William P. Cozza and younger brother A.J. “Gus” Cozza both served in World War II and both opened eponymous construction companies. Though they grew up poor, between them they built almost 2,000 homes and some commercial projects.
The older brother started William P. Cozza Construction and was active with the Spokane Homebuilders Association, serving on the board through the 1950s and participating in the annual home show. Marc Cozza, William’s youngest son, said his father built 450 homes on the South Hill and the family lived at 3318 E. 16th Ave. in a house his father built.
After the war, Gus Cozza went to Gonzaga to become a lawyer, and he swept floors and worked in the cafeteria for his room and board while in school.
A 1955 business story in the newspaper told how Gus Cozza got into homebuilding. While in college, the younger Cozza got engaged and decided to build his fiancée a house, which he did. Once finished, he received an offer to buy the house, and he couldn’t pass up the tidy $1,000 profit he would make, which caused his fiancée to break off the engagement.
Gus Cozza continued buying empty land on the north side where he kept building houses and even named a street Cozza Drive. The 1955 business profile said Gus J. Cozza Construction had built 1,200 homes in a decade in business and said that his net worth was $750,000. There was a photo of Gus standing in front of his own new home on High Drive.
“Uncle Gus was more of a business guy, and my dad was more of a worker guy,” Marc Cozza said. Marc Cozza described his bachelor uncle as a “fun, always laughing” man who loved his nieces and nephews. Marc Cozza said his uncle was a confirmed bachelor who once rode his bicycle to Palm Springs with other cyclists and who had a snapshot of himself with actor Cary Grant.
Outside of his real estate business, Gus Cozza spent many hours promoting boxing and professional wrestling events.
In 1976, both brothers began having heart problems. Gus Cozza died suddenly after heart surgery. He was 53. William Cozza retired from construction at 55 and died in 1992.
1954: This photo, taken by commercial photographer Richard T. Lewis, shows many nearly identical small bungalows ready for occupancy along North Maple Street near West Joseph Avenue, an area where Gus J. Cozza Construction built hundreds of homes. Another Cozza brother, William P. Cozza, also had a home construction company and built hundreds of homes, many on the South Hill. Gus Cozza also built the small neighborhood shopping center on Rowan Avenue, between Maple and Ash streets.
Present day: This area along North Maple Street near West Joseph Avenue was a popular location for construction of Gus J. Cozza homes in the mid-20th century. Brothers Gus Cozza and William P. Cozza came from a poor upbringing but managed to both start eponymous construction companies in Spokane and built hundreds of homes.