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41 • Church of St. Andrew

Anglicans established the Church of St. Andrew at the head of the Fresh Kills in the early 18th century. A graveyard and church were begun by 1709 and the stone church building completed in 1712, adding a major institutional presence to the growing hamlet of Richmond. The church was granted its charter by Queen Anne in 1713.

In 1770 the original church building was enlarged and a tall, elegant steeple was added. The steeple followed a design published by the English architect James Gibbs. With its location on a hill adding to the effect of the tall steeple, the church became an important monument that was visible from miles away.

During the American Revolution, the church was a center of military activity. Rev. Richard Charlton, who was a rector of St. Andrew’s at the start of the Revolution (until 1777), is remembered as the grandfather of Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, who was the first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church; Charlton and Seton family members are among the distinguished early citizens whose graves can be found in the church’s cemetery.

The early church building was severely damaged by fire on March 29, 1867 and again in October 1872. During the periods of rebuilding, services were held in the nearby Reformed Dutch Church.

Today, the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew is an active faith community. The current structure, attributed to builder George Mersereau in 1872, is noted for the English influences in its design. It was designated a New York City landmark in 1967 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The adjoining Burch Hall was built in 1924.

40 • Meeting Hall for St. Andrew's Church

Hemsley Hall is located at 980 Richmond Hill Road. It is used by the Church of St. Andrew and is also available as space for community functions.

38 • Site of Government Buildings

Buildings were constructed on this site between ca. 1729 and ca. 1828 to serve a variety of county functions. A reconstructed wood frame marks the location today, at the intersection of Richmond Road, Arthur Kill Road, and Richmond Hill Road.

The First County Courthouse was built ca. 1728-1729 on land purchased from William Tillyer on the site which is now in the bed of Arthur Kill Road at the corner of Richmond Road. Records of the Court of Sessions and Common Pleas document that court convened “at the Courthouse at Richmondtown” September 2, 1729. This First County Courthouse was burned by the British ca. 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

The Second County Jail was built to the east of the Courthouse ca. 1741, replacing the First County Jail which stood at another site nearby. A jailer’s house, built east of the jail in 1751, was converted to service as the County Poor House ca. 1759, and was replaced by 1828 with a new structure which held the The First County Clerk’s and Surrogate’s Offices. These are the structures represented by the current wood frame on the site. 

In 1837, when the Third County Courthouse was completed, county functions were gathered together in the newer portion of town, up the hill on Center Street. The former government building structure was sold to John Johnson, who used it as a post office and store. Later use of the building is not well documented. The Second County Jail and First County Clerk’s office were destroyed by fire in 1895.

31 • Site of Carriage and Wagon Manufactory

A carriage and wagon manufactory formerly stood on Richmond Road between Arthur Kill Road and St. Patrick’s Place. Currently, a foundation and partial walls stand on the site, built of fieldstone and brick. These are the result of 1970s construction upon the remains of an early fieldstone foundation wall. The original structure was a plain, utilitarian three-story brick building with a stone ground floor foundation.

Isaac Marsh came to Staten Island from New Jersey with his wife Catherine in the early 1840s. By 1847 the young family was living in Richmond and Marsh had established a carriage manufactory on Richmond Hill Road north of Richmond Creek, advertising that he offered “carriages of all kinds built to order from the best materials, and my experienced workmen.”

This was one of the earliest-known carriage factories on Staten Island. The business was presumably influenced by the growing number of middle-class customers and the establishment of a factory system with craftsmen who specialized in distinct processes. In 1855 Marsh employed 14 men and five boys and was described by R.G. Dun and Company as “doing a very profitable business.” The census record shows that least some of the employees resided with the Marsh family at that time. Some of the workers were Irish-born, as was a 22-year-old household servant.

Around 1858, Marsh built a new facility at the site on Richmond Road. The ground floor of this brick factory building held a blacksmith and a wood shop; the repository (showroom) was on the second floor, and painting was done on the top floor. Since the building was situated on a slope, both the first and second stories had street-level access.

In the 1860s, Marsh took on Peter V. Nolan as a junior partner in the firm. An 1862 advertisement in the Richmond County Register described “Carriages and Sleighs of every description on hand, for sale, and made to order, of the latest and most improved style and finish, at War Prices.” Business continued to grow, even during the Civil War (and Marsh supplemented his income by supplying horses to the army). By September 1869 Marsh and Nolan established a new large two-story wooden building just east of their brick building to house expanded factory work. Early photographs suggest that decks and ramps were used to allow for the movement of vehicles around the two factory buildings on Richmond Road. In 1886, Marsh and Nolan acquired the 1808 structure that had been the Reformed Dutch Church and moved it onto their property as additional repository or work space.

Marsh was well known on Staten Island not only for his carriages, but also for his service as the Richmond County Deputy Sheriff and later as Sheriff and County Police Commissioner; he also had other business interests as well. By about 1890, the carriage factory business had been through financial downturns and was facing increased competition from factories on the north shore of Staten Island, which were more conveniently located for freight shipments by water as well as a new railroad link to New Jersey.

Isaac Marsh and his family lived in a few different homes in and near Richmond village. His wife Catherine died in 1859 and in 1865 he was married to Adaline C. Wending at the Reformed Dutch Church in Richmond. Her death in 1888 left Isaac, for the second time, a widower with children. By the 1890s, Isaac Marsh was living in the building on Arthur Kill Road that had formerly served as the Second County Court House.

Peter Nolan was born on Staten Island, the son of an Irish immigrant. He and his wife Virginia had at least five children and also, like Marsh, boarded factory employees in his household. Nolan owned a house at Center Street and Moore Avenue by 1874 and lived there until his death in 1906.

Isaac Marsh died of a heart attack while working in his shop in 1896. Afterward, John Frederick Schwiebert, a factory foreman, took control of the business, and in 1901 Schwiebert purchased the factory and surrounding property from Marsh’s daughter, Anna Irene Marsh. In the early 1900s, Schwiebert’s factory advertised both carriage and auto repair, and by 1917 they were manufacturing truck chassis. From 1931-1939 it was known as “J.F. Schwiebert & Son - Richmond Auto Body Works.” The wooden factory building, which had fallen into disrepair, was torn down in 1938, and the firm was out of business by 1940. The brick factory building was condemned and demolished in 1945.

Schwiebert’s home, built next to the factory in 1909-1910, remains standing. The current structure on the factory site is incomplete; the area has been used for outdoor programming at Historic Richmond Town.

21 • Gas Station (film set)

This structure was constructed for location filming of the television series Boardwalk Empire. It represents a 1920s American gas station in the fictional town of Tabor Heights, New Jersey. This set was utilized for episodes which originally aired during the show’s third season, in the fall of 2012.

20 • Transportation Museum

Designed to resemble a late-1800s carriage house, this building was used as exhibition space and as a gift shop before 1980s renovations of the Visitors Center and Historical Museum. The structure now provides storage of large-scale materials.

19 • Storage

Designed to resemble a late-1800s carriage house, this building houses architectural elements and museum maintenance equipment.

17 • St. Patrick's Church

St. Patrick’s Church is the home of a Roman Catholic parish founded in 1862. It was the fifth Catholic church established on Staten Island, built at a time when many new immigrants, especially increasing numbers of Irish and German Catholic people, were settling in areas in and around Richmond.

The first pastor of St. Patrick’s Church was Father John Barry, who was born in Ireland and ordained in the United States. Father Barry was appointed to St. Joseph’s Church in Rossville in 1859 and visited Richmond regularly, saying mass in a small building on Center Street until the new church building was ready for occupancy. (A previous Staten Island pastor, Father James Roosevelt Bayley, had also served the Catholic community at Richmond on a less-frequent basis.)

Father Barry reportedly struggled against anti-Catholic sentiment which influenced the politics of the time. Eventually, Father Barry was able to purchase the land where the church now stands. The cornerstone was laid on March 17, 1862 and the parish was legally incorporated on March 25, 1863. Father Barry’s appointment was transferred to St. Peter’s Church in New Brighton in 1877; successive pastors served both St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Churches until Father John H. Coffey was appointed the first resident pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in 1884, with accommodations at a Catholic home for dependent children in New Dorp.

Father James P. Byrnes, whose pastorate extended from 1886 to 1908, oversaw the purchase of a house at St. Patrick’s Place and Center Street as well as improvements to the church including the addition of a steeple in 1898. In the decades to follow, the parish continued to evolve. Irish Americans became increasingly prominent in local government and politics. The size and diversity of Staten Island’s population saw unprecedented growth, and new Catholic churches and schools were established throughout the island. The Sisters of St. Dorothy established St. Patrick’s Academy (first located on the site now used for church parking) and the present rectory building was acquired from the Holtermann family.

The church building, an example of early Romanesque Revival style, was designated a New York City Landmark in 1968.

15 • Lawn Area

The lawn between P.S. 28 and the Third County Courthouse is now used for visitor picnicking and outdoor concerts at Historic Richmond Town. But in earlier years, a house stood here, at 284 Center Street.

The house was erected in 1837 as part of Henry I. Seaman’s development of the village, and a barn was constructed on the property by 1845. The owners of the house included members of the Hall, Marsh, Lytle, Cole, Siemer, and Flake families. A photo of the site, taken between 1900 and 1910, shows a large grape arbor in the backyard behind the house. In 1959 the house was sold to St. Andrew’s Church and moved to an area behind the church to be used as a parsonage. It still stands in that location as part of the property of St. Andrew’s Church.

13 • Diner (film set)

This structure was constructed for location filming of the television series Boardwalk Empire. It represents a 1920s American diner in the fictional town of Tabor Heights, New Jersey. This set was utilized for episodes which originally aired during the show’s third season, in the fall of 2012.

9 • Site of Reformed Dutch Church

In 1769, the Reformed Dutch Church built an edifice on what is now the corner of Center Street and Arthur Kill Road (not far from the Voorlezer's House which had been its meeting house in the previous century). This church was initially formed with support from the Reformed Dutch Church in Port Richmond as well as an informal alliance with local Presbyterian congregants. The building was destroyed by the British in 1776, and in 1808 a new church was built on the site.

The second church structure was designed to be 43 x 33 feet in size, with a steeple 100 feet high extending two feet beyond the main building. It was enlarged to a size of 68 x 33 feet by 1858. It became known as the South Reformed Dutch Church (to distinguish it from the Port Richmond congregation on the island's north shore). The Parsonage which served as home to four successive pastors of the church remains standing at the corner of Arthur Kill Road and Clarke Avenue.

The congregation was struggling by 1875, and the church closed its doors ca. 1878. The church building was sold by the mid-1880s; it was then moved to another location on Center Street for use as a storage facility for the nearby Carriage Factory. The church cemetery was also closed and bodies were removed and re-interred at the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp. The remaining property, including the Parsonage, was purchased by Parsonage resident Leah Flake in 1886.

The church structure at its final location was demolished in 1903.

8 • Site of First County Jail

The establishment of a Richmond County jail was provided for by an Act of Assembly in 1704. This site was selected and construction was undertaken in 1710, with orders that the building be built of stone, two stories high, measuring 14 by 12 feet. Within a dozen years, County Sheriffs began to complain that the jail structure was insufficient, and a replacement was constructed by 1741. 

7 • Site of Town Pond

The Town Pond was once located south of Richmond Road just east of Arthur Kill Road. Its existence is documented in the early 18th century, when Richmond was established as the county seat. The pond was likely drained and filled with soil around the 1820s, allowing construction of the Richmond County Hall which was completed ca. 1829. Richmond County Hall was demolished in 1890. A parish house for St. Andrew's Church stood on the site from about 1891 to 1929.

In the 1960s this area was the focus of an archaeological investigation; artifacts found there are now in the collections at Historic Richmond Town. 

46 • Voorlezer's House

voorlezer4The Voorlezer's House is located on the west side of Arthur Kill Road. Constructed ca. 1695, it is an example of Dutch-influenced vernacular architecture, but is atypical and an unusually large structure for its early period. Archaeological findings, reported in 1985, produced artifacts dating as early as 1740.  The building remains near its original site, but in 1939 it was moved back about 15 feet from its original foundation as a safety precaution (to be further from the roadway).

Built by the Dutch Reformed congregation as a religious facility, it also contained the residence of the congregation's Voorlezer, Hendrick Kroesen, and his family from ca. 1695 until 1701. The Voorlezer's typical function within the church involved reading the Bible aloud, keeping church records, performing rites such as baptism, and educating children. Sermons would be presented by a visiting Domine (minister), who was likely received as a guest in the Kroesen's living area. The size of the congregation may have been about 82 adults, and 25-30 potential students, at a time when the entire island held about 700 residents. Records were kept in the Dutch language, and it is assumed that both Dutch and English were spoken here.

Hendrick Kroesen (ca. 1666-ca. 1760) was born in Brooklyn of Dutch immigrant parents. He married 15-year-old Cornelia Corsen about 1697 (when he was about 30) and their first child, Maritje, was born in 1698. Though young, Cornelia came to the marriage with some wealth, as she had inherited property from her father. According to the customs of their time, this young woman would be responsible for happiness and order in the home, and was duty-bound to obey her husband. The Kroesens moved to the Port Richmond area when a new church building was constructed there after 1700.

The family with the longest tenure as residents of the building was that of Rene Rezeau (died 1720), a mason, farmer, and/or storekeeper, and his wife, Anne (Coursier) Rezeau. Rezeaus and their descendents, including the Van Pelt family, occupied the Voorlezer's House for over 160 years, from 1705 until the 1870s. Some of them are buried at the Rezeau-Van Pelt Cemetery on the grounds of Historic Richmond Town. It is possible that dairy farming was one of their occupations; there is mention in the New York Mercury in 1763 of a Mr. Reseau of Staten Island who was dishonestly selling bad butter that was "artfully cased over with excellent fresh Butter."

A legend about residents of the house during the American Revolution was printed some hundred years after the war, and illustrated in Frank Leslie's Monthly (March 1885). The story describes a relationship between a Hessian drummer named Ernst (serving with the British soldiers) and the delicate young girl called "Pretty" who won his heart before both met untimely deaths. The story has not been confirmed by any credible sources.

After the Rezeau descendents left the house, substantial changes were made. Beginning in the 1880s, it contained a residence and store operated by Solomon Rosenberg and his family. Rosenberg, a dry goods merchant, and his wife, Amelia, had rented the house prior to purchasing it in 1883.

Their business was referred to in the Richmond County Standard, February 1884, which reported, "Mr. Rosenberg is building a large addition to his store in Richmond. It is the first building erected in that village for many years." By the 1890s, the Rosenbergs' hotel-saloon on the premises was known as the Arlington Hotel, and around 1910 a sign identified it as the Richmond Road House. A Rosenberg family photograph shows a cornfield behind the house about 1910. The family's business included retail liquor sale, which may have ended with passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920. Presumably "near beer" was sold during the era of Prohibition. From 1924 to about 1936, the establishment was operated by Nicholas George under the name of Acorn Inn, while the building was owned by Marie Peterson.

A mortgage on the property was foreclosed in 1936. About the same time, the Voorlezer's house was "discovered" during historical study of the early village of Richmond. It was valued as the "mother church" of Dutch, French, and English churches on Staten Island and as the "first school building on Staten Island" and "probably the oldest primary school building in the country." In 1939 Mrs. T. Livingstone Kennedy, a descendent of an early leaseholder, purchased the building from the bank and donated it to the Historical Society.

Building restoration began in 1938 and continued into the 1940s. The house was opened for the New York City Board of Education's Centennial Celebration in 1942, and in 1947 the Voorlezer's House was formally dedicated. In the 1980s, the house underwent a major renovation to stabilize the structure, make it more accessible for public programming, and to more accurately represent the building's probable late-17th century appearance, based on new research since the building's earlier renovation (new historical research was undertaken in the 1980s, and an archaeological study was completed in 1985). The building is furnished with reproduction furniture and fabrics, and is open to the public.

The Voorlezer's House is a Registered National Landmark (1962), a New York City Landmark (1969), and on the National Registry of Historic Places (1966).

2 • Historical Museum (Former County Clerk’s and Surrogate’s Office)

museum1The Historical Museum is the former County Clerk's and Surrogate's office for Richmond County. It is a large brick structure in its original location on Center Street at the corner of Court Place. Its architecture features decorative bracketed eaves of the Italianate style. It was at one time stuccoed and incised in imitation of brownstone blocks, a finish which was removed in the 1930s. 

It was originally constructed in 1848 as a one-story building to house the County Clerk's and Surrogate's offices, which were previously located across the street in the Third County Courthouse. The building also housed the offices of the County Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney.

Within 10 years, the offices had outgrown the building, and it was reported that the building was extremely hot in the summer, very cold in the winter, and in a terrible state of disrepair. One newspaper, the Staten Islander, suggested that the County Supervisors tear it down, noting "There are few men of means in this county who have not better accommodations for their horses, than is here furnished for the County Clerk." In 1857, the County Grand Jury recommended that the building be improved "to show that we are not behind other counties in the spirit of improvement which marks this enlightened age."

Following their recommendation, a second floor was added in 1858. In 1861, a large safe weighing about 6 tons was installed to store important records. Apparently this was a difficult accomplishment, as the safe fell twice, once through a bridge, on its way from Vanderbilt's ferry landing (now Clifton) to Richmond.

By the 1870s the building was again too small for its occupants; the Richmond County Gazette reported in January 1879 that "nine lawyers were observed sitting on five chairs" while searching the records. The County Supervisors agreed to build an addition, and a two-story brick wing was added to the east end of the original building (parallel to Court Place). In 1911-1912, another addition was built onto the original building in to provide storage for records.

In 1920, the building was abandoned as government offices moved north to St. George. The building stood vacant for a number of years and had been condemned by the Building Department when, in 1934, the Staten Island Historical Society received permission from the Borough government to use it for a museum. The building was renovated and opened as a museum in 1935. It was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969.

The building was renovated again in the 1980s to provide more modernized gallery space. It houses changing interpretive exhibitions featuring the museum's artifact, photograph, and document collections.

12 • New Dorp Railroad Station

station1This railroad station, which once served the neighborhood of New Dorp, now stands on the south side of Center Street near Tysen Court. Its original location was near Rose Avenue and 6th Street (now New Dorp Plaza). It was built in 1889 and moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965.

It is a 1 ½ story structure with a single rectangular room. The roof once had large eaves creating a porch around the building which served as the waiting platform; these features were removed for the process of relocating the structure and have not yet been restored. The architecture shows elements of the Queen Anne style and the stick style. Picturesque details include applied wood boards and brackets, double doors, and windows with sash holding multicolored glass.

New Dorp (which means "new town" in Dutch) was settled about 1671, making it about ten years "newer" than Oude Dorp (or Old Town). Early settlers were Dutch, French, and English who made their living through farming and fishing. In addition to the railroad station, Historic Richmond Town's Britton Cottage and Guyon-Lake-Tysen House also came from this area. New Dorp's location near the intersection of Amboy and Richmond Roads made it an early hub and the site of several early American taverns. Notable early residents included the Vanderbilts, who had a farm on New Dorp Lane at a site now known as Miller Field.

William H. Vanderbilt played a role in the establishment of a railroad line in the 1860s that ran through the area, and suburban real estate development began soon after, with a cluster of commercial establishments around the railroad station that continues to this day. The railroad also facilitated the growth of seaside amusement areas and resorts nearby.

The New Dorp Railroad Station was built by New York real estate developers Hughes and Ross in 1889 and operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company. It is believed to have been designed by New York City architect Henry Knapp, based on style similarities to Knapp-designed residences in New Dorp. When Staten Island's grade crossing elimination project endangered the building in the 1960s, it was moved to Historic Richmond Town to prevent its destruction. The building is awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

14 • Rezeau-Van Pelt Cemetery

van-pelt2The Rezeau-Van Pelt Cemetery is located near the intersection of Tysen Court and Center Street, just west of the Third County Courthouse, on the original site where it was established in the 1780s (decades before the courthouse was built). It is a small homestead graveyard, the type of family burial plot that was once commonly found on private property. It has ten small headstones and one larger monument with a molded arched pediment.

The iron fence around the cemetery replicates an original fence built ca. 1850. It features decorative ironwork with sculptural details. A gate on the south side has a large angel's head with radiating beams of light, as well as tassels and a plaque naming "C.R. Van Pelt." The fence's crossbars are marked with winged hourglasses. The corner posts are topped with draped urns, another funerary symbol.

This private cemetery was used by families that occupied the structure now known as the Voorlezer's House. It was part of an 80 acre parcel owned by Rene Rezeau and passed to descendents with the names of Van Pelt and Wheatley. In 1854 surrounding land, excluding the cemetery, was sold by Cavalier Van Pelt to Richard Tysen. The cemetery does not appear on maps of the area until the 1911 Sanborn Atlas and the 1911 Topographic Map.

Individual graves include Wyntje (or Wyntjie) Rezeau Johnson (died 1788 at age 43), Richard Johnson, husband of Wyntje (died 1815 at age 79), Richard Johnson, son of Wyntje (died at age 14), and Jacob Rezeau (headstone 1789), father of Wyntje.

The large monument erected in memory of John A. and Susannah Van Pelt (who died in 1826 and 1863, respectively) was inscribed: "...granddaughter of Jacob Rezeau Senr. And the last of five generations interred in this burying ground. They were Huguenots, who left France when persecuted for their religion; settled in this neighborhood. They selected this spot for their last resting place on earth. Sacred be their dust."

The Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City designated this small cemetery as a landmark in 1969. Restoration work on the fence and monuments ca. 2003 was made possible by State Senator John J. Marchi; Staten Island Historical Society; and New York City, Department of Cultural Affairs.

36 • Kruser-Finley House

kruser1The Kruser-Finley House is set back from the north side of Richmond Road, east of the intersection with Richmond Hill Road. It was originally located in nearby Egbertville, on the south side of Richmond Road (once known as Black Horse Road), east of Hitchcock Avenue. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965.

The Kruser-Finley House is a 1 ½ story clapboard residence with a fieldstone foundation and an unfinished basement. It is composed of two sections; the newer, eastern section is lower in height and is sided with shingles. It was built ca. 1790, with additions ca. 1820 and ca. 1840-1890.

Although the original occupants of this structure have not been identified, they probably worked a small tenant farm. The house was located on land previously owned by Isaac Cubberly, and occupants might possibly have been Cubberly kin.

Abraham and Charity Hooper mortgaged the property to Lawrence Cripes in 1814. Subsequent early residents included cordwainer (shoemaker) Edward Noble and wheelwright Jacob DeHart. Carpenter/builder Abraham Noble and his wife Catherine (Morgan) Noble occupied and possibly owned the house from 1821 to 1825, and were likely responsible for the enlargement of the house during that time.

The building became home to Abraham Kruser's family of four about 1841. Abraham Kruser’s name has been found on a jury list for 1843, and a road record for Southfield (which included Egbertville) shows he was required to work on the highway for two days. The second addition to the house may have been built by Abraham Kruser to serve as a multi-purpose farm workshop. Abraham had a son, Frederick Kruser, who was a cooper by trade and who may have used the shop in the 1860s or early 1870s for building barrels. Oral tradition holds that it was used as a cooper’s shop prior to 1874.

The Richmond County Gazette reported that a fire destroyed the barn of Abraham Kruser in July 1861, “with wagons, hay, pigs, etc.,” and that “neighbors have kindly contributed a sufficient sum to build another barn on the same spot.” In 1865, Abraham and Patience Kruser sold the house to their daughter, Sara Kruser Fountain (a mortgage was held by Benjamin and Amanda Price), and she occupied the residence from 1865 to 1874. Her husband Edward Fountain worked for the new Staten Island Railroad then under construction; his occupation in the 1870 census was listed as “R.R. Clerk.” The 1870 census listed four Fountain children living in the house with their parents and grandmother.

Amanda Price foreclosed in 1874, and sold the property to Patrick Finley (or Finnelly), whose son, James, took up residence with his family. The Finley family occupied the house from 1874 or 1875 to 1946, giving them the longest tenure of any family associated with the structure. James and Catherine Finley and their seven children lived in the house by 1875, and James, a farmer/laborer and dairyman, became owner of the property in 1890. (At least one of the first seven children may have died and at least one more was born after 1880.) The Finleys made alterations to the house to accommodate their large family, including putting interior partitioning in the shop addition to adapt it to living space. James continued to live there after deeding the property to his daughter, Mary E. Finley, in 1908.

The Finleys were part of a community of Irish immigrants that clustered in the area eventually known as Egbertville (it has also gone by other names including Tipperary Corners). The Finleys left Ireland during the peak years of the potato famine. They worshipped at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond.

In 1946 the house and property were acquired by the City of New York from Mary E. Finley for the proposed construction of Willowbrook Parkway. The parkway would have extended south of the Staten Island expressway to connect the Bayonne Bridge with the south shore, terminating at Great Kills, Staten Island. Carlton Beil purchased the house only (not the land) from the city about 1950 and sold it to the Staten Island Historical Society in 1955. (Beil never lived in the house, but purchased it with the intention that it be relocated.) The building was damaged by fire in 1956. In 1965 the house was moved to Historic Richmond Town, and its exterior restoration was completed in 1980. Interior restoration of the easternmost section of the house enabled “living history” use as a leatherworker’s shop during the 1980s. The building was again damaged by fire in August 2013 and restoration was completed in 2015.  Click here to learn about community support in the aftermath of the fire.

The Kruser-Finley House was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969. The house is open for touring by appointment.

30 • Schwiebert House

schwiebert1The Schwiebert house is located on the south side of Richmond Road between Court Place and St. Patrick's Place, which is its original site. It is a large two-story brick house with attic and partially-exposed stone basement. It has a one-story, four-columned front porch supported by stone piers, and a straight gable roof with the gable facing the street.

The Schwiebert House is a local expression of the Colonial Revival style, executed in brick, with classical porch columns topped with Ionic capitals.

The Schwiebert House was built 1909-1910 as the home of John Frederick Schwiebert, his wife Anna Schwiebert, and their children. John F. Schwiebert (1861- 1944) came to America from Germany in 1881, and worked as a foreman in the Marsh and Nolan Carriage Factory in Richmond. After Marsh died in 1896, Schwiebert took control of the business, and in 1901 he purchased the factory and surrounding property. He lived in the third floor of the Carriage Factory prior to the construction of the house. John was trained as a wheelwright, and was listed at various times as a carriage builder, grocer, and auto body repairman. In 1912 he was recorded as occupant of the Carriage Factory, Schwiebert House, and the nearby Taylor House (no longer extant), which he may have operated as a grocery store.

Schwiebert had two sons, John Frederick and John Henry (known as Fred and J. Henry), who did sign painting, blacksmithing, and wheelwrighting for the family business. The family sometimes housed additional factory workers in their home. The younger John Frederick married Emilie C. Hartmann in 1913 and the couple had two daughters, Anita (b. 1916) and Eleanor Ida (1924-1943).

In 1982, Schwiebert's granddaughter, Edna Schwiebert Fritts (daughter of J. Henry), wrote to SIHS to offer some of her fond memories of family life in the Schwiebert House. She recalled that nearly every Sunday, the family gathered for dinner in the formal dining room, with the Lutheran pastor at the head of the table. The table was set with the family's best china, silver, and cut glass. In later years, when the family ceased to gather for the big dinners, they hosted friends who came every weekend to play pinochle. The guests arrived on Friday night, and they played almost straight through until departure time on Sunday evening.

In 1943 John F. sold the house to George H. and Emma H. Schwiebert and in 1944 they sold it to John and Barbara Ormai (or Orami). In 1948 it was converted to a two-family dwelling by the Mungioli (or Mungiolis) family. Subsequent residents included the Hickings family and Albert Grieco. It is currently the only example at Historic Richmond Town of a two-family house. The building is currently used for administrative purposes and is not open to the public.

10 • Parsonage

parsonage1

The Parsonage is located on its original site on Arthur Kill Road at the corner of Clarke Avenue. It was built in 1855 as home for the pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church (now demolished) that once stood nearby.

The Parsonage is an example of Carpenter Gothic style, a form of Gothic Revival architecture. The Parsonage has the characteristic exterior woodwork of the style (sometimes called gingerbread), as well as many original interior features. The building has two stories and a one-story porch on its front and two sides.

In 1769, the Reformed Dutch Church built an edifice on what is now the corner of Center Street and Arthur Kill Road (not far from the Voorlezer's House which had been its meeting house in the previous century). This church was initially formed with support from the Reformed Dutch Church in Port Richmond as well as an informal alliance with local Presbyterian congregants. The building was destroyed by the British in 1776, and in 1808 a new church was built on the site. By the 1850s, the church was ready to seek its first full-time resident pastor and a parsonage building committee was formed, consisting of H. B. Cropsey and Richard Tysen.

Between 1855 and 1875, the Parsonage was occupied by four successive ministers to the church (which was officially called the South Reformed Dutch Church to distinguish it from the Port Richmond congregation on the island's north shore), and a kitchen extension was added to the rear of the residential structure.

The first occupant, Rev. Thomas Ruggles Gold Peck, who had already begun serving as pastor by commuting from Brooklyn, was noted for his “very energetic” personality. In 1859, he married Susan Egbert and subsequently departed Staten Island to work at the Huguenot Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Rev. Peck was succeeded by Rev. Erskine N. White, who served as the minister from 1859 to 1862. Rev. White was married to Eliza T. White and had two sons who were baptized at the church during that time.

Rev. Jacob Fehrman, who served the congregation between 1863 and 1866, resided in the Parsonage with his wife Elizabeth, daughter Cornelia, and son Thomas Moore, along with one female servant. Rev. James H. Sinclair was the last full-time minister at the parish, between 1866 and 1875. He resided in the Parsonage with his wife, Francis, their five children, and one servant.

By 1875, the congregation was struggling, and the consistory was forced to rent out the Parsonage to private individuals as a means of generating income while maintaining services with a part-time minister. The first private occupant was Ann Guyon Mundy, who moved in with her family after the death of her husband, Dr. Crowel Mundy, and stayed for about a decade until ca. 1885.

In 1878, the South Reformed Dutch Church ceased to exist as a congregation, and the church building was sold by the mid-1880s.

In 1886, Leah and William L. Flake purchased the Parsonage property and moved in with their daughter Lottie. The following year, a son, William L. Flake, Jr., was born. In the ensuing years the house was occupied by the four members of the Flake family along with extended family members and servants. William L. Flake, Sr. was a real estate, loan, and insurance broker. After her husband’s death ca. 1933, Leah Flake continued residing in the Parsonage until her death in 1940. During the Flake family’s time at the house, the northeast side porch was enclosed, an extended dormer was added, and a greenhouse was built on the southwest side. These alterations were later removed.

Between 1941 and 1969, Lottie and William L. Flake, Jr. leased the Parsonage to Dr. Henry G. Steinmeyer (1886-1980), a World War I veteran, dentist, and historian, who lived there with his wife Elinor (1886-1968) and son Henry Jr.

Dr. Steinmeyer, an active member of the Staten Island Historical Society, continued to live in the Parsonage even after it was sold to the City of New York in 1953 to become part of Historic Richmond Town, departing after his wife’s death in 1968.

Several other resident caretakers occupied the Parsonage between 1969 and 1981, and administrative offices of the Staten Island Historical Society were briefly housed there in the 1980s. Between 1993 and 1995 alterations were made, such as the addition of a public restroom and industrial kitchen, and an establishment called The Parsonage Restaurant was installed in the structure. The restaurant ceased operations in 2008, and in 2013 funding from the New York Community Trust supported research and analysis in preparation for future activities in support of Historic Richmond Town’s mission.

The building was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969. It is currently awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.


16 • Public School 28

ps281Public School 28 was built in 1907-1908. It still stands on its original site on Center Street at the corner of St. Patrick's Place.

It is a large one-story brick building with front and rear wings and two later additions at the rear. Its hip roof is topped by an octagonal cupola. It has an attic and a high basement that serves as a ground floor. Two front entrances at either side of the building were presumably used for boys and girls. Interior details such as bulletin boards, chalkboards, antique inscribed doorknobs, and built-in shelving from its time as a school remain in place today.

Public School 28 was one of several new schools built in the years following the 1898 consolidation of Greater New York, when Staten Island became a borough of New York City. Prior to that time, the schools on Staten Island were under the jurisdiction of the Richmond County Superintendent of Schools and the State of New York, and they were known as "common schools."

Following consolidation, school construction on Staten Island was controlled by the Board of Education of the City of New York. In the decade after consolidation, several new schools were opened on Staten Island and a number of existing schoolhouses were replaced, such as Public School 28. The previous P.S. 28, which stood at the intersection of Richmond Hill and Old Mill Roads, had become deteriorated and overcrowded. In 1905 the Board of Education appropriated $4000 to purchase a vacant lot at Center Street and Garretson Avenue (now St. Patrick's Place) for construction of a new school.

Charles B. J. Snyder (1860-1945) was the Superintendent of School Buildings who oversaw the new construction. He was also the architect, and was responsible for the planning, design and construction of all new and expanded schools in the five boroughs. He was a specialist in school design, and his particular concern with health and safety issues focused on fire protection, ventilation, lighting, and classroom size. He utilized a variety of architectural styles, and his schools were considered inventive, handsome, and appropriate as civic monuments.

In 1916 Public School 28 was named the "Richmond School" when the Board of Education was giving names to all schools. The school was discontinued in 1965 when a new, larger public school (P.S. 23) opened nearby, but the building continued to serve a variety of uses for the Board of Education, including use as an annex for P.S. 23. In 1978 it became known as the "Francis C. Evans Curriculum Resource Center," in honor of the longtime Community School Board member who lived in the Stephens-Prier House diagonally across the street.

The building was acquired from the Board of Education in 1981 to become part of Historic Richmond Town. It now houses the Staten Island Historical Society Library and other collections storage, as well as providing classroom space for visiting school groups and public programs. The building was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1998.

22 • Seaman Cottage

seaman1This house was built ca. 1836-1837 by developer Henry I. Seaman. It was originally on the south side of Center Street between St. Patrick's Place and Moore Street. It is now situated on the north side of Center Street between Court Place and St. Patrick's Place.

It is a good example of a modest Greek Revival building. The term "cottage" was used in the 19th century to describe a small, modern, up-to-date house that was suitable for middle-class occupants. It is a small two and one-half story gable roof structure resting on a newly constructed masonry basement and has a one story wood porch extending across its front.

Henry I. Seaman (1805-1861) was a New York City businessman who was a descendant of the prominent Billopp and Seaman families of Staten Island. In addition to his business activities, Seaman was a leader in the Whig political party on the Island and was elected to Congress as the Representative for Richmond and Kings Counties in 1846. He was also a director of the Staten Island Railroad (founded 1851) and private secretary to Governor John Alsop King (1856-1857).

In 1836, Seaman devised an ambitious development scheme that more than doubled the size of the village of Richmond. He purchased 90 acres of farmland between Richmond Road and Clarke Avenue. He had the land laid out into two new streets, Center Street and Court Place, and 119 building lots. By October 1836 he had sold six lots on the corner of Moore Street and Richmond Road. In 1837 he sold lots to Stephen D. Stephens and Austin Burk; the houses they built still stand today as part of Historic Richmond Town (the Stephens-Black House and the Bennett House).

Seaman himself built a group of five small houses, including the cottage now at Historic Richmond Town. Seaman sold this cottage in 1848 to brothers Lawrence H. and Peter Lockman Cortelyou, and Judge Lawrence Cortelyou retained ownership of the house until 1860. Although Henry Seaman had owned the 5 cottages for only a short time, they continued to be known by the name "Seaman Town" according to some local histories. (Of the original group of five houses, Richmond Town's Seaman Cottage is the best preserved. Two of the houses have been demolished, and the other two have been significantly altered).

In the 1840s-1850s, the house was a rental property, probably leased to artisans or tradesmen. In 1860, the house was purchased by Henry and Eliza Jane Butler, and they and their seven children lived in the house from 1860 to 1868. In 1868 it was sold to a local stone mason and builder, Martin B. Connelly. Later owners of the house were Louise Schaefer, Henry Kreissen, George H. Wilton Jr., and Donald and Shirley Brooke.

The Seaman Cottage was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2005, and was moved to its present location that same year. It is currently awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

29 • Journeay Privy

privy1This privy (outhouse) was built about 1865. It presently stands on the brick foundation of the original Stephens-Black House privy, behind the house and store at the corner of Center Street and Court Place. It is a small wood frame structure with a window on one side and two seats. It was moved to this site in 1970 from the property of the Journeay House on Amboy Road in Richmond Valley.

5 • Guyon Store (Tavern)

tavern1The Guyon Store is on its original site, on the south side of Richmond Road between Arthur Kill Road and Court Place. It was probably built ca. 1819 or 1820.  It is a simple two-story clapboard building with a one-story lean-to on the rear and a west wing which was added ca. 1835.

James Guyon Jr., an entrepreneur and a descendent of a prominent south shore family, acquired the property in 1819 and probably constructed the building shortly thereafter. A veteran of the War of 1812, Guyon was the proprietor of the Nautilus Inn at Tompkinsville Landing. He was associated with Daniel D. Tompkins in local Republican party politics and in the development of Tompkinsville.

Around 1834 Guyon sold the store to John S. Edwards, who converted it into a residence. The west wing of the building was probably added around this time. Soon after, John Edwards sold the property to his brother, Webley Edwards (who later built the Edwards-Barton House next door). Webley presumably used this building for his tailoring business in the 1840s and 1850s; a surviving account book shows that he provided clothing to many neighborhood residents. The 1850 census shows Webley and his wife Deborah residing there with infant daughter Ella and two other adults. After they moved into the house next door, this property remained in the possession of the Edwards family until 1913, but was rented to other occupants.

From 1918 to 1932, the Bishop family made their home here. Frank and Anna Maria Bishop were the parents of Dorothy, Frank, Muriel, and Rita. The Bishops went through hard times during the era between World War I and the Great Depression, but as Muriel’s son later recalled, their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit helped them to succeed. Mr. Bishop was listed as a chauffeur and an engineer in census records for 1920 and 1930, and in 1930 Mrs. Bishop was listed as a nurse. She also apparently operated a candy or ice cream shop in part of the house. The Bishop children also worked from an early age to help support their family.

From 1932-1963 the structure was occupied by the family of Eugene and Ida Puntillo, who used it as a residence and a barber shop. When New York City acquired the property in 1953, the house was initially thought to be the 18th-century Swaim family farmhouse, and was identified as such in some early plans for the historic village.

The house was restored in 1971-1973, and all additions to the house after 1835 were removed except the west wing. During the restoration the structure was discovered to post-date Swaim ownership and occupancy. It was subsequently furnished and interpreted as a 19th-century tavern and is now the site of Historic Richmond Town's popular tavern concerts.

33 • Guyon-Lake-Tysen House

tysen1The Guyon-Lake-Tysen House is now located on the north side of Richmond Road between Court Place and St. Patrick's Place. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1962 from its original location in Oakwood, on Tysen's Lane between Mill Road and Hylan Boulevard. 

The Guyon-Lake-Tysen House is unusually large by 18th-century Staten Island standards and represents a substantial, prosperous way of life. It was constructed as a farmhouse and was used as such for most of its history. It was situated in an area of large, fertile farm plots of substantial acreage.

The house is one of few 18th-century gambrel-roof houses surviving on Staten Island today. This once-common form combines Dutch and Franco-Flemish features in a style that was later dubbed "Dutch Colonial." It is exceptional for the survival of its interior wood paneling and detailing. It has two stories plus a cellar and attic, and a kitchen extension to the west. The main portion of the house has dormers and a wide front porch. The kitchen has a wide spring eave on the front, a small porch at the back door, and a small woodshed attached to the west end.

The house was originally built near New Dorp Beach on an 80 acre farm. Joseph Guyon, a farmer of Huguenot descent, constructed the house ca. 1740 (his name can still be seen written in the clay daubing above the door of the middle parlor), but he only finished part of the interior. Joseph was a bachelor, and when he died in 1758 the house and property were willed to his eight-year-old nephew, also named Joseph Guyon.

By the late 1700s or early 1800s the house and farm were owned by Henry Barger. He and his wife Mary (nee Tysen; married 1783, according to Moravian Church records) headed a household of eleven people, and the 1805 inventory of Henry's estate included three slaves, horses, cows, steer, sheep, oxen, flax, wheat, rye, barley and hay. Mary died in 1809 and left the house to her son Jacob.

In 1812, the house and property were sold to Daniel W. Lake, a farmer of English descent. He increased the land holdings to 115 acres and added the two-story kitchen wing ca.1820, replacing an older structure. He also divided the open second story of the main house to create bedrooms. He and his wife, Mary Gifford Lake, had eight children and according to the 1820 census, owned three slaves: 2 males under 14 years of age and one female between the ages of 14-26. Emancipation in New York State occurred in 1827 and the 1830 census lists "1 free male colored person 36-55, and 1 free female 55- 100."

Daniel Lake died in 1839, and some of the land was sold, but the house and land adjacent stayed with Lake's daughter Elizabeth and her husband David J. Tysen. In 1840 they had four children and Elizabeth was 26. In all, she bore 14 children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. While they lived in the house they completed the upstairs bedrooms, added three dormer windows, and changed the staircase.

According to the 1850 census sons John (age 13), Daniel (11), and David (10), and daughter Margaret (9), were noted as attending school.

In 1855 the farm was 60 acres, valued at $10,000, and they grew winter wheat, oats, buckwheat, corn, potatoes and turnips. They owned 2 cows, 2 horses, and 2 swine. David Tysen died in 1885 and Elizabeth Tysen died in 1898, but the house stayed in ownership of the Tysen family until 1962, when it was given to the Historical Society by Ruth G. Tysen and Francis Nutt. From ca. 1932 to ca. 1937 the house was operated as a tearoom/restaurant by John L. Porter, and after 1937 it was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Whitaker, who were presumably renting.

Restoration of the house began as soon as it was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1962. It was first opened to the public on Old Home Day in October 1963. The house was designated an official New York City landmark in 1969.

25 • General Store

general2The General Store, located at its original site on Court Place, is attached to the rear of the Stephens-Black House. It is a rectangular structure of one story with an attic. It was constructed in stages beginning ca. 1840, but most of the structure was demolished in the 1940s. It was restored and reconstructed by Historic Richmond Town in 1964.

The store was built as part of the Stephens-Black House, the home of merchant Stephen Dover Stephens (1808-1883), his wife Elizabeth Johnson Stephens (1811-1883), and their five children. The main part of the house was built ca. 1838, and the first section of the store wing was added to the rear of the house ca. 1840. The store was subsequently expanded three more times prior to 1874.

The store was a popular gathering spot. The village of Richmond was a bustling place, particularly on trial days, and the store was a place for neighbors to meet and catch up on the news of the day. It also served as the village post office. Stephens offered a wide variety of goods for purchase, including flour ground at nearby Geib's Mill, spices, muslin and ribbon, household goods, nails, and turpentine.

In 1870, the Stephens family sold the house and store to Mary Black, who moved to Staten Island from Manhattan with her husband Joseph and their family. The Blacks had twelve children living with them in 1870; they also had one domestic servant and one worker in the store. Their oldest son, James, probably headed the store for a time during the 1870s, before possibly departing Staten Island. Parents Mary and Joseph Black both died around 1876. Their eldest daughter, Victorine, married and left the household, while her sisters Josephine, Sarah, and Mary Black successfully operated the store and post office from around 1880 to 1920.They were remembered by a contemporary as "delightful ladies who knew all the town news and gossip: past, present and future...they were enabled, since they possessed the only public phone in the vicinity, to garner much information concerning local private lives...For all their inquisitiveness, these ladies were kind to small girls who came in to do errands and nothing was said if we helped ourselves from the cracker barrel or took a handful of brown sugar from the bin or a few prunes from the prune box."

During the many years that they ran the store, the sisters saw great changes in the store and in their community. As America moved from a predominantly rural society to a more urbanized one, factory-made products replaced ones made at home and national brands outsold local goods. Customers began to rely more heavily on retail catalogs and to travel to Manhattan to do their shopping. These trends spelled the eventual downfall of the general store.

In 1926, Sarah, the last Black sister, sold the house and store to Bertha and Willett Leslie Conner. The Conners were descended from prominent early families of Staten Island and were parents of 16 children. Willett's businesses included real estate and he also served as postmaster. After Willett Conner's death in 1932, Bertha Conner continued to operate the post office in the store wing. By 1944, the store was so dilapidated that all but part of the first section was torn down, and two years later Mrs. Conner sold the house. The demolished sections of the store were reconstructed by Historic Richmond Town in 1964 with funding from Marjorie Wells Proctor in memory of Elizabeth Stephens Wells, granddaughter of the original owner.

The General Store is currently furnished to represent a general store of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is open to visitors.

3 • Edwards-Barton House

edwards1The Edwards-Barton House remains on its original site on Richmond Road at the corner of Court Place, where it was constructed in 1869.

The house was built for Webley J. Edwards (1816-1870) and his wife Deborah (Mercereau) Edwards (1823-1888). Before this house was constructed, Edwards owned and resided in a building on the adjoining property which is now known as the Guyon Store or Tavern. Edwards was a tailor, and by 1850 he was a moderately prosperous man. By 1854 he had become County Treasurer, and later became a Justice of the Peace, while continuing in his occupation as a tailor. In the 1860 census he was listed as a "Gentleman." He was also a vestryman at St. Andrew's Church.

Since Edwards passed away in 1870, he only lived in the house for a brief time. His wife Deborah continued to live there with their two daughters, Ella and Lucretia. They jointly inherited the Edwards-Barton House property in 1888, after the death of their mother.

Ella had moved from the house after her 1878 marriage to Willis Barton (1844-1918), a stock broker who worked in Manhattan. The couple initially lived in Stapleton, but they moved into the Edwards-Barton House in 1892, and lived there with their five children. Sons Willis E. and Samuel E. both became involved in finance, Willis as an auditor and accountant and Samuel as a banker. Daughter Mary E. relocated after her marriage to George R. Coleman. Sons Francis, a clerk, and Leroy, an electrician, were still living in the house in 1912. It is thought that between 1912 and 1915, the remaining members of the Barton family moved from the house and rented it to the DeMuth family.

It is not known how long the DeMuth family lived in the house, and there may have been other renters living there before it was purchased by Nicola and Antonietta Aquilino in 1921. The Aquilinos moved to Richmond from Manhattan, and lived in the Edwards-Barton house with their two children. Sometime before 1927, Nicola built a one-story brick building directly on the corner of Court Place and Richmond Road in which he ran a retail grocery. In the early 1930s it was changed to a billiard academy. Around this time it may also have become a restaurant-tavern which was later known as Aquilino's Pizzeria and Restaurant. It was a popular restaurant, one of the first such Italian restaurants on the island.

The Aquilinos rented a second-floor apartment in the house to tenants. Anecdotal evidence suggests the family of Louis and Josephine Dellarco were among the residents in the 1930s. A Bucari family may also have rented living space, possibly in the 1920s. Antonietta Aquilino lived in the house until 1966, when it became part of Historic Richmond Town. A person by the name of Gittens may also have resided in the house around 1965. The restaurant structure was demolished in 1966.

The Edwards-Barton House was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2001. The archives at Historic Richmond Town contain receipts for the labor and materials used in the construction of the Edwards-Barton House as well as personal papers of some of its inhabitants, donated by descendants of families who lived there.

The Edwards-Barton House is currently awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

37 • Dunn's Mill

dunn1Dunn's Mill is a reconstruction of a water-powered sawmill of the early 1800s. Its location on Richmond Creek, east of Richmond Hill Road and north of Richmond Road, is the approximate location of an earlier grist mill established by John Dunn.

Dunn's Mill was one of eleven mills that operated on Staten Island during the 1700s and 1800s. It was situated by the Richmond Creek, across the road from St. Andrew's Church. John Dunn purchased the land in 1795, and began operating his gristmill ca. 1800. The mill used power from the flow of water along Richmond Creek for the work of grinding grain. The creek was dammed up to form a millpond and the water was channeled through a mill race to turn a water wheel.

Dunn became a wealthy man from the profits accrued by the mill. He used some of those profits to purchase large tracts of land in the village of Richmond, owning much of the land immediately to the north of Richmond Road.

It appears that the mill ceased to operate not long after Dunn's death ca. 1826. It is believed that the gradual lessening of the water flow on Richmond Creek led to a lack of enough water power to run the mill year round, thus ending mill operations on the site.

32 • Crocheron House

crocheron1The Crocheron House is now located on Richmond Road near the foot of St. Patrick's Place.  It was originally located at 84 Woodrow Road in Greenridge. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1987.

The house is a wood frame structure built ca. 1819-1820. It is a large one and one-half story gambrel-roofed farmhouse with dormers and full-width porches front and back. The roof has spring eaves over the porches, supported by wood columns. It is sided with flush boards on front and rear and hand-cut cedar shingles on the side elevations. Each side features two tall brick chimneys. The fieldstone basement has two identical kitchens with cooking fireplaces and beehive ovens.

The house was built for Jacob Crocheron (1758-1827), a successful merchant in Manhattan. Crocheron was born on Staten Island, but moved to Manhattan a few years after his marriage in 1783. He became a wholesale grocer, and his success as a merchant is suggested by directory listings that show his grocery business continuing from 1790 through 1824. His residence was on Whitehall Street, and the business was listed over the years at various addresses in lower Manhattan, including Whitehall slip, Whitehall Street, and Front Street. Jacob was also active in civic affairs, serving at different times as a tax assessor and a fireman.

In 1818, Crocheron decided to return to Staten Island. He purchased 46 ½ acres of land (to which he later added 19 acres) that included meadowland and a woodlot, and constructed his new house. He and his wife Ann moved into the house in 1820, while still maintaining the business in Manhattan. The 1820 census shows three white adults (perhaps Jacob, Ann, and their daughter Hannah) and two slaves living in the household. Jacob Crocheron died in 1827, and the house passed to his wife and grandsons. It remained in the Crocheron family until it was sold in 1849.

Ann apparently tried unsuccessfully to sell the house in 1830, and the advertisement provides a detailed description: "For Sale. That valuable and elegant country residence, situated in the county of Richmond, Staten Island, about one and a half miles from the town of Richmond, on the main road leading to Old Blazing Star Ferry, and fronting on the Fresh Kills, and has a commanding view of the sound, Newark Bay, and the adjoining country; and is known as the late residence of Jacob Crocheron, Esq. deceased...The Mansion House was built by the late proprietor of the best materials by days work, and is finished in modern style with folding doors, etc. it is 46 by 38 ft, with piazzas front and rear, with two kitchens, and cellar under the whole building...There are few farms that command as many advantages as this, the Steam Boats pass by several times a day, which affords an easy and expeditious communication to New York. The beach in front of this farm, abound with oysters, fish, etc..."

From 1849 until its acquisition by Historic Richmond Town, the house had 15 owners. Some were full-time residents, some used the house only as a retreat, and some used it as a money-making property. Among the residents were a Manhattan sugar refiner, a Brooklyn ironworks owner, and a stable owner. One long-time owner was Henry Barger, who bought the property in 1868 and farmed it for the next 32 years. (Barger is believed to have constructed the large privy now located behind the Edwards-Barton House.) During the 20th century, the land around the house was subdivided and developed, and the Crocheron house was purchased by the Staten Island Historical Society in 1987 to save it from demolition.

Historical research and archaeological investigation were conducted about the time the house was moved to Historic Richmond Town. Among the findings were ceramic fragments from the 19th century that were imported from China and England, and 20th century ceramics produced in the U.S. A historic structure report was written in 1993. Much restoration work has been completed on the house in recent years, but the work is awaiting completion and the house is not open to the public.

23 • Colon Store (Tinsmith Shop)

colon1The Colon Store, also known as the Tinsmith’s Shop, is on the north side of Center Street between St. Patrick’s Place and Court Place. Built ca. 1840-1850, the store originally stood on Woodrow Road in Woodrow. Around 1913 it was relocated to Bloomingdale Road in Pleasant Plains. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1969.

The Colon Store is a two-story wood frame building with clapboard siding and a small front porch. Its unusual trapezoidal plan reflects the shape of its original building lot. This is a very simple rural structure built for commercial purposes. It has Greek Revival molding around the bottom panels of the front doors.

Its exact date of construction is not known, but the store appears in its location on Woodrow Road on the 1850 Dripps Map of Staten Island. The original owner was Mary Ann Winant (1808-1896), a widow who in 1859 married James Colon Jr. (1807-1898), a chairmaker and carpenter. They were proprietors of the store probably until the 1890s.

From 1897-1912 the building was owned by William and Catharine Goetschius who ran it as a grocery store according to Trow’s Directory. Sometime after 1913 the building was moved to the farm of Frank Hauber, on Bloomingdale Road north of Amboy Road in Pleasant Plains, where it was used as an outbuilding.

In 1968 New York City acquired the Hauber property. The significance of the building was brought to the attention of Historic Richmond Town by May Brougham, who recognized it as a store where she had shopped as a child in the 1930s. The City gave the building to the Staten Island Historical Society, and it was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1969. Restoration of the building was completed in 1971, and it has been interpreted as a tinsmith’s shop since 1978.

44 • Christopher House

christopher1The Christopher House is set back from the west side of Arthur Kill Road near Richmond Creek. Its original location was at 819 Willowbrook Road in Willowbrook.  It is a one and one-half story stone farmhouse in a simple vernacular style with Dutch influences such as a spring eave and jambless fireplaces.  It was constructed in two sections, ca. 1720 and ca. 1730, each having one room with a cellar below and a garret above.

The Christopher House's primary claim to fame is that it was reputedly the meeting place for the local Committee of Safety during the American Revolution. The house was built by the Christopher family, a family of northern European and English heritage who had been in the new world for several generations. John Christopher (ca. 1704 - ca. 1768) is believed to have built the first section of the house ca. 1720. His son Joseph Christopher (1736-1825) owned the house from ca. 1764 until his death in 1825. He married Charity (Geertruyde) Haughwout ca. 1761, and by the time of the American Revolution they had seven children ranging in age from newborn to teenager.

Upon Joseph's death in 1825, the house passed to the hands of an absentee landlord, David Decker, and by 1852 the house was owned by Thomas Standring. Standring, a recent immigrant from England, enlarged the house (which he called Chestnut Cottage) and lived there with his wife and five children. He built a water-powered mill, producing steel combs for use in the wool and cotton industries. Thomas Standring died ca. 1890, but his son Samuel carried on the family business. Upon Samuel's death, his beneficiaries included Mary Lener, Adelaide Sykes Egan, and Horace Sykes. Adelaide Egan (Samuel Standring's niece) and her husband continued as owners, using the house as a summer residence for many years. Mrs. Egan died in 1962, and in 1969 her husband deeded the house to the Staten Island Historical Society. The house was disassembled and relocated to Historic Richmond Town, where it was reconstructed in 1974-1978.

The Christopher House was designated an official New York City landmark in 1967. The Historical Society completed the restoration of the house in 2005, and it opened to the public in that year. It is furnished with reproduction furniture and household items that portray Staten Island life in colonial and Revolutionary War times.

27 • Carpenter's Shop

carpenter1The Carpenter's Shop on the east side of Court Place is a reconstruction built primarily with historic building materials. The framing for the building is from the ca. 1830 kitchen wing of the Samuel Decker house. Since the wing did not have an end wall where it had originally joined the main house, new posts made of old timbers were added, and it was sided with shingles from the ca. 1790 Eith house on Richmond Avenue. A variety of other historic and new materials were used to complete the reconstruction; the historic materials were salvaged from old Staten Island buildings that had been demolished.

The idea for creating a carpenter's shop came into being in the 1960s. The original Samuel Decker house was vacant and in a state of disrepair at that time, so when the property owner offered the building to SIHS, it was dismantled and brought here with the intention of using it for parts. When examination of the building determined that the frame of the kitchen wing was in good condition, it was decided to use the materials to create a building to interpret the carpenter's trade. The frame was re-erected in 1966, and the rest of the work was completed by December 1967.

The carpenter's trade was an important one. In the 1850 federal census, 297 Staten Island men were listed as being in the woodworking trade; 165 of those were carpenters. Some of them may have worked in the window sash, door, and blind (shutter) making firms, of which there were at least 6 on the island. Quite a few probably worked as house builders. A good deal is known about the types of tools these carpenters used, since many of those tools have survived to this day, but there is little evidence for the number of shops on the island or their appearance. An item in the Richmond County Gazette in 1860 reveals that there was a carpenter's shop in Richmond, although the exact location is unknown.

Some of the tools that furnish the Carpenter's Shop belonged to Oscar Prall (1843- 1925), whose shop was located on Rockland Avenue in New Springville. Prall was a master carpenter, wheelwright, and wagon maker.

26 • Eltingville Store (Print Shop)

eltingville1The Eltingville Store, once located on Amboy Road in Eltingville, is now presented as the Print Shop in its location on Court Place at Historic Richmond Town. It is a small one-room, one-story wood frame building with board-and-batten siding and a wood shingle roof.

It is thought that the Eltingville Store was built ca. 1860, but the original location and owner are not documented. It was located on Amboy Road in Eltingville by at least 1910, when it appeared in the Sanborn Atlas. It was enlarged and converted to a residence by Mr. and Mrs. Eusebia Johnson, who resided there from 1920 to 1930. The building may at one time have served as a grocery store, as the word "Groceries," very faded, was painted on the front of the structure when it first came to the attention of SIHS.

The building was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1961. It was first furnished as a grocery store, and since ca. 1967 it has been presented as a job printing shop. It displays a rare early printing press, one of the treasures of Historic Richmond Town's artifact collection. The building was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969.

35 • Britton Cottage

britton1The Britton Cottage is now located on the north side of Richmond Road at the foot of Court Place. It originally stood at the foot of present-day New Dorp Lane, near Cedar Grove Avenue, in New Dorp Beach. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965.

The Britton Cottage is a one and one-half story fieldstone and wood frame farmhouse. The center section of the house dates to ca. 1670. Two additions were built ca. 1760, and a lean-to was added prior to 1840.

The land where the house originally stood, the “Governor’s Lot” of approximate 96 acres, was granted by patent to Obadiah Holmes in 1677. The actual construction date of the Britton Cottage is not known, but is believed to have been ca. 1670. Obadiah Holmes was the clerk to the justice of the Third Riding District, then under British control of New York. (Prior to the establishment of Richmond County in 1683, Staten Island was part of the area called Yorkshire, which was divided into three riding districts.) Because of Holmes’ position, historians have speculated that the Britton Cottage served as a public building as well as a residence. In 1685, the property was conveyed to his son, Obadiah Holmes.

In 1695, the Britton Cottage property was conveyed to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Britton. Nathaniel Britton and his son were deacons of the Presbyterian Society and helped establish the English Presbyterian Church in Staten Island in 1729. The Brittons owned the property until 1714 when it was conveyed to Thomas Walton. It is believed that around 1760, two additions to the Britton Cottage were constructed, possibly during Thomas Walton’s ownership.

The Britton Cottage and property remained in the Walton family until 1761, when it was conveyed to Isaac Cubberly, who came to Staten Island from New Jersey. Members of the Cubberly family lived in the house until 1847, when executors of the will of Isaac Cubberly conveyed the property to David J. Tysen. In that same year, the property was conveyed to Harriet Lord. The property was inherited by her niece, Harriet Lord Britton, in 1894. Harriet Lord Britton’s son, Dr. Nathaniel Lord Britton, inherited the property from his mother.

Dr. Nathaniel Lord Britton (1859-1934), a well-known botanist, was one of the founders of the New York Botanical Garden, and author of Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada. Dr. Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, occupied the cottage intermittently until 1915, when they deeded the house to the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences for use as an interpretive historic house in cooperation with local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

For some years in the 1930s and 1940s, the resident custodian of the house was Captain J.G. (Jack) Wilson, a former U.S. Navy officer turned artist. Wilson painted portraits and maritime scenes, and in 1941 he exhibited his work in the Britton Cottage. In 1951, the Institute transferred ownership of the house to the Staten Island Historical Society, and the house was moved to its current site in 1965. It was designated an official New York City landmark in 1976.

The building is awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

45 • Boehm House

boehm1The Boehm House is typical of Staten Island farmhouses of the 18th and 19th centuries. It shows Dutch influence in the older (southern) portion of the house. It was originally located in Greenridge, on the west side of Arthur Kill Road near the intersection with Giffords Lane. Moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965, it is now on the west side of Arthur Kill Road between Richmond Road and Center Street.

Based on its architectural fabric, the house is thought to have been constructed ca. 1750, but the original owner / occupant of the house is not known. The first recorded occupant was Cornelius Poillon, who mortgaged the property in 1814. Three other property owners are recorded between 1819 and 1855, when educator Henry Martin Boehm purchased the house.

Boehm (1819-1862) was a teacher and a Staten Island school commissioner. He and his wife Rizpah resided in the house and also used the house as a school. When Boehm died in 1862, the house was willed to his wife. The 1865 census shows Rizpah living in the house with family members and boarders from Cuba and Central America. Around 1870, Boehm's father, Henry Boehm, moved into the house with Rizpah. Henry Boehm was a noted Methodist minister who preached in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before coming to Staten Island around 1835, and he remained in the house until his death at the age of 100, in 1875.

Rizpah remained in the house until her passing in 1898, and the house became the property of their daughter, Mary Boehm Fuentes. Mary was also an educator. She specialized in teaching English to Spanish-speakers, and census records indicate that students and boarders from Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico also resided in the house at various times. Mary continued to teach until 1927, when she was 85 years old. She sold the house in 1933, and it passed through several owners before the City of New York purchased it in 1953 as part of the Brookfield Landfill.

After being moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965, the house was placed on the foundation of the Dr. Thomas Frost House, which had been destroyed by fire in the 1880s. The Boehm House was restored in several stages in the 1960s and 1970s, and was designated an official New York City landmark in 1969. After the most recent renovation, in 1978-1979, the exhibition "Discovering the Boehm House" was installed to demonstrate 18th- and 19th-century house construction.

28 • Bennett House

bennett1The Bennett House is located on its original site, on Court Place at the corner of Richmond Road. The main structure was erected ca. 1839, and an addition to the rear of the house was built ca. 1854. It is a clapboarded residence with a high four-columned porch and an above-grade basement with a large brick oven extending from the southern side of the building.

Austin Burk (or Burke), a miller and baker, purchased the lot from developer Henry I. Seaman in the 1830s for the construction of the house. Seaman was a prominent Staten Islander who in 1836 began to enlarge and develop the village of Richmond. Seaman acquired a large parcel of land between Richmond Road and Clarke Avenue, subdivided the land into lots, and built five small cottages. Seaman also donated to the county the parcel of land on which the Third County Courthouse was built in 1837.

The large, commercial- size brick oven in the basement suggests Austin Burk may have had both a bakery and residence here, but he sold the property only a few years later, in 1842. By 1849 it was occupied by John Bennett and his family. John and Margaret Bennett had three children and one servant in their household. Originally from Brooklyn, John Bennett was identified in 1860 as a shipping merchant, in 1865 as an official for the Quarantine Department, and in the 1870s as a ship master and captain. An 1861 reference in the Richmond County Gazette describes "the venerable captain" Bennett as the master of ceremonies at a flag-raising at the Court House. Research indicates that Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were related to the Seguines, Guyons, and other families of Staten Island and suggests they were relatively affluent in comparison with their neighbors. Their son, Billop S. Bennett, a retired clerk, was owner of the property from 1895 until his death in 1917 at age 79. John and Margaret Bennett and their three children are all buried in the cemetery of St. Andrew's Church.

Billop Bennett had shared the house from 1900 to ca. 1911 with George D. Sharpe, Richmond village postmaster, and his daughter Bertha, a postal clerk. It is possible the building may have served as a post office at that time. From 1912 to 1915 Bennett shared the home with tile-layer Nicholas DeMuth and his family. The property was sold to George H. Schwiebert after Billop Bennett's death. The inhabitants and use of the structure between 1917 and 1926 are not presently known.

From about 1926 to 1954 the house was both a residential and business property, serving as a home, general store, restaurant, and post office under the tenure of the Atkinson and Hollender families. The Atkinsons made some minor alterations to the house to accommodate the needs of their disabled daughter, according to a 1972 letter from a member of the Hollender family. From 1938 to around 1954, the building housed Hollender's General Store. The Hollenders, a Jewish family, sold newspapers and canned goods. Meyer and Minnie Hollender lived in four rented rooms above the store with their children Sidney and Rose. A photograph from the 1950s indicates the building was also the site of a bus terminal. From about 1958 until 1965 a store and restaurant was operated on the premises by a woman identified anecdotally as "Sloppy Sally."

A privy and later a garage occupied a portion of the property south of the house, near the current location of Historic Richmond Town's Carpenter's Shop.

The Bennett House was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969 and restored as part of Historic Richmond Town in the late-1960s and 1970s. The ground floor is currently operated as the Bennett Cafe and the upper floors hold exhibition and program areas.

34 • Basket Maker's House

basketmaker1

This house was built ca. 1810.  It is a simple, one and one-half story wood frame building with a rubble stone basement.  Its original location was on Richmond Avenue in New Springville.  It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1965.  The architecture is vernacular in style, with Dutch and Flemish influences. 

James S. Decker was the earliest known owner of the property. From 1839 to 1857, the house was owned by John DuPuy (1812-1849) and his wife Susan Ann (1817-1892), who lived there with their 3 children and a nephew. Its location near a creek leading to the Fresh Kills was important, since DuPuy was primarily a waterman (a boatman who fishes and also makes his boat available for hire), owning two fishing skiffs (rowboats) and half shares in a sloop and an oyster dredge. DuPuy died in 1849 at the age of 39, but his widow and children continued to live in the house until 1857, when Susan married another boatman, Abraham Price, and moved with him and his 4 children to Westfield.

The house remained unoccupied for a time until Mrs. Price sold the property in 1863 to Sylvanus Decker and his wife Eliza Jane. Decker had been a ship carpenter, but by 1865 was a waterman and later was noted as an oyster dealer. By 1875 the Deckers were living elsewhere, and they rented out the property to various tenants until selling it in 1917. The house was rented as a summer cottage in the 1920s, and sold again in 1947. The City of New York took possession of the property in 1953, and after the last resident left, the building was boarded up until being brought to Historic Richmond Town in 1965.

The house was refurnished in the 1980s to interpret the rural residence for a hypothetical family of six, ca. 1820 (based on the number of inhabitants during the residence of John DuPuy and family). The Deckers and DuPuys who occupied the house through the 19th century were families of moderate means. Variously listed in the official documents as oystermen, watermen, and farmers, these families were representative of New Springville residents during the first quarter of the 19th century. Most of these families owned small plots of land and devoted their energies to a variety of water-related activities in addition to part time farming and basket making. New Springville was a tightly knit community; neighbors were economically dependent upon one another and related by marriage and the common membership in the Asbury Methodist Church.

 A significant interpretive focus of this house (and the reason for its name) is the traditional craft of basket making. The making of baskets – simple containers of interwoven plant materials – was one of many traditional handcrafts commonly practiced by rural Staten Islanders. Before the mid-19th century, basketry was predominantly a part-time domestic activity. Most farmers and watermen prepared their own splint and wove as many baskets as they needed during the cold, rainy days or evenings of the winter and off-season.

By mid-century, the development of oystering as a major economic activity required large numbers of sturdy oak splint baskets, leading to the new profession of full-time oyster basket maker. James A. Morgan (1832-1915) of New Springville built a basket workshop which he operated for more than 50 years, producing handmade baskets. His work is represented in the kitchen of the Basket Maker's house; the reproduction shaving horse and many of the baskets on display are based on Morgan's originals.

The Basket Maker's House was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969. The building is open to visitors.

6 • Barn Foundation

This structure is a coursed stone foundation for a barn. It was built by the staff at Historic Richmond Town in the area bounded by Center Street, Arthur Kill Road, and Richmond Road. It is appropriate for an early 19th-century English-style barn.

The foundation was constructed using stones from a barn on the Eith farm, which was located on Richmond Avenue in New Springville. It was intended to support a barn to be reconstructed using historic timbers of a 19th-century barn from another site, a farm owned by Henry and Mary Elizabeth Crocheron in what is today's Travis. However, the historic timbers were too deteriorated to allow for reassembly, and the barn was not completed.

4 • Barger Privy

barger1This privy (outhouse) now stands in the yard behind the Edwards-Barton House on Richmond Road. It originally stood on the property of the Jacob Crocheron House at its original location in Woodrow. At 12 feet wide, it is unusually large for such a utilitarian structure. The interior had six seats in two rows, reconstructed based on remnants of grooves found in the original walls. 

It was probably constructed about 1870 by Henry Barger, who at that time owned the former Crocheron farm. The structure was discovered in 1987 during the process of moving the Crocheron House to Historic Richmond Town. The privy had been converted into a chicken coop.

The privy was disassembled and taken to Boston where it was restored by students at the North Bennet Street School, a school that specializes in teaching preservation carpentry and other traditional crafts. Following its restoration, it was rebuilt at Historic Richmond Town.

11 • Annadale Railroad Station

ann1The Annadale Railroad Station is now located north of Clarke Avenue and east of Arthur Kill Road. It was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1975 from a location on Annadale Road in Annadale.

The building has an unusual history. One section of the building was constructed ca. 1850 and was most likely used as a shop or store; no other information is currently known about the original ownership, use, or location of that earliest portion.

The later section of the structure was built ca. 1860 as the Annadale train station. Staten Island's first successful railroad formally opened in June 1860, running from Clifton to Tottenville. The Annadale station, probably built when the railroad first opened, was located on the railroad bed just east of Annadale Road. The building was divided into a waiting room and a baggage room, with the ticket window in the middle wall.

By 1869 there were 7 daily trains running from St. George to Annadale, and by 1892 there were 15 daily trains. After 1900, a number of new houses were built in Annadale, many as part of the "Little Farms" development. In 1910 the building company constructed a new railroad station for the town as part of that development, and the old station was moved to a site about 300 feet from the railroad's roadbed. It was joined to the ca. 1850 building, which had been moved in from another location, and the whole was converted into a residence by Theodore and Julia DeGroff. Theodore was a carpenter, and may have made some of the modifications to the structure, including the addition of a wing to the rear of the house sometime between 1912-ca. 1925. Julia DeGroff lived in the house until 1957. It continued to be used as a house until at least 1965 or perhaps later. The building was moved to Historic Richmond Town in 1975. It is currently awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

43 • Second County Courthouse Foundation

The foundation is all that remains of the Second County Courthouse, a wood frame structure that was built in 1793-1794 on the west side of Arthur Kill Road. It is visible today as a rubble stone foundation between the Boehm House and the Treasure House.

The two-story courthouse building had two rooms on the first floor, the larger of which served as a public hall, and the courtroom occupied the entire second floor. The building served its public function until the Third County Courthouse was completed in 1837. It was then sold at auction to Walter Betts, who moved the building back from the road, enlarged it, and made it into his private residence.

In 1861, the house was sold to Isaac M. Marsh, owner of the Marsh and Nolan Carriage Factory on Richmond Road. After Marsh's death in 1896, his daughter sold the property to Otto Schaeffer. Schaeffer added an addition to the front of the building and turned it into a tavern and restaurant known as "Schaeffer Hotel." The building continued to serve as a tavern and restaurant, as well as a residence, into the early 1940s.

In 1942 William T. Davis, a local historian and an early president of the Staten Island Historical Society, purchased the building and its property as a gift for the Society. Plans were made to restore the building to its 1794 appearance, but it was destroyed by arson in 1944.

24 • Stephens-Black House

stephens-black4The Stephens-Black House stands in its original location on Center Street at the corner of Court Place, with the General Store adjoining the rear of the house and extending along Court Place. The house was erected ca. 1837, with an extension added to the east ca. 1838 and the store built at the rear about a year later. An example of Greek Revival domestic architecture, it is related in style to the nearby Bennett House; the Third County Courthouse, just across Center Street, shows the classic form of Greek Revival public architecture. 

The house was built for Stephen Dover Stephens (1808-1883), a merchant, and his wife Elizabeth Johnson Stephens (1811-1883). The family resided in Northfield, Staten Island, before building their house in Richmond. In 1837 they purchased the land for their house from Henry I. Seaman, a prominent Staten Islander who in 1836 began to enlarge and develop the village of Richmond. Seaman acquired a large parcel of land between Richmond Road and Clarke Avenue, subdivided the land into lots, and built five small cottages. Seaman also donated to the county the parcel of land on which the Third County Courthouse was built in 1837.

The Stephens had five children: Lucretia, Charlotte, James, Mary, and Stephen D., Jr.; the two sons were both born in the house. The 1860 census also records that a woman named Bridget Clark resided in the house; she was listed as age 30, born in Ireland, and employed in general housework.

It is not known for certain how the various rooms of the house were used by the Stephens family. Part of the house may have been used as a school for young ladies. A notice in an 1846 edition of the New York Observer advertised that the Stephens were seeking 3 or 4 young ladies to board for "a thorough English education." This indicates that Miss Lucretia Stephens was accomplished enough to offer such an education, but there is no further evidence to tell us if the school ever opened.

Stephen D. Stephens Jr. was born in the house in 1845. He received his law degree from the Columbia School of Law in 1868, and served two terms in the New York State Assembly as a representative of Richmond County. In 1881 he was elected county judge and surrogate, and he presided over cases in the Third County Courthouse for the last 30 years of his life.

In 1870, the Stephens family sold the house to Mary Black. According to the 1870 census, Mary Black and her husband Joseph had twelve children living with them at the time, as well as a domestic servant named Kate Mar and a young man named James Waisley whose occupation was listed as “works in store.” Joseph Black (1817-1876) had been born in Coleraine, in Northern Ireland, and was of Scottish ancestry. His family, which had been in the linen and lace import business, immigrated to New York in 1832 and settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Joseph’s wife Mary was a native New Yorker; she and Joseph both lived on Monroe Street in their youth, which is presumably how they met. They married in 1845 and their first child, Victorine, was born soon after.

By 1870, Victorine Black was 24 years old and soon to be married, and the youngest of the twelve children was an infant. After Mary and Joseph died, three of their daughters, Josephine, Mary and Sarah, continued to operate the general store and post office from about 1880 until about 1920, while also caring for their younger siblings. Another of the Black sisters, Euphemia (nicknamed Effie) may have died in her twenties. The oldest brother, James, probably headed the store during the 1870s, but may have left Staten Island by about 1880. Other brothers who also left Richmond in their adulthood pursued the selling of dry goods, thus continuing the family business in other locales. It is believed that Sarah Black was the last family member to reside in the house, and that she sold the property and moved to St. George in 1926.

In 1926, the house was purchased by Willett Leslie Conner and his wife, Bertha. The Conners were descended from prominent early families of Staten Island and were parents of 16 children. Willett's businesses included real estate and he also served as postmaster. After Willett Conner's death in 1932, Bertha Conner continued to operate the post office in the store wing. One son, Harold, visited Historic Richmond Town in 2006 and recalled that his family had a large barn in the yard behind the house, with pigeons and horses. The family lived in the house until 1946, when it was sold to Mollie Gottlieb, who was probably a non-resident landlord. Subsequent occupants included the Jacobs family and the Kish family. In 1953 the house became property of New York City. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1969.

The building is open to visitors. The house is interpreted to ca. 1860 and has been installed with historically accurate reproduction wallpaper, carpet, and window treatments. Archival material and artifacts pertaining to various people who lived in the house are among the collections maintained at Historic Richmond Town, and some are available in the Online Collections Database.

18 • Stephens-Prier House

stephens-prier1The Stephens-Prier House stands on its original site between Richmond Road and Center Street at the corner of St. Patrick's Place. It is a two and one-half story wood frame house built ca. 1857-1859. It is symmetrically designed, incorporating classical pediments on all four sides with identical facades on Center Street and Richmond Road. The architecture shows features of both Greek Revival and Italianate styles.

The house was built for Daniel Lake Stephens (1810-1866). Stephens was born in Manhattan, moved with his family to Brooklyn in the 1820s, and in 1854 he and his sister Ann Eliza moved to Staten Island to live with their cousin Stephen D. Stephens in his home in Richmond (the Stephens-Black House).

In 1857, Daniel purchased a lot extending from Richmond Road to Center Street along St. Patrick's Place; this was the largest residential building site in the village of Richmond. He commissioned a large and impressive house for the site, and the house appears to have been completed by 1859. According to the 1860 federal census, Daniel was living in his new house with his second cousin, Mrs. Ann McLean, as housekeeper; her daughter, Ann McLean, aged 14; a boarder, Phebe Randolph; and an Irish immigrant servant, Ann Murphy. Daniel is believed to have been blind, perhaps impacting his need for household help.

Daniel Lake Stephens never married, and when he died in 1866 the house passed to his sister Ann Eliza. In 1870, her cousin Stephen D. Stephens and his family moved to the house to live with her after selling their house. The Stephens-Prier house was subsequently occupied by several other members of the Stephens family. The best- known of these was Judge Stephen D. Stephens Jr. (1845-1911), a successful lawyer who served as Richmond County Judge and Surrogate for thirty years, as well as serving two terms in the New York State Assembly.

In 1886 the house was purchased from the estate of John I. Stephens by James E. Prier, a butcher. Prier had a shop in Richmond where he sold meats and vegetables, and he also owned a large property at St. Patrick's Place and Clarke Avenue which contained a pond and commercial ice house. James and his wife Ellen J. (LaForge) Prier had six children, and the family lived in the house until 1926.

Among the later residents of the house, Francis Evans (1911-1977) was particularly notable. Evans, an engineer, bought the house in 1946 and lived there with his wife and children until his death in 1977. Mr. Evans served on the local Community School Board for twelve years, and Public School 28, diagonally across the street from his home, was named "The Francis C. Evans Curriculum Resource Center" in his honor in 1978. Mr. Evans was President of the Staten Island Historical Society from 1972-1973, and was President of the Staten Island Council of Boy Scouts in 1974 and 1975.

In 1977 the house was purchased by William F. Rigby, an insurance broker, and his son, William J. Rigby, restored the house to its original appearance over several years. In 1991, William J. Rigby and his wife Janet sold the house to New York City for it to become part of Historic Richmond Town. The building was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1998. It is currently used to house Historic Richmond Town administrative offices and meeting space.

1 • Third County Courthouse

third2The Third County Courthouse is located on Center Street at the head of Court Place. It was built in 1837 on this site, replacing earlier courthouse buildings that had been located on other sites nearby.

Standing on one of the highest points in Richmond, this imposing Greek Revival building was designed to both reflect and inspire civic power and pride. The front (north) wall of the structure is built of rough-faced Staten Island trap rock; the other walls are brick.

The architectural form is a center block with a pedimented portico and flanking wings. The portico is supported by four massive Doric columns. It is not known who designed or built the courthouse but it has been suggested that elements such as the cupola (bell tower) may relate to the work of Abraham P. Maybie, who is known for the Seaman's Retreat building in Clifton.

By the 1830s, the population of Richmond County had grown to over 7,000 residents, and community leaders decided that the county needed a new and impressive courthouse to replace the smaller wood-frame structure in use at the time. The land on which the Courthouse was built was given to the county by Henry I. Seaman. In 1836 Seaman purchased a large piece of property between Richmond Road and Clarke Avenue with the intent of developing and enlarging the village of Richmond. He subdivided the land into 119 lots and built five cottages, and in April 1837 he transferred a large plot on Center Street to the county for the sum of $1 on condition that a new courthouse was to be constructed on the site “without reasonable delay.”

The new structure was completed in 1837, and it served as the county's center of public business and judicial activity for the remainder of the 1800s. In addition to housing the court and the jail, the building also housed the office of the County Clerk and Surrogate until 1848, when the Second County Clerk and Surrogate's Office (now the Historical Museum) was built.

The Courthouse was the setting for many trials from 1837 to 1919. During those 82 years, cases were heard by judges and juries in the courtroom on the upper floor of the building. Some of those trials were civil disputes between neighbors, while others were of a criminal nature. The village of Richmond was a lively place on trial days, with lawyers, witnesses, jurors, and spectators coming from all parts of Staten Island.

One of the most sensational trials to take place in the Courthouse was that of Mary (Polly) Bodine, who was accused of murdering her sister-in-law, Emeline Houseman, and Emeline's young daughter on Christmas night in 1843. Polly's trial attracted the attention of the newspapers, and crowds of onlookers came to the Courthouse to attend her trial in 1844. The jury could not reach a verdict, and Polly was subsequently tried two more times in different venues. At her third trial in 1846 she was declared innocent.

From 1837 to 1860, a portion of the Courthouse also served as the Richmond County Jail, housing male and female prisoners from all parts of Staten Island. The jail was supervised by the Richmond County Sheriff, who maintained his office and residence in the Courthouse. In addition to overseeing the jail, the sheriff served summonses, carried out court orders, and supervised property auctions. In 1860, the need for more space and improved conditions led to the construction of a new jail attached to the Courthouse (where the Historic Richmond Town parking lot is now located). The jail was substantially rebuilt in 1903, and remained in use until 1953. It was demolished by the City in 1959.

In 1898, Staten Island became one of the five boroughs of New York City, and all local government and court functions were gradually moved to new facilities at St. George. The last court session held upstairs in the courtroom was in 1919.

The Courthouse remained vacant from 1919 to 1932. In 1932 the City of New York made repairs to the derelict structure, after which it housed an assortment of community service agencies, including a dental clinic, a baby clinic, and a branch library. In 1948, the City turned the Courthouse over to the care of the Staten Island Historical Society. The building was designated an official New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969.

Today the building serves as Historic Richmond Town's Visitor Center and Museum Store. The first floor features the exhibition Third County Courthouse: Center of Civic Life on Staten Island. The courtroom on the second floor is the setting for the "Acting as Citizens" and "You be the Judge" school programs, and is also made available for a variety of meetings and functions.

39 • Town Bridge

town1The stone arch Town Bridge passes over Richmond Creek, connecting Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Hill Road. The current structure, composed of dressed fieldstone, was erected in 1845 and is the only remaining 19th-century stone arch bridge on Staten Island. It connects two of the oldest roads on Staten Island. In fact, the roadway that became Richmond Hill Road was designated an official county road in 1701.

It is not known when the first bridge was actually built at this location, but the first mention of a bridge appears as early as 1718: "Ordered that the west and north divisions of the county do make a suffct [sufficient] bridge over the brook at Cuckold Town nigh the English Church forthwith." By the mid-18th century it was known as the "towne bridge." The first bridge was probably constructed of wood, and county records indicate that it was ordered to be rebuilt in 1827.

The present stone arch bridge, built in 1845, was paid for by the Reverend David Moore, Rector of St. Andrew's Church, and it appears that he was later reimbursed by the Town of Southfield. The SIHS photograph collection documents that at least 3 other stone arch bridges existed on Staten Island: one in Greenridge, one in Great Kills, and one in Bull's Head. All were replaced during the 20th century.

This bridge remains functional and is a significant transportation link as well as part of the Staten Island Bluebelt.

42 • Treasure House

treasure1The Treasure House stands on its original site on Arthur Kill Road at the foot of Richmond Road, across Richmond Creek from the Church of St. Andrew. The house is an example of early American architecture that arose from European traditions transplanted to the New World. It is a two story structure with a first story built of stone and a second story built of wood with clapboard. A platform porch and staircase which once led to the main entry door on the second floor were removed by Historic Richmond Town after repeated vehicular accident damage.

The Treasure House takes its name from the tradition that a cache of gold coins was found hidden in the walls about 1860. The coins were said to have been placed there by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Supposedly, more of the gold was found in 1921 by a later owner of the building. These stories are based on oral tradition and have not been documented.

The earliest part of the house was built ca. 1700 by Samuel Grasset, a tanner (a person who makes leather from hides), who lived there with his wife Martha and operated a tannery and tanning mill until 1703. 

The building served various residential and commercial functions during the 18th century, such as dwelling and cordwainer's (shoemaker's) shop of Stephen Wood and his family. By 1788, shortly after the American Revolution, the house was owned by Lawrence Hillyer, a well-known Staten Island carpenter and builder. Hillyer was authorized by the Richmond County Board of Supervisors to establish a courtroom in Richmond to replace the First County Courthouse, which was destroyed by the British in 1777. To accomplish this he built an extension on the north end of his house and added outside stairs to the large upstairs room in the original part of the house. Court sessions are believed to have been held in that upstairs room until the Second County Courthouse was completed in 1793-1794.

By 1798 the Treasure House was owned by James Stoutenberg and his family, who may have used the house as an inn. In the 1800s, the house had several owners and occupants. Abraham Auten, a saddler who also served as sheriff, may have used the building as a boarding house for county workers. Members of the Homan and Holtermann families engaged in commercial baking on the premises. (Today, Holtermann's Bakery is still in operation, less than a mile away on Arthur Kill Road.)

In 1924, Bertha and Willett Leslie Conner leased the house and operated a real estate office, hardware store, post office, and other commercial businesses. After 1936, Jay Writter used the building as his home and antique shop. Mr. Writter was the last residential occupant. In 1951 the building was acquired by the Staten Island Historical Society, and restoration work began in the 1960s.

The house was designated an official New York City landmark in 1969. The building is awaiting restoration and is not open to the public.

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Upcoming Events

  • Lunch at Bennett Café
    Wed - Dec 13, 2017 12:00PM
    Enjoy a delightful afternoon at our quaint café. Delicious!
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  • Candlelight Tours
    Sat - Dec 16, 2017 5:00PM
    Visitors of all ages take a journey through three-hundred years of tradition as they discover how America's most festive season came to be.
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    Wed - Dec 27, 2017 12:00PM
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718 • 351 • 1611

Historic Richmond Town
441 Clarke Avenue

Staten Island, NY   10306


Newsroom

Bob Champi receives SINFPA community service award

Champi AwardRobert A. Champi has received a community service award from the Staten Island Not For Profit Association for tireless commitment himself to the homes, structures and mission of Historic Richmond Town.

Skip the leftovers and enjoy open-hearth fire-cooked Thanksgiving samplings

Thanksgiving TableThe meal that many American families enjoy on Thanksgiving has deep roots in the earliest American food traditions. Historic Richmond Town’s three historic kitchens will be crackling with hardwood fires and open-hearth cooking on Saturday November 25 and Sunday November 26. Historic Interpreters will serve food samples that feature original old-world recipes that include food items that the colonists learned about from Native American culture, and then infused with the spices used in Europe. 

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