Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tottenville - the town the oyster built.

                     Tottenville is considered the "End of New York". Its located on the southern most tip of Staten Island. Tottenville is home to many historic sites, and land marks. The Billop House is the southern most building in New York state and was built in 1898, in the late 17th century when Staten Island was an independent county. It was built by Captain Christopher Billop, and played a big part in Revolutionary War history, which Tottenville played some part in. The Totten family, in the 18th century owned a large amount of land on the island. After a few different names such as Unionville and Bently Dock, it was settled that the town would be called Tottenville. The towns name was changed in 1869. 

             The confrence house was also built by Christopher Billop in 1678, the family owned the house as well as the surrounding area through to 1776, when the failed meeting took place. In 1784 the property was taken over because the Billop family were Tories. 

           In the early 1900's Tottenville was a thriving town, filled with business and well known familys. Staten Island became part of New York State/city in 1898. Tottenville, with the use of the ferry that crossed the Aurther Kill into Perth Amboy, was the center of trade and travelers coming from Philly. The streets where lined with mom and pop shops and new stores and family owned businesses, even small factories, such as the Terra Cotta plant that produced decorations for the city's first skyscraper, the Woolworth Building, as well as some of the houses in Sea View. Ship and boat building were also major factors if income to Tottenville, with WWI the revival of boat building was underway though short lived and the last ship yard in Staten Island closed in 1930. Tottenville, in the late 1800's into the early 1900's was known for oyster distribution. Most of the fanciest and lavish houses built at the end of the 19th century, were built for oyster mongols. Places as far away as Europe where getting their oysters from this island. But in 1921 the farming of oysters was shut down by the New York City health department due to pollution and thus making them unsafe and unclean.  Rumors where going around that some people are trying to revive the oyster beds in Raritan Bay. The oysters actually filter the water and clean it out so this would be beneficial in more then one way. Unfortunately NJ state officials put an end to this saying that the water is not clean enough to do this and that they do not have the means to support the project long enough to find the outcome. They had to destroy all the oyster beds that they took over 2 years to build up. 
         With the opening of the outterbridge crossings in 1928, there was little need for the Peth Amboy ferry and it was used less and less until it shut down for good in 1963.Tottenville is a beautiful town with all the big old houses and sea front property, but no longer carries the charm that it once did, and no longer thrives as it had a long time ago. I love it over there though, the parks are beautiful as are all the trees and old houses, some places still look like something out of the early 1900's, with the big yards and houses on top of hills.

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