FORGOTTENTOUR #66 RECAP: Tottenville, Staten Island

by Kevin Walsh

All good things come to an end and ForgottenTour #66 in Tottenville marked the end of a good-luck weather streak that had lasted the latter part of 2011 and all of 2012, as downpours of varying intensity marked the day’s events. The crowd was kept down by the rain as well. We’ll have to invest in plastic slipcases for our notes! We will return some year.

Tottenville is the southernmost tip of Staten Island, and within it is the southernmost point in New York State. British naval officer captain Christopher Billopp was its first European settler in 1678, and within a couple of years, had built a stone mansion at the foot of today’s Hylan Boulevard that would figure prominently in American history as the Conference House. The Billopps remained Tories, loyal to the British, throughout the Revolution and so had their lands confiscated at the end of the Revolution. The story goes that Staten Island is a part of New York State, not New Jersey, because Capt. Billopp won a bet that he could circumnavigate Staten Island in one day.

When I first visited Tottenville in the 1970s, it was rather more rural and insular than it is today, when new housing developments are springing up, almost one per year. Tottenville’s southern area remains undeveloped, with large swaths of forest and tall bluffs overlooking the junction of Raritan Bay and the Arthur Kill (the waterway’s name is derived from the Dutch Achter Kill, or “back river.”)

On this visit we had a guided tour of the historic Conference House (seen in the title card) and had an unusual treat when were invited in by the pastors of the Virgin Mary and St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, Craig Avenue and Main Street. A couple hours later, we enjoyed Staten Island’s greatest ice cream (though Ralph’s in Port Richmond may dispute that) at Eggers on Amboy Road.

Tour photos and identifications on Flickr. All pix by Joe De Marco. Click on each photo for a brief description.

FNY’s previous Tottenville swing



Frank May 24, 2013 - 5:07 am

Thanks so much for sharing your tour photos. I am sorry the weather didn’t cooperate. I grew up in Tottenville and am now in Boston. I recognized the old Stadium Theatre (closed long before I lived there) and the library, and of course, the Conference House. There was a pavilion at the end of the road when I was growing up but that is long gone.
I really like your site and look forward to all your entries.
Many thanks.

Kimberly November 21, 2014 - 10:45 pm

I am working on some family history and have just had a journal of my second great grandfather translated. He was Swiss, and wrote in German. He landed in New York in 1867 and wound his way down to Rossville and Tottenville before lighting out for the west. Thanks to your site, I now have some pictures in my mind to go with his journal. In fact, he mentions some people that I have seen mentioned in map and houses on your site.

Thanks y’all!

Margie Reeves (now Stevens) November 28, 2019 - 9:48 pm

I grew up there on Rockaway Street. At that time the crossroads (as we called them) were dirt. Billopp and Clearemont (sp?) were both dirt. My street only had curbstones at the top on one side, Hylan Blvd, and sidewalks that went in front of an empty house, empty lot, and then in front of three houses where people lived. On the odd side of the street.

It went all the way to Surf Avenue then (Surf Avenue went from Brighton to Loretto streets – I see it’s all gone now and moved a bit further north. There was nothing between Loretto Street and Sprague Avenue except beach and light forest. There was a good deal of forest on Loretto Street between Clearmont and Hylan Blvd. One house in that area.

It was a great place to grow up


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