Site of Carriage Manufactory #31

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.

Sarah Hermann