Dec 22, 2017 - STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The chalk white exterior of the landmarked Bennett House was transformed into a canvas Thursday night for artist Scott LoBaido's patriotic LED light installation at Historic Richmond Town.
The holiday display -- in the shape of the "Betsy Ross Flag" -- is part of the Staten Island Historical Society's history driven, future-focused approach to reimagining New York City's only living history village.
"Historic Richmond Town is the ideal backdrop for a modern take on the historic Betsy Ross flag," LoBaido said."I can think of no better place for this installation than at the heart of Staten Island, in the heart of New York City, the heart of America."
The light installation is part of a new partnership with LoBaido and a group of borough leaders devoted to helping Historic Richmond Town raise much needed funds to revive the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House at 1476 Richmond Road in Dongan Hills. As the oldest surviving building on Staten Island, it is one of few such treasures still standing on its original foundation state and nationwide.
"Scott has traversed the country painting flags in every state on a mission generate a country-wide love and appreciation for the stars and stripes," adds Historic Richmond Town Interim Executive Director Ken Bach. "The Bennett Cafe, a labor of love of the Women's Auxiliary of Historic Richmond Town and located in the Bennett House, is the ideal location for celebrating the role of women in building a strong country. The flag, representing the original 13 colonies through modern LED lighting demonstrates the enduring value of American ingenuity."
Bach adds the display would not be possible without the generous donation of materials and support from Dennis McKeon, executive director of Where to Turn, adding, "we are grateful for Scott and Dennis and their dedication to celebrating a love of country at Historic Richmond Town through this dramatic installation, and the upcoming exhibit and fundraiser in support of our Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House."
When the very first walls and roof went up on the Billio-Stillwell-Perine House, circa 1662 , the borough was still owned by nature. Thriving wetlands and thick vegetation stretched for miles, interrupted only by Lenape Indians cultivating fields and one tiny, Dutch settlement. The British had yet to lay claim to the land, and it would be more than 100 years until this great experiment called the United States of America would take shape.
The Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House had already passed through several prominent Dutch and British families by 1792, when the flag we now know as the "Betsy Ross Flag" became a symbol for the 13 American colonies. Edward Perine took possession of the home in 1764, overseeing the addition of English-styled wooden sections to the original, rough fieldstone structure over subsequent decades. The family owned the home for more than 100 years, until it was purchased by the now defunct Staten Island Antiquarian Society in 1915.
Descendants of the Perine family will be among those on hand this Thursday, when LoBaido flips the lights on his 16-by-24-foot holiday light display of the historic flag -- brightening the night sky on the shortest day of the year. The Perine family -- and thousands of Staten Islanders who viewed the home's interior after it opened to the public in 1953 -- can describe how its unique Dutch jambless fireplace similarly worked to battle darkness long, long before electricity or modern LEDs had even been dreamed possible.
MORE ABOUT THE BILLIOU-STILLWELL-PERINE HOUSE: Historic Richmond Town is dedicated to bringing this history to life with a campaign to reopen the landmark building to the public. In 2013, the community coalesced around the cause -- uniting to restore its then dilapidated roof.
A community initiative led by Staten Island Advance Executive Editor Brian Laline, contractor Steven LoBaido and his artist brother, and Iron Hills Civic Association President Dr. Mohammad Khalid brought matching funds to a $25,000 pledge by Executive Director of Richmond County Savings Foundation Cesar Claro for a new roof.
Thanks to their generous support plus donations from hundreds of individuals, groups and families, the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House received a new roof in 2014. The Staten Island Historical Society continues to raise funds to complete the next phases of work to restore the building, which remains at its original location for 356 years.
For more information visit www.historicrichmondtown.org or call (718) 351-1611.