Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holiday's !

 Richmond Ave. 1930

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Start a New Family Tradition for the Holidays

Staten Island can truly be a beautiful place around the holidays, if you know where to look and what to do. A lot of people tend to stick to old traditions that have been passed down from their own parents and grandparents, but never really consider starting their own with their kids. Why not though? It could be a great experience that would live on through your children as something that they will never forget. With the number of households that have both parents working increasing, our kids get lost in the everyday shuffle that has become our lives and we lose sight of the important things in life, especially around the holidays. It's no ones fault, there is just so much to do when the year's end starts racing in on you that you forget to take a breath. A simple way to spend time with your family around the holidays in Staten Island, New York, is a Richmond Town's famed Candlelight Tours.

Every year around the holidays you and your family can go back in time right in the middle of suburbia. Richmond Town, located at 411 Clark Ave. here in Staten Island, is beautiful this time of year. With its houses that can be dated back as far as the mid 1600's, its truly a gem that shouldn't be over looked. The whole town is lit up by only candles and oil lamps while everyone of the tour guides and staff is dressed in old fashioned attire. They teach about how Christmas came to be and how its changed and evolved through out the centuries. It's a wonderful way to teach your children how much more there is to Christmas then Santa and gifts, and they will learn to appreciate the holiday so much more. You will walk through all of the old fashioned buildings and experience them like you never have, surely you've been stuck at the light on Aurthur Kill Rd. and looked at this place, but have you ever taken the time out to truly experience it?

The tour costs $22.00 for adults and $10.00 for children under 12. They serve up freshly made old fashioned holiday sweets and they also hold a Wassail Bowl Reception in the towns courthouse. A Wassail Bowl is old fashion hot mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and topped with slices of toast. The ingredients are put into a bowl and heated and and then the toast is added to sop it up. They have caroling and teach songs of the past. If your interested in this unique tour of the past contact 718-351-1611, ext. 281 for reservations, they are a must and slots fill up quickly. To contact through e-mail .

Monday, December 13, 2010

With Due Respect to Those Lost in the Devestating Crash Of 1960, 50 yrs later

2010 marked the 50th anniversary of what history calls The New York Air Disaster. To read up on the terrible disaster refer here, to my post about it . I am going to post people's memories that I was reading on a different site. This is important, just because these tragedies happened before our time does not mean people didn't die, they shouldn't be forgotten by any means. They say if you know where to look, you can still find the evidence of the event, such as debris that is still rusting in one mans backyard.

I was a second grader at St. Augustine’s School on Sterling Place, one block from the Pillar Of Fire Church on 7th Avenue that took a direct hit. My mother’s friend Benny, maybe Bernie, was selling Christmas trees in front of the church and was, in her word, vaporized. No trace. Same for the few praying parishioners inside. From my desk, I saw a piece of flaming wreckage falling through the air and seriously considered that the Second Coming might be upon us as the Mother Superior came on the squawk box to tell us to get under our desks. I remember my late mother telling me later that the pilot(s) had seen the flag on top of my school and others and was trying to crash in Prospect Park but couldn’t make it. She must have been freaked. A plane crash a block from your daughter’s school?
My late uncle Mike was NYPD SWAT and so he came to school to get me and then to the nursery school to retrieve my sister. They would not release us into the street to walk home, of course. As I recall, he walked me home basically with his hands over my eyes. Was the body of one of the planes in the middle of Flatbush Avenue for several days? There was wreckage everywhere for a very long time, and I imagine there were body parts in the beginning, but I never saw any blood that I remember. Firetrucks, ambulances, sanitation trucks.
I’d like to observe that as a result of this crash in the midst of the Urban Renewal movement, given the devastation to the neighborhood, there was a call to raze thousands of brownstones and put up “projects,” the same buildings we now rejoice to see imploded in a big bang. Park Slope (which in those days included what is now called Prospect Heights) was not a well-to-do neighborhood. Irish-Italian working class with the highest concentration of Irish bars in America occurring along Flatbush from the Bridge to the Park. There were always, however, fancy people in the buildings along Prospect Park West and Eastern Parkway, and along 8th Avenue, which we called “Doctor’s Row.” These people banded against the Urban Renewal projects and instead created the first Historic District in New York City, a most enlightened result. Hats off to the late Evelyn Ortner, with whom I studied in the country’s first Master’s program in Historic Preservation at Columbia University and later at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn (now grown to St. Ann’s Warehouse) and all her partners in this effort.
Rest in peace, every one.
— Janine Nichols

This was worldwide headline news.
I remember this even though I hadn’t yet lived in the city of New York at the time!
It wasn’t long after this that I started flying on commercial airliners back and forth from New York City to Bangor, Maine.
We just can’t spend our lives living in fear.
— Perley J. Thibodeau

I was an intern at Kings County Hospital that tragic day. We received word two planes had crashed over Brooklyn. We sent out medical staff and ambulances to the site. In the ER we discharged patients to floors and cleared out the ER. We set up dozens of clean beds with IV Bottles hooked up and ready to administer, The medical staff was greatly saddened and upset when we were told there was no one coming to our hospital. As I recall the lone survivor was taken to Methodist Hospital.
We all felt helpless. The docs and nurses ,when they came back, commented how unprepared they felt because of a lack of planning and equipment. Thankfully now much has changed in preparedness. Lessons learned.
— Louis Cardi, MD

I lived in Atlanta and this touched me as a ten year old in 1960- I was almost the same age as Steven. I am a videographer and made this tribute video of the crash which I shared with members of the Baltz family.
thanks for the articles and look forward to reading more. as for “season to be jolly” this is more to the fragility of life and the hearts that reached out to Steven Baltz.
— mike brown

My father is a retired NYC Fire Department employee. He was a fireman on Staten Island at the time of this crash. He assisted in the recovery of bodies from the TWA plane. To this day he talks about this crash and vividly recalls how horrific it was.
— Greg Z.
The day of the crash

it is one of those events that you’ll remember as long as you live, i was in the kitchen visiting and talking with my grandfather at his home on 18 street ,about a mile from the accident site, we were stunned by the sound of the crash, it sounded like a bomb and to tell the truth being that those were the days of the deepest cold war when everybody was building atomic shelters, i thought it was an atomic bomb.on one hand we were relieved when we found out later that it wasn’t but still we were saddened by the loss of life both on air and on the ground.
— turiddhu

My family’s dear friend Herman Muller was killed in that crash. He lost the joy of his life and so did we.
He was an exciting man. On summer vacations he got my dad to help saw and chop wood for the fire of our annual big cook out of bean hole beans. During the rest of the year we’d occasionally visit his family in Hackensack, where he had built a tower in the back yard for no particular reason other than the joy of it..
I believe Herman was an ex CCC guy, and his ourdoorsy tendencies were infections. He was a great influence on our lives.
Saul Berkowitz
— Saul Berkowitz

I was in the 3rd grade at Crompond Elementary School in Yorktown Hgts., NY. The crash was announced over the loud speaker system. I remember Wendell Hoffman said his father was supposed to be on board a plane that morning. He was really scared and we were really scared for him. And my Grandpa Pete lived only a few blocks from the crash, he ran over right after it happened. He recalled that it was a terrible thing to see. Buon Natale, Nonno. Chicken Little didn’t seem so little after that crash.
As it turned out Wendell’s dad missed the plane………….
— Jeff in RI

I was sitting in a freshman class at Brooklyn College when this happened. I will never forget the sound that echoed across the borough.
— Debbie Garson

I was 9 at the time, living in Mass., and due to go with my mother and brother to visit my grandfather in Florida soon after the crash. I was glued to the news, and put up such a scream about air travel that my parents cancelled the flight and booked train tickets. During that ride between Boston and St. Petersburg I saw rural trackside poverty that changed my life.
Took me 10 years of flying to be comfortable in turbulence.
— Fraidy Cat

My late father, Ernest L. Gayle, was a top administrator of what was then the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and offered expert testimony at the inquiry which determined the cause of the crash. The day the planes collided was my sixth birthday, and I remember hearing the news on the kitchen radio in my childhood home. I will remember it always.
— debategirl1mom

I was attending St. Saviour’s High School, about 12 streets away when that plane crashed, and we could feel it in our classroom.
The nuns had us pray for the people on the plane and sent us home early. Streets were blocked off, acrid smoke mixed with the rain, and although we were told only that there was a crash and there may be survivors, we couldn’t imagine anyone surviving that impact.
It took years for me to gather enough courage to get on a plane after that, but have flown many times since. However I am always thankful upon landing and tell the pilots and crew how much I appreciate their skill and efforts.
— Marjorie Riley Nagin

My father, returning from a business trip, was booked on the United flight. He and his co-worker were running through O’Hare to catch the flight. They passed a gate where another flight was scheduled to depart for New York. My Dad, figuring they were likely to miss the United flight, said they should just wait and take the other flight. That’s what they did.
I was a child then and I remember hearing the news and the anxious hours. My mother, his company, our whole family, thought he was dead. When he surfaced, there was such overwhelming relief. My parents are gone now and this series of articles is helping me to flesh out my memories and to realize how much this must have affected my father. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized that my Dad died sixteen years later of cancer almost to the day (December 18, 1976) that this accident happened.
— Marilyn Miller

40 years from now there’s going to be a story like this about 9/11, though probably much bigger/widely read .And then all of us who’ were old enough to know what was going on will remember …just like these folks.
— Joe

I remember 12/16 /1960.
That crash took place during a bad snow storm that had started that AM. The geniuses at our Junior High in Queens literally threw us out of school at 1PM because they felt the buses that picked us up at 3PM wouldn’t make it.
None of us had boots and few had gloves or hats as the severity of the storm was a surprise.
My friends and I walked just about a mile to get home.
It was miserable.
Just one of the many reasons I hated Junior High.
When we got home the story about the collision was on all the TV stations.
— Frank Leja
I remember the collision — it transfixed the City much like 9/11 later did. The tabloids ran the story on their front pages for days. The television news media was just coming into its own in the City and covered the event and ensuing stories afterwards. One young passenger survived the crash and lived for a couple of weeks capturing the public’s sympathy.
But goodness knows — if 50 years ago that plane had fallen into any other nabe in NYC we wouldn’t be seeing this extensive write-up in Park Slope-centric CR today.
And it’s axiomatic that Park Slope (as is the case with any urban nabe) had to first decline before it could be gentrified and thus ultimately find itself home to the bulk of the NYT’s CR reporters.
That said, at the time, the plane crash seemed but another example of the decline Brooklyn seemed to be undergoing. By ‘58 the Dodgers had left and white flight was accelerating from areas like Fort Green, Brownsville, Crown Hts., East NY etc. Abraham & Straus was on its last legs as the downtown commercial center around Fulton Street went into a long-term decay. Heck, even the Heights was “in trouble”,
What a difference 50 years makes.
— George
My family lived @ 180 sterling Pl at the time of the crash. My mom thought the boiler (apt heat) had blown up. Took my brother and sister & hid under the bed. Quite a day for the Addotta family and all who lived near > One of my closest friends.. helped carry the bodies to the near make shift morgue… The Plaza Bowling Alley ! He has Never flown in a plane… .NEVER !! & never will because of this day. Says the smell still haunts him.” You never really leave a place you love… part of it you take with you, leaving a part of you behind…” : ((
— Joyce

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Any Body Out There?

Do you have any questions? Things you have always wondered about? Ask them. E-mail me, leave a comment even tweet them to me @statenislndlady . Or maybe you have a story you would like to share or pictures.
I am open to ideas so let me know!

Thank you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Witch of Staten Island

The year was 1843, it was Christmas Day. In a house that once stood on Forest Ave. across from where now there is a Wendy's and a Perkins, lived sea caption George Houseman, his wife Emeline, and their 20-month-old daughter, Ann Eliza. While the caption was out at sea, as he was on this day, his sister Polly Bodine stayed with the family, as the wife Emeline was scared to be alone. All three of them slept together in one bed in a corner in the kitchen. This being because winters where so hard on Staten Island and they wanted to be closer to the wood burning stove, of course in the summer the bed was moved to a bedroom. As two boys where on their way home from a skating party at 9:00 pm, they noticed a fire blazing, it was a house on fire! The boys rang the fire alarm as fast as they could. Fires where not taking lightly, all the houses where made from wood. People from the surrounding houses came rushing to the house, although they figured that no one was home for the holidays. They knocked down the door and ran into the blazing home searching to make sure there wasn't anyone in the home. That is when they uncovered the horrific scene of a infant babies skull crushed, and her mothers throat cut, her arms broken, and what appeared to be a number of hits to the head using an axe.

Polly Bodine was no where to be found. She didn't live with her brother, she lived across the street with her father. But George's wife was always so scared of people breaking in. She even begged George to take the $1,000 in cash he kept in the house, to his mothers.

The court reports the condition of the body of Emeline as follows: ''The back part of the head was very much burned, part of the skull wanting, and the brain baked by the action of the heat. On the left arm, both bones of the forearm were broken, and one of the bones was white and clear, the other blackened by the heat. . . .'' The baby girl even worse off.

After a few days police had a suspect, and her name was Polly Bodine. No one could figure out why she would do such a thing since she was always so helpful with her niece, and kept her sister-in-law company many a nights. As far as the money that was in fact stolen, Polly had her own money. But nonetheless suspicion fell onto her. She was always at the center of local gossip, even old Staten Island was the same with the gossip. At a time when abortion was unexceptional, Polly had one, while being seperated from her husband, she was sleeping with another man named George Waite who had a drug store in Manhattan. The way she acted following the event had not worked in her favor. On Dec 26th she said she was in the city visiting her lover Waite, but she was seen on the ferry boat leaving Staten Island drinking Gin and eating pie. She was later spotted in a pawn shop, pawing items that belonged to the victims. She was wearing a hooded cape and looked completely detached.

She was arrested on New Years Eve for her crime and gave birth to a still born 3 days later. Her trial was the talk of all media outlets, reporters from all over came to report on the matter, one by the name of Edgar Allan Poe. In his own words he said ''This woman may, possibly, escape. For they manage these matters wretchedly in New York.'' All the top news papers where running stories about the case. People where outraged, a women who had an abortion and a still born, who also killed another child and the mother, ought to be killed herself.

Poe turned out to be right though, she was acquitted at her first trial because it lacked  ''circumstantial evidence in the fourth degree.'' No one really knew what this meant. Another trial went forward but was moved to Manhattan in hopes to find a jury that wasn't biased. She was convicted of the crime but somehow the verdict got over turned. On her third trial her lawyer managed to get her out of the situation completely. She was found not guilty and after spending two years in jail, her first words where " Can I sue Barnum now?" P. T. Barnum made a wax exhibit dedicated to the crime in his museum and dubbed her The Witch of Staten Island. He presented her as a 70 year old toothless hag.

Polly moved back to Staten Island with her reputation ruined. She died at the age of 82 leaving behind two grown children. The case, 152 years later remains unsolved. The final resting place of Emeline and her infant daughter Eliza sits across from a Shoprite in Granitville.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


On the recent poll that I posted on to my blog, I asked readers what town in Staten Island they wanted to learn about next. The winner was Grasmere. It isn't very rich in history, but does have interesting facts none the less. It sits on the lower end of Clove Valley, its original name was Southfield, and was founded in 1683.

Sir Roderick W. Cameron who was a founding member of the American Jockey Club played a big part in the development of the town Grasemere. He built his dream house in the town and named it after his birth town Grasmere, which was apart of England's Lake District. Many believe the reason behind this was that this town reminded him of his birth place due to the amount of lakes in the area. One of the more popular ponds in the area in Brady's pond, also known as Grasmere's pond. Brady's pond was named after Philip Brady, a man that purchased the land around 1800. Another pond in the area is Cameron Lake, although only the expensive homes that surround it get to benefit from the beautiful view. Roderick Ave. is also named after the founder as well. He had also built a stone manor on what is now Radclif Rd., along with 5 other smaller ginger bread looking houses across from his house. Also a gate house to his estate stood on Stuben and W. Fingerboard up until mid-1980's. The Sir had a shipping company that connected New York to Australia. The main town in the area is Concord, Grasemere is just a division of it, along with Dongan Hills, Emerson Hill, and Old Town. Well at least in the 1800's it was this way. At this time Grasemere was the most exclusive place to live in Staten Island. The woods surrounding Brady's pond was once called Haunted Woods due to a murder that was committed in the area. 

Most of the more extravagant home built in the area around Radclif Ave, Lakeside Pl, Leslie and Whitney Ave, as well as Hillside Terr., where built by famed architect Ernest Flagg.

 Another interesting fact is the beginning of Easy Money, staring Rodney Dangerfield, is filmed on the intersection of Hylan Blvd and W. fingerboard, and Sand Lane. Also the second drummer to the rock group Twisted Sister grew up on W. Fingerboard.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I won't be a rock star. I will be a legend. - Freddie Mercury

I'm just a musical prostitute, my dear.
I won't be a rock star. I will be a legend.




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sandy Grounds- Still Fighting

There is much to say about the area I live in. Not even the area but the exact spot for that matter. I live pretty much right next to the Rossville A.M.E Zion Church Cemetery. The only thing that separates my house from the cemetery is a fence and Woodrow Rd, not the larger part of Woodrow though the very very end on the other side of the dead end, over Bloomingdale Rd. I didn't know that this was there, until I took my daughter for a walk one day. I was very taken back when I went home and started researching it.
Crabtree Ave. once was a quiet dirt road no more the 3 yrs ago its now a cookie cutter lane with a old cemetery right in the midst of it.
This is what Crabtree Ave used to look like.

This cemetery is a NYC Land Mark. The location back then was called Sandy Grounds. It was one of the first free blacks community's  in the country, as well as a stop in the under ground rail road. Most of the families that migrated here came from Snow Hill, Maryland. They were mostly oysterman who where coming to Staten Island after hearing about the prominent oyster trade that Staten Island was making a name of. The under ground rail road central meeting place was built in 1850, it was called the Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. This area, Bloomingdale and Woodrow, is the oldest continuously settled free black community in the United States, and used to be refereed to as Little Africa, or sometimes Harrisville. After the oyster-beds became over worked the community figured out other means of survival such as blacksmithing, midwives, iorn working, and well digging. With the abolishment of slavery on July 4th 1827, all the hotels in Staten Island where booked and there was a massive celebration. It was a two day event in West New Brighton where people gave speeches and dreamed about what the future would bring them.

In 1963 a raging fire broke out and spread across the area, a lot of the buildings where lost, Sandy Ground suffering the most. There are still a few houses and Land Marks in the area. There are bids out on two cottages that sit on Bloomingdale to preserve and make landmarks. They both date at least as far back as 1854. To help give a voice to these buildings go here.

Fast forward to right now. A few weeks ago i had my sister Lisa over and we were walking down the street, it was dark out probably about 10 at night. She had been telling me about something she saw on the way to my house, she described it as a tall man dressed in a black coat and a fishermans hat. I shrugged it off. Then after about 15 minutes she stops and looks down this dirt road where they are building a fresh new line of cookie cutter houses right next to the old cemetery, and her face went completly blank. " There he is, hes looking at us." She said this and started to walk in that direction. Now I was completely freaked out so I grabbed her and we went back to my house. She was convinced and so she drew him up. Again i cant say I was convinced, as we had been drinking a little bit, but then again why would she lie? Now i havent talked about it in front of my daughter, but she seems to have picked up on something as well, she hasnt been sleeping and she screams about a ghost. She sits there and talks to nothing, like I mean full fledge conversation sitting in one spot looking directly at the same spot, when I asked her about it she just says " the ghost mommy, hide and seek". And thats just one account. Other times she tells me they are scaring her and that theres more then one. Now I know a lot of people want to chalk this up to a 2 year olds vivid imagination and imaginary friend, but could a 2 year old really be smart enough to make up lies and imaginary friends? I dont know the answer to this. 

For more info on this area visit Sandy Grounds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

1001 Richmond Hill Rd.

The David LaTourette House
 David LaTourette House

The LaTourette house was built in or around 1836. It's considered a federal-style brick mansion. The house was used as a farm by the family up until 1910. The family then sold the house to the city in 1928, and the city turned it into a club house in 1936 to accommodate the 18-hole golf course. The club house sits on Richmond Hill rd on the 540 acre golf course that became a land mark in 1968. It wasnt until 1982 it was included in the National Register of Historic Properties. The area the LaTourette House is on was once the location of a Revolutionary War-era fort, mills and quarries. George Washington visited the site as it was prepared for the defense of Staten Island.Two battles actually took place here, at the near by St. Andrews Church.

The club house is now used for many things. There is a pro shop in there as well as a restaurant. The golf course changes in the winter time and becomes a spot for children of all ages to go sleigh riding. They also hold a winter carnival each year. There is also over 500 acres of hiking trails. If your interested in any of these activities simply call 718-351-188. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Forget the Cookie Cutter Houses

These days when I look around SI i see what feels like the same houses over and over again. The semis and even the detached houses look exactly the same as the last. Builders are  trying to cram as many house on a single piece of land. This is going on right now by my house off ClayPitt. What was once a stop in the underground railroad is now the home to about 12 new semis. 
But SI wasn't always like this. Staten Island was once KNOWN for their beautiful homes with exquisite architecture. Were gong to take a look at some houses, old and new. 

This was listed as an actors home. The location is West Brighton.

Not really sure what the caption says other then West Brighton. It was too listed as an actors home.
Obviosly the Gustav House is beautiful, it was a great example of Italian Villa style home with its square cupola.
  This is the New Brighton Village Hall. The 1st one is what it once looked like while the 2nd is a now picture.  It has been abandoned since 1968.

Woodland Cottage became a landmark in 1982 and was built in 1845. One of the few left of the Gothic Revival look that was very popular in Clifton before suburbanization.

Tompkinsville looks nothing like this anymore. It was once a wealthy part as well as a desirable part of Staten Island to live in.
This Vanderbilt Home was one of 3 on SI. This one sat one New Drop Lane, but was moved back a few hundred feet. 
Couldn't really find much on this house, but it is beautiful.
Knowing what Stapleton looks like now, can you believe it once looked so nice?
Colonel William E. Ross built this as a replica of Windsor. First it was named Ross castle. It sat on a bluff over looking The Blazing Star Ferry.
Now lets compare:
Need I say more?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pictures Of The Castle

The Staten Island "Castle"

How beautiful is this? Known as Staten Island's Castle, but named S. R. Smith Infirmary. It was built in 1887 but opened in 1890, that makes it 123 years old. The history of this hospital runs deep, and the need to preserve it runs deeper. Look at it now:

After being abandoned for 31 years, there isn't much left. Covered in graffiti, and all boarded up. Though still beautiful. Amazingly the main structure remains in pretty good tact, but the inside is a whole other story. I am not really sure why the Landmark commission over looks this structure. With the current restoration of the old Sea View Hospital going on it seems very possible that this too could be saved. But then again what do I know?

      In 1861, a small hospital was established. It was a one room infirmary and severed the Island's 25,000 population. 3 years later it was relocated to Tompkins Ave. and renamed to S. R Smith. In a year end report dated in 1868 the total of patients was 88 and 57 of them where listed "cured". This was the 1st not-for-profit voluntary hospital in Staten Island. Also the first Charity Ball was held in honor of the hospital.

Much happened in the year of 1890, as the hospitals funds grew so did the need to accomadate a larger amount of people. So the Infirmary moved for the third time to a 6 acre site on Castleton Ave in New Brighton. By the end of that 1st year in its new location the Infirmary treated 346 inpatients and 600 out patients. The year of 1890 was big in the medical field, it was the year insect born infections was discovered. In 1898 military ships sailed into Snug Harbor with soldiers that were wounded in the Spanish-American war, they were treated at this facility. The name was officially changed in 1913 to The Staten Island Hospital.

 For a complete time line on the history of the hospital click HERE:

Inside staircase

Icame across a facebook page that is dedicated to protecting this structure, getting it land marked and restoring and using it. They do tours and rallies. On November 21st they are holding a meeting at the corner of Castleton Ave and Oxfordave and Cebra, New Brighton from 1-3.!/pages/Save-the-Castle-aka-SR-Smith-Infirmary/262347164433

The above link is to their facebook page.