Dentice di Frasso, a member of Italian nobility, once owned land in Summerland. (Contributed)

Dentice di Frasso, a member of Italian nobility, once owned land in Summerland. (Contributed)

Italian nobility family once lived in Summerland

Dentice di Frasso and his family owned land in the Prairie Valley area

By David Gregory

One of Summerland’s very first pioneers was Count Dentice de Frasso, a member of Italian nobility.

In July 1902, eight members of the Dentice di Frasso family agreed to purchase land in Prairie Valley. This agreement took place before Shaughnessy had finalized the purchase of George Barclay’s cattle ranch and one year before Shaughnessy had formed the Summerland Development Company.

From the Middle Ages until March 1861, Italy was not really a single country but rather a group of separate kingdoms.

In 1861, King Victor Emmanuel united these separate states. Italy’s nobility class continued until the creation of the Italian Republic in 1946.

The Italian nobility were given titles such as prince, duke, marquis viscount, baron and count and countess.

The Dentice di Frasso land in Prairie Valley was located on present-day Dale Meadows Road and beside the new Millionaires’ Row Cider Company.

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At one time, Prairie Valley was known as Millionaires’ Row because several wealthy Canadian citizens owned orchard land here.

The eight members of the Dentice di Frasso included Theresa, Gabriella, Luisa, Marianne, Francesco, Alfred, Luigi and Carlo. The last three had served in the Italian parliament.

Count Francesco Dentice di Frasso was the family member who signed the purchase agreement on behalf of the eight family members.

According to development company irrigation records, it stated that Count Francesco was living in Summerland in 1907, most likely as a guest in someone’s home. From tax records, there was no building on the property until 1914. In 1923, the property was sold to Mrs. Van Allen.

Of the eight members of the Dentice di Frasso family, the most interesting was Count Carlo Dentice di Frasso and his wife Countess Dorothy was even more interesting.

They were married in 1923, the year they sold the Summerland property.

The countess was described as “impossibly rich.”

With her wealth, they acquired the Palace di Madama in Rome, just north of Vatican City. They also acquired a mansion in Beverley Hills, Calif.

Dorothy di Frasso used both places to host celebrity parties.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood stars and the European elite frequented the countess’s parties. Dorothy di Frasso became known as the “Countess of Beverly Hills.”

Hollywood stars included Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Jean Harlow, George Raft, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, John Barrymore and mobster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel.

Dorothy di Frasso was a business partner and close friend of Bugsy Siegel. Warren Beatty portrayed Siegel in the 1991 movie Bugsy. His character was also used in the movie The Godfather. Siegel was gunned down in 1947 in a manner similar to Moe Green’s killing in the Godfather movie.

Dentice di Frasso died in 1945 and his wife died in 1954. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had appropriated their Palace of Madama in 1941.

Today, the Italian government uses the palace for government meetings.

As for the Beverley Hills mansion, it recently sold for $23.5 million.

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