On Saturday, July 12th, 2014, 15 ForgottenFans took advantage of yet more pleasant weather (sunny, 85 degrees), taking the ferry and Staten Island Railway to Stapleton, Staten Island, where we walked for about 3 hours, viewing the mostly 19th Century architecture of Harrison Street and St. Paul’s Avenue. We were served refreshments at the home of Mirjana Luczun, chairman of the local Mud Lane Society (“Mud Lane” was a colloquialism for St. Paul’s Avenue before it was paved) and were given a mini-tour of the Bechtel Mansion, the largest and most ornate dwelling on the avenue. We then walked back to the ferry, seeing additional homes on St. Paul’s Avenue along the way.
The Vanderbilt family held much land in the Stapleton area in the early 19th century; in 1836 Minthorne Tompkins (the son of Vice President Daniel Tompkins) and merchant William Staples established a ferry to Manhattan and founded the village at Bay and Water Streets. German immigrants built numerous breweries in the area in the 1800s including Bachmann, Bechtel, and Piels, whose brewery was in business on Staten Island until 1963.
Stapleton was incorporated in 1866 along with Clifton and part of Tompkinsville into the Village of Edgewater and became the seat of the village government and courts. Stapleton’s 1889 Edgewater Village Hall designed by Paul Kuhne (a New York City Landmark) joined Staten Island’s two banks (Staten Island Savings Bank and Bank of Staten Island), two illumination-gas companies and four newspapers. In 1886 the consolidated rail and ferry service of the Staten Island Rapid Transit replaced the direct Stapleton to New York ferry.
During the Civil War, Staten Island was home to abolitionists and pro-Union residents as well as those who bemoaned the loss of trade with the South. When the draft was passed in 1863, Stapleton had to confront rioters who, protesting the unfairness of the law, broke into a building on Van Duzer Street and other places used as drill halls.
Among the most notable and strangest aspects of Stapleton’s history was the presence of the National Football League, which fielded a team known as the Staten Island Stapletons here from 1929 through 1932. They played in Thompson Stadium at Beach Street and Tompkins Avenue in what is now occupied by the Stapleton Public Houses.
Harrison Street, often referred to as “The Nook,” was developed roughly between 1840 and 1900. It was named for Dr. John Talbot Harrison, one-term State Assemblyman and Chief Health Officer of the Quarantine Station in the nearby neighborhood of Tompkinsville, which was developed by Daniel D. Tompkins, the United States Vice President under James Monroe. It is a proposed NYC Landmarked District, and the Mud Lane Society hopes to push through landmarking through some local opposition. FNY and the Greater Astoria Historical Society support such an action, and urge you to contact 49th District Councilwoman Debi Rose, 130 Stuyvesant Place (6th Floor) , Staten Island, NY 10301, 718-556-7370 if you agree with the Harrison Street landmarking proposal.
Photos from Tour #81 by Joe DeMarco and Jean Kweskin-Siegel.
For tour information email me at email@example.com or Greater Astoria Historical Society at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @LIChistory