of East Main. Eight locations will be featured. Actors representing business owners of the 1920s will give presentations on what happened in that location decades ago.

The Celania shop was located on East Main Street, next to where the Market on Main is being built; there’s a green space between buildings. With the expansions, it needed several other locations in the 300 block of East Main Street.

“Candy, then ice cream, then they added a delicatessen, then a café,” said Diana Celania, Mike’s wife and a dedicated researcher of history.

They offered home delivery of some items, and had what Main Street Ottumwa board member Fred Zesiger called one of the first drive-up windows around.

Eventually, Mike said, Celania Brothers ice cream and candy was being shipped to various retailers in the state — and beyond.

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