MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Casa del popolo di Venegono Superiore

(The People's House cooperative society)


From the early twentieth century to World War II

The history of the Vengono Superiore People's House is rooted in a cooperative tradition that dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century.
In Venegono in 1914, the socialist movement gave rise to a People's House located on Via dei Prati (now Via Pasubio ).
Like elsewhere, the establishment took on the role of a workers' meeting place and assistance centre, as well as that of a consumer cooperative and recreation club. During this period, Venegono was a small town for which the main sources of employment were the construction businesses in Milan. The low wages were supplemented by the cultivation of small plots of land, which the town's families had handed down to one another over the generations. The consumer cooperative therefore performed a particularly important function, as it allowed for the prices of foodstuffs, household goods and articles of clothing to be kept reasonably low. The split of the Italian Socialist Party in 1921 led to the creation of a new People's House in Monterosso, thanks to the donation of land by an investigator and the volunteer work carried out by members on weekends. Two points of sale were opened: one on via Garibaldi and the other in Montegrappa square.
With the advent of fascism, the political activities ceased, but the consumer cooperative continued to operate, often illegally, and was tolerated by the same regime due to the population's need for a reliable food supply.


From the post-war period to the 1970s

After the war, the consumer cooperative was reconstituted under the name of "Circolo famigliare cooperativa venegonese - società cooperativa a responsabilità limitata" by Carlo Brogli (the first president ), Carlo Cattaneo, Vittorio Pagliani, Carlo Cattaneo (son of Antonio), builders by profession, and Natale Zanchini, a worker, all of whom undersigned a share capital of 500 Italian lire each.
The headquarters remained on via Pasubio and, three years later in 1948, changed its name to "Casa del popolo di Venegono Superiore – Società cooperativa a responsabilità limitata".
During the same year, land was purchased in order to build a new company headquarters (on via Alpini), which was constructed by the members themselves and inaugurated on May 1st 1949. In October of 1950, a branch was also opened on Via Garibaldi for the sales of foodstuffs, and in 1954 the member Charles Uslenghi left his own restaurant to the People's House. The restaurant was closed the following year but the license was transferred to the registered office.
During this time, in fact, the main activity was the sale of beverages, which was accompanied by a canteen where members could obtain essential commodities.
The People's House even organized purely recreational activities, such as ballroom dancing, boxing matches and bocce games. The new statute of 1971 updated the company's business purpose accordingly, gearing it more towards cultural and political activities rather than consumer cooperative's original activities.
In 1974, the People's House was once again moved, this time to Via Battisti, outside of the town centre, to a much more spacious headquarters that would be more practical for recreational activities.


From the 1980s to the present

Since 1981, the cooperative has rented the club's direct management for a fee. This decision turned out to be a positive one from an economic standpoint, but it imposed limitations on the use of the spaces for organizing and promoting cultural and social activities.
In 1983, a number of its members took on positions in the Venegono municipal administration. This new commitment diverted their focus from the cooperative, which was unable to address the problem of replacing its administrators. During these decades, the number of members fell from about 150 to the 70 current members, nearly all of whom are retired and have taken over the shares of their fathers, as prescribed by the corporate bylaws. This decrease is also due to a progressive detachment from active political participation on behalf of most citizens, especially young people, and a more widespread availability of gathering places and entertainment venues. The consumer's cooperative was also surpassed in its objectives by the product availability and lower prices resulting from the emergence and development of large retailers. The cooperative is now actively recovering the memberships of the heirs of past members, in an effort to renew the cooperative spirit and to resume its role as an assistance and political information provider – a role which is now almost exclusively filled by television – so that the People's House can once more become a place of gathering and exchange.