Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Richmond Ice Co.

So I've driven past this building perhaps a million times (no kidding) and I've never noticed it's name or the very cool crumbling cement objects adorning its top. My mother-in-law told me about and that she'd called the Staten Island Museum to let them know they were eroding and in need of preservation or something. Here they are then; the walruses of the long deceased Richmond Ice Co.


Once the existing concrete structure was part of a larger complex presumably serving Richmond County's many ice needs.

Unfortunately the building is now marked with the dreaded FDNY "do not save in case of a fire" X in box symbol

Too Much Cuteness in One Place

is one of the most over the top cute pages I've ever seen. It's also really cool. So there, a present to you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Past in Snow and Ice

Here's a lovely stolen set of photos of the falls in Clove Lakes Park in the winter about 1910.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just Some Quick Then and Now Stapleton Shots

Stapleton was the neighborhood I grew up in and still have a great affinity for even if there's little reason for me to spend much time there anymore. When I was a kid I lived in the library and we regularly shopped in the numerous stores around Tappen Park and along Broad Street up to Targee Street. There was the "Store of a Million Items" and "John's Bargain Store". There was "Wright Toy and Hobby" on Wright
Street and a Chinese restaurant on the second floor of the building next to "Woolworths" (which itself had a great luncheon counter where I always got a filet of fish sandwich without tartar sauce).

Woolworths vs. OZ - Woolworth's closed its American stores in 1997 ending an era of five and dime stores that dated to 1878. I bought so many books, models and other stuff there right up until the end. There were those kids rides where for a quarter a horse or firetruck bounces around sort of aimlessly and gumball machines.

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Later my mother started her long career of community activism in Stapleton with first "The Friends of Stapleton Library" and then the "Stapleton Civic Association" She and the equally late Helen Pose worked hard and often thanklessly to try and stave off the economic death of their town and get the merchants and residents to pitch in.

In 1979 or so she founded the "Stapleton Local Development Corporation", got grant money and got herself and three staffers paid to do the same things on a full time basis. For four years she worked hard at it only to get pushed out by a the head of the board of directors who put his girlfriend in my mom's place. Within a few years that woman messed things up and there were questions of impropriety and badly managed funds. Later directors (as my mother had moved on to way too many other things and the merchants of Stapleton had proven unwilling to make any real efforts to save their community) were better but the group eventually fell moribund and was absorbed into the still vibrant St. George/Tompkinsville LDC.

The only real testimony to the efforts of my mothers and the other "community organizers" of Stapleton back in the seventies and eighties is the beautifully designed brick sidewalks and gazebo at Tappen Park. Recently the park was renovated by the NYC Park's Department but there's none of the foot traffic of the past or the huge fall festivals and flea markets my mother and friends organized and held up through the mid-eighties.

Gazebo and Sidewalks - The beautiful building in the background is the remaining one of two village halls built as local municipal centers. It housed my mother's LDC and Community Board One and several other groups until the District Attorney's office took it over eleven or so years ago. They wanted to be closer to the court house and the public was deprived of a beautiful historic building.

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Chase Bank - This is where my family banked once we moved to Stapleton in 1969

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Staten Island Savings Bank (or whatever it's called these days) - I never went inside this magnificent classically styled building until a few years ago. You should do so and marvel at its beautiful interior and the sanctity and security of banking it was intended to convey.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Neck of the Woods

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Second to the right from the corner: the Vredenburgh Manse

We live along Prospect Avenue in New Brighton near the border, Lafayette Avenue, with West New Brighton (neighborhood of my previously shown family estate). Much of the surrounding neighborhood was built as one of the first commuter neighborhoods for businessmen working in the salt mines of the Wall Street environs. Initially the area was called Brighton Park but it was renamed Hamilton Park by its developer Charles Hamilton. Lining much of Franklin Avenue, Pendleton Place and the surrounding hills are large Victorian era homes. Several have been entered into the national registry of historical homes.

Dominating the neighborhood is the magnificent edifice of Christ Episcopal Church, err, just Christ Church. I need to read more about the history of the church and its parishoners, but suffice it to say, they had money and they weren't hesitant about using it. I missed out on seeing the inside of the church this past Sunday when I skipped an ecumenical Vespers Advent service due to sleepiness but I hope to make it one day soon and report back on it for those who care.

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Over time the neighborhood changed. On the blocks around the initial upscale streets came to be built large multifamily homes and apartment buildings. There are still some wooden ones over on near Sailor Snug Harbor only a few blocks from the church.

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W.S. Pendleton House

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Hamilton Cottage

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Pritchard House - My Favorite House - Tucked away behind lush (or perhaps merely poorly maintained) hedges, this Italianate home sits high on the secluded hills of New Brighton.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Rest of Port Richmond's Churches

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St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church - Richmond Terrace
Seemingly the primary church of Port Richmond's large Mexican population.

View Larger Map Once it had a parish school. I don't have any recollection of it ever being in operation.

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St. Paul's/St. Luke's Lutheran Church - Decker and Catherine - Once the Wasa Lutheran Church, this Swedish congregation changed name over the years and merged with that of St. Paul's Lutheran when it closed in the early seventies. It's where my mother and her family went until she was married. I have her oft mended confirmation Bible on my shelf and one of my aunts is a very active member of this small congregation. It's suffered from the demographic shift of the North Shore like most of the mainline Protestant churches, especially the ones with a strong ethnic component.

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St. Roch's Roman Catholic Church - Port Richmond Avenue

View Larger Map Port Richmond Reformed Church - I've written about this before. It's the oldest congregation on the Island as far as I know. The original building was burned by the British and this one only dates from the eighteenth century. There are very cool seventeenth century headstones in the surrounding churchyard.

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Mar Thoma Church - Faber Street - This new addition to the churches of the neighborhood perfectly reflects the amazing, a pretty cool, changes in the demographics of Staten Island.

View Larger MapTemple Emanu-El - Post Avenue - I think this is the oldest Orthodox Temple on the Island. "The Jewish Community of Staten Island" has some great pictures of the congregation and it's temple. There's an attached school and a light up Star of David on the steeple.

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Faith United Methodist Church - Castleton and Heberton - Faith is one of the results of the Great Methodist Collapse I've mentioned earlier. It's the result of the closing of Kingsley Methodist, Delafield Methodist and their merging with Grace Methodist in Port Richmond located in this beautiful red brick building.

View Larger MapSt. John's Lutheran Church - Jewett Avenue - I don't know anything about this church. I did attend a wedding there 20 years ago but since my church is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and it's a member of the Missouri Synod, it's like the Bloods and Crips. Not very brotherly. It's a pretty red brick building that was once a Methodist church, I think (confirmation later) and has a pretty little cemetery attached.

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Today there are several storefront churches and assorted non-denominational churches in the immediate area. There's also a Pentecostal church and Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall nearby but for ease I'll say they're in Elm Park and save myself some work.

The Secret Churches

In my research I've discovered the existence of several defunct churches now in service as something else. Sometimes it's fairly obvious the structure used to be a church but sometimes it just looks like a house.

Norwegian Lutheran Free Church - Wardwell Avenue in Westerleigh

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I never even realized this places existence until my friend, Steve MacD. told me about an aunt who'd attended an evangelical Norwegian church in Westerleigh. Later I correlated this memory when going through the Davis and Leng Staten Island books at the CSI Staten Island Archives. Funnily enough, despite it's obvious previous history as a church, it never occurred to me all the times I drove past the building.

Kingsley Methodist Church - Cebra Avenue in Stapleton

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All I know is that was one of the great Methodist Calamity casualties in the late sixties. When I was a lad I was told it was owned by two "gentlemen artists", later the Mormons owned it. It was the center of the Mormoning activities which consisted primarily of sending out two tow-headed young men in white shirts and black ties to knock on doors. Later a Pentecostal congregation set up residence there and I don't know what the present owner plans to do with it. From the below old postcard you can see it once had the common four sided steeple I'm finding on many of the Island's old wooden Methodist churches. I've only recently realized how big the building actually is (50' by 85') and I imagine there are extensions in the back for offices and the like.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Churches of Port Richmond Park

View Larger Map Today: St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church

Port Richmond was once one of the two shining commercial areas on the North Shore. Up through the mid-seventies it remained an important shopping and residential district with beautiful stores and homes. Of course all this changed with the advent of Forest Avenue Shoppers Town and later the SI Mall. Eventually the better stores moved out or failed and slowly the neighborhood slipped into an economic downturn that it's never recovered from. As old timers moved out the neighborhood's poverty and crime levels increased. At some point things got even stranger when Port Richmond became the home for all the Mexican immigrants coming to work the lawns and kitchens of the borough.

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St. Mary of the Assumption's Chapel

Still, much of Port Richmond maintains at least a gloss of architectural beauty. Central to the old Port Richmond was the park between Heberton Avenue (part of which was nicknamed 'Doctors' Row') and the churches that surrounded it. Here are some now and then pictures.

View Larger Map Today: St. Philip's Baptist Church