Thursday, July 14, 2016

British Fort at Latourette

In response to a request from Peter M., I did a little research on the British Revolutionary War-era forts here on Staten Island. He's particularly interested in the one near Latourette Golf Course, having looked for it as a kid. So here goes.

First, there's actually a Wikipedia article on the Latourette fort. Called Lookout Place or Fort Izard, it wasn't really a fort, just an earthen rampart about 44 square feet. It was built to look over a freshwater stream, and I imagine would have had a nice clear view toward New Jersey and any colonial intruders.

During the Battle of Staten Island, based on the map on Wikipedia, it seems like Gen. Smallwood's retreat from his initial landing point at Decker's Ferry (Port Richmond), to Old Blazing Star (Rossville), took him along the same stream and under the observation of the British fort.

For those who don't know, the Battle of Staten Island, was a raid led by Gen. John Sullivan against a mixed force of British regulars, Hessians, and colonial militia. His goal was to bag a bunch of prisoners and destroy supplies. Poor coordination, faulty directions, and general confusion led to the American's losing more prisoners to the enemy than they captured themselves. Sullivan was later court martialed for his handling of the battle, but was cleared.

Supposedly, the remnants of the embrasure could be seen at least until the end of the 19th century. I'm planning an expedition to the spot later this summer, so I'll let you know what I can actually see.

This map shows the location of the fort in relation to Richmondtown.

This is from the hand-written and unpublished book by Dr.William Gamble. I'm assuming he was attached to the British forces occupying Staten Island, but I'm not sure. The book, which I actually got to look through, is filled with odds and ends, including puzzles, and lists of Royal Navy ships by name and rating. Regarding the Latourette fort, Gamble's contribution is this map below showing the location of every redoubt (or "ridout" as he spells it) on the Island in 1781. The Latourette position is listed as point a, the Richmond ridout.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The West Brighton Projects Project: Part Two - west side of Broadway between Market and West Union Streets

Moving right along, I've got another West Brighton Projects post. It was a little more complicated to assemble than I thought it would be. If you look at the annotated map you can see most of the property lots in Block 191 have buildings facing both Broadway and State Street. I'm pretty sure the buildings with the actual lot numbers are the ones facing Broadway.

Unfortunately, that leaves me with a batch of buildings with lot numbers that aren't shown on the map. I feel safe in assuming they're the buildings on State Street, but determining the order is proving troublesome. In a case like this, I have to look for clues in the backgrounds and street fixtures to give me a sense of where they should go. In the next post, I'll make my best guess at where they were. 





I've always been torn about the City's claim that the neighborhoods it destroyed were blighted, but doing these posts have revealed a significant number of run down buildings as far back as the early forties. I can only imagine what their state was twenty years later when the condemnation proceedings began.



Thursday, April 07, 2016

The West Brighton Projects Project: Part One - west side of State Street between Market and West Union Streets

While I haven't finished the Stapleton Projects Project yet, I was inspired to start this second Projects Project by a picture posted on Facebook the other day. It was of mass being celebrated in the old St. Benedicta Roman Catholic Church, one of the casualties of the construction of the West Brighton Projects in the early sixties.

I'm swiping the picture, but I highly recommend following this link to the original posting at FB. The poster and several commenters provide some valuable information about the lost neighborhood and the church.

Mass at St. Benedicta

original St. Benedicata ca. 1940 - corner of State and Market Streets

The part of West New Brighton destroyed was smaller than that which was razed in Stapleton. The residences were smaller, and so far, I haven't come across too many big multi-family buildings like in Stapleton. There isn't the commercial-residential mix here either as in Stapleton. The stores appear to have been mostly found out on Castleton Avenue and Broadway.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Kite Hill and Ward Hill

this is a repost from the site's facebook group, North Shore Staten Island History.

   I don't know where it originated, but the name the kids I grew up with on Cebra and Ward Avenues called the outcrop of rock that rises up above Homer Street and looking out over St. Paul's Avenue is Kite Hill. It was one of those things you did on a summer day, you'd hike up to Nixon Avenue, cut through the empty lot and climb down into the hillside, work your way thru the brambles (which were filled with pheasants), and then climb up Kite Hill. After hanging out for a little while and looking out at the SIRT, the harbor, and Stapleton, you'd go home. A couple of months later you'd do it all over again. 

   Today, just tooling about the net, looking for Statpleton stuff, I found this painting. It wasn't done from Kite Hill, but it's definitely from somewhere on Pavilion Hill (Tompkins Circle). 

   It's described as being painted from Brighton Heights, but I'd stake my Stapleton credibility on that mansion on the left being the Caleb Ward House. 

Hermann Fuechsel (…/hermann-fuechsel/) was a German-American painter and part of the Hudson River School.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Stapleton Projects Project - Part Eight

Moving west along Tompkins Street, we reach between Patten and Clarke Streets. The southside was actually featured in the very first Stapleton Projects Project last year. A mix of commercial and residential buildings, it's typical of the backstreets I've looked at so far.

The northside is mostly residential, but there is the cool looking luncheonette with the Pepsi Cola sign on it. Also, lurking overhead to the right is Horrmann Castle high atop Grymes Hill. 

Today I took my first trip to the new Staten Island Museum at Snug Harbor today and learned a terrible bit of backstreets history. Apparently, during the New York City Draft Riots in 1863, white Islanders attacked black residents of McKeon Street. McKeon Street was the original name for Tompkins Street. Nice to know Staten Island got to play its part in one of the city's most ignominious events.

Southside of Tompkins Street between Patten and Clarke Streets, pts. 1, 2, and 3

Northside of Tompkins Street between Patten and Clarke, 
pts. 1 and 2

1917 map showing locations of buildings

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Stapleton Projects Project - Part Seven

So, I already missed posting new pictures last week. I screwed up labeling the ones below and didn't fix it until just now. Sorry about that. 

The obvious standout today is Bennett's Bicycles. Their website says they opened as a general store in Fort Wadsworth before moving to Tompkins Street in the thirties. They stayed there until 1957 when the property was taken as part of the eminent domains proceedings that demolished the back streets, and then were given a check and thirty days to vacate. Good going, NYC!

The rest is the usual mix of houses and apartments. Something I forgot to include last time is the present day map showing where these buildings were originally located.

Tompkins Street between Cedar Street and Tompkins Avenue

1917 street map

Tompkins Street between Clarke Street and Cedar Street

Approximate location of old buildings

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Stapleton Projects Project - Part Six

Clarke Avenue between Tompkins Street and the baseball field

One of the problems in doing this project is the limited resources I have to work with. The maps are from 1917 and the photos from twenty to twenty-five years later, so they don't always match up. During the time between the maps and the photos, some buildings were destroyed and others built. A new building isn't too much trouble, but a missing one is.

All that's to say is, unlike other entries in this series, I can't put together a complete panorama view of the street in question. Still, I do have a nice batch of photos that display the diverse nature of construction in the area: single family houses and apartments of various sizes. Right around the corner on Tompkins Street were stores (follow the link to the very first Projects Project installment to see them). You can also see the front of the dark building with white window frames on the right of the B photo in that installment. It is building a

                         A                            B  

                           C                                    D

                              E                                  F