Thursday, December 30, 2010

Harbor Road revisited

West side of Harbor Road between Leyden and Richmond Terr. - Apr 23, 1932

View Larger MapSame view today

These shots of Harbor Road in Mariners Harbor start with the second house north of Summerfield United Methodist Church. All of the houses shown here are still in existence in one way or another. Let me show you.

Map 1874- The first house in the photo above is that of "Capt.Jones" followed by those of "F. Jones", "Capt. J. Wright", "M. Van Name", and "Capt. Tomlinson". I think I safe assuming that the captains here are oyster captains. A nice indication of the neighborhood's famous past.

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The Capt.Jones house - The porch columns match those in the photo but the railings and beautiful eaves and wood shingling have been removed or covered.

View Larger MapThe F. Jones House - All the beautiful detail has been removed and siding of some sort has covered up the wood shingle. The loss of the porch leaves this house a big blank, unattractive box.

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The first house, that of Capt. Wright, is presently greatly obscured by foliage (so I'm not showing it). You'll have to trust me when I write that the front porches have been removed.

The second, that of M. Van Name (and one of many in the neighborhood), is visible, as is the awful faux-brick asphalt shingle that now covers it. Similar to many of the captains' homes that once lined the Terrace, this house has always been one of my favorite.

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Finally, we have the house of Capt. Tomlinson. It's the most beautifully preserved of this series of houses, though the porch columns have lost their elaborate shapes and are simple four sided columns now and the decorative eaves is gone. Still, the dark trim and curved door is much to my liking.

Well, I suspect this is my last post for 2010. I hope you few readers have enjoyed my pretty slack efforts. I appreciate everyone's comments and I look forward to more feedback and questions in the coming year from everybody.

To everyone, a blessed and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mariners Harbor - how many times is it?

East side of Van Pelt Avenue looking north to the Terrace

View Larger MapSame view (more or less) today - much of the detail appears to have been lost to siding and painting over the decades but it still remains a beautiful house. You can see the large home in the old picture's foreground was torn down and replaced with a smaller one, probably in the 20's.

I keep coming back to Mariners Harbor because it has the greatest collection of surviving old homes (admittedly, since the rape of South Avenue in the 90's, not that many large Victorian piles, and few in perfect condition) on the North Shore. Sure, the preservationists have protected their own homes on St. Paul's and St. Mark's, but for me the real gems are the simple homes tucked away in Mariners Harbor, Stapleton and Port Richmond. These, owned by people often unable to maintain them at all, let alone to the levels demanded by the crazy landmark regulations, are in the greatest danger of being lost.

For me, these houses, some of which date to the earliest part of the 19th century, represent the real woof and warp of life during Staten Island's past. Obviously I'm a sucker for the lost manors and suburban palaces of the Golden Age's magnates, but the places where the working and middle class people lived are my greatest joys. It's much easier for me to imagine, and have some sort of historical empathy for, those families, with their worries and activities.

People like the Stokes, the Vanderbilts and the Camerons lived lives filled with servants and wielded power and wealth beyond anything I'm in regular contact with. The doctors and lawyers, the oyster captains, the clerks, the farmers and brewery workers are the people I'm most interested in. I know, was, and am related to people just like this (okay, well not any oystermen).

These are the people who lost the most with the changes wrought on Staten Island over the past fifty years. Working class neighborhoods were what were destroyed by the advent of the housing projects. The highways that would have crossed Todt and Emerson Hills were stopped but not the one that cut Concord in two. These are the people forced to deal with overcrowded roads and often poorly constructed tract housing.

So that's what interests me and motivates much of what I do here. Don't get me wrong, I do want to know what all those demolished estates looked like, but if I can find more pictures like those on display today I'll be a little bit happier.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Staten Island Wedding

I was informed by Mrs. B. about the Museum of New York's photo archives when she sent me the following picture asking if I knew what church it was. I was pretty sure it was St. John's Episcopal in Rosebank. It took a little digging to decide that it absolutely was St. John's. I checked present day images of the church on its own website, looked at the old maps to see if there was a house next to the church in the past (there was; a G.S. Schofield lived there), and finally drove past the church to do one last double check. I was right.

On June 1, 1895, Miss Anne Flemming Cameron, third daughter of Sir Roderick Cameron, married Mr. Belmont Tiffany, grandson of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Rosebank, Staten Island. Following the wedding they took carriages to the bride's father's 130-acre country estate in Arrochar, "Clifton Berley".

The Bride's Arrival at St. John's Episcopal Church

A little more digging turned up the following article from the New York Times on May 17, 1895. One of the things I've learned in digging into the history of Staten Island's golden age is that the very wealthy were very well documented.

Above - The Bride's Carriage Returns - Right - The church today

The Bride's Departure

Wedding Reception Photos - presumably this is at "Clifton Berley".

Further research told me that the couple divorced and both outlived their only son, George. Belmont ended up in the papers when he was sued by a widow for failing to live up to his promise to marry her. Mrs. Tiffany became a noted society decorator and decorate the Astor Estate on Bermuda. Later both ended up in the papers again when it seemed their son was arrested for drug addiction and committed to the Bloomingdale Hospital for the Insane.

New Link - The Museum of the City of New York

A new link to the right - the Museum of the City of New York. The assortment of Staten Island pictures is greatly limited but it is a nice selection of things I haven't seen before. Cool, and a generous tip of my hat to the lovely Mrs. B. for brining it to my attention.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anson Phelps Stokes' Mansion

1928 - The Stokes Mansion two years prior to its demolition. A close look reveals a collapsing roof on the sun room in on the center first floor. There's a general look of abandoment to the place.

One of the most elaborate appearing mansions from Staten Island's Golden Age was that of Anson Phelps Stokes. It occupied part of the hillside land between Hamilton Avenue and St. Mark's Place and looked out over the harbor and New Jersey.

With architects, merchant bankers, Episcopal priest and whatnot in their family tree it would be interesting to see where the heirs of this once prominent family have ended up.

The family was clearly very devout, with Anson's grandfather helping to found the
London Missionary Society. Anson Stokes actively supported the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society and the American Peace Society. His son, Anson II, became an Episcopal priest and resident canon at the National Cathedral. His grandson, Anson III, also became an Episcopal priest and eventually the bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

Caroline Phelps Stokes, one of Anson's sisters, left her estate to the form the Phelps Stokes Fund in order to help improve the housing and education of minorities. Later his other sister, Olivia, used the fund to specifically aid "Negro education". Nowhere on its website does it do more than acknowledge that it was founded by a bequest of Anson's sister Caroline. Her brother Anson and his son the Rev. Anson P. Stokes were both initial trustees of the fund. I wonder if any members of the family have anything to do with the fund at all anymore.

1928 - Same house different vantage point

1874 - The Stokes Mansion and Estate - The heyday of the Island's great estates. To the west is Ladislao de Escoriaza's estate and to
the east that of J.C Green, esq.

1917 - De Escoriza's and Green's mansions are gone, the latter replaced by Curtis High School.

2010 - The only reminder of the Stokes estate is Phelps Place.

1928 - Gate and gatehouse to the Stokes Estate - northside of Hamilton Avenue between Phelps and Egmont

1928 - Gate and gatehouse to the Stokes Estate - northside of Hamilton Avenue looking west from Egmont Place

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lost Streets and Homes

The Bayonne Bridge is one of the beautiful municipal structures that remain from a lost golden age. It drive past it several times a week and I'm never not caught by the bold curve of it arch in the day and the patriotic lighting in the night.

But, like many elements of the City's infrastructure its creation came at the cost of homes and pieces of neighborhoods. Going to the maps I set out to see what had vanished in the wake of the bridge's construction in 1928. While no whole heart of a neighborhood was destroyed like with the housing projects in Stapleton, West Brighton and New Brighton, it did result in a giant structure rising like a wall between Elm Park and Port Richmond.

1917 Map - someone helpfully penciled in the bridge's location. Douglas Street is gone and Newark Street half deleted and John Street cut into parts.

Bridge Stanchions Crossing Richmond Terrace
- l. 1931 (Dean Linseed Oil Works in the background)
r. 2010

Below - demolition on the south side of Innis Street - 1928
Bottom - roughly same location - 2010

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There are times when real public needs require drastic changes in landscape. This would seem to safely be one of those times. It never hurts, though, to remember that bridges and highways come at costs more than dollars.

Above - West side of Newark Avenue south of Richmond Terrace - 1928 and 2010

SPECIAL BONUS SHOT - Dean Linseed Oil Works seen from Bayonne