Vol. 15


The Sugar Baroness of The Hill

1920s; St. Louis, Missouri, USA

This is a story of the Consolino family, as told by their granddaughter Jean Hutchinson. Their story had never been written down before now. It is a story of women’s rights, immigration rights, survival, power, crime, and ultimately, the American Dream.

The 1920s, known as “The Roaring ’20s,” was a decade of change and tragedy in America. Women had just gotten the right to vote in 1920. That same year, prohibition of alcohol also became law. However, people still drank alcohol. The Great Depression would be coming very soon.

The Consolino family came to America and lived on the Italian “Hill”(1) in St. Louis, Missouri. They owned a dry-goods(2) store located where the famous Italian restaurant Zia’s is today. My great-great-grandparents ran the store with their nine children. They lived on the second floor, above the store.

They soon started getting threats from the local crime group known as the Black Hand. The Black Hand threatened to kidnap the children unless the family paid them money. The Black Hand bombed the family’s store twice, to prove they were serious. One of the bombs was so powerful that it knocked all of the children out of their beds!

Domenico Consolino died during this time. Jean believes one of the bombs might have hurt him. This left his wife, Domenica, to run the store and raise her nine children.

One of the goods the Consolinos sold was sugar. They sold lots of sugar! Why? Sugar was the main ingredient in making alcohol on The Hill. The Consolinos sold so much sugar that they had to hide all of it in the tunnels under the streets! This made the family a huge target for the Black Hand. The Black Hand would soon become known as the Mafia.

Jean thinks there might have been a meeting between Domenica Consolino and the Mafia. They must have allowed her to sell the sugar because she was a widow and had nine kids to take care of. She probably paid them money for protection. Then the family made a lot of money! Domenica Consolino became known as “the Sugar Baroness of The Hill.”

The Sugar Baroness was a very powerful businesswoman. She used her power and money to help the community. During the Great Depression, many people had no jobs and little food. Domenica would give her neighbors store credit to buy food, even though she probably knew they would never be able to pay her back.

Domenica also gave a lot of her money to her church, St. Ambrose. When the church burned down, Domenica donated a lot of her money to help rebuild it. She gave so much that the church had “Domenico and Domenica Consolino” carved into the Italian marble on the back wall of the new building.

The Sugar Baroness of the Italian Hill is still remembered for selling sugar for moonshine during Prohibition, as well as for her generosity. Now you know the real story — and my powerful great-great-grandmother who made this all possible.

Sophia Sikes; Missouri, USA


1. The Hill is an area of St. Louis that was settled by immigrants, primarily from northern Italy.

2. A dry-goods store generally sells fabric, sewing supplies, clothing, and various small items — not hardware or groceries.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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