January 2020 seems like a million years ago, coming as it did before the Great Infection. It was a mild month, compared to how some Januaries are in NYC, with clear, calm weather punctuated by a heat wave mid-month when outside it attained room temperature, 68 degrees, and I walked the 9 miles from Little Neck to Forest Hills.
On this occasion I had taken a train to Great Kills, Staten Island, and stalked around Great Kills, Eltingville, Annadale and Huguenot before an early sunset sent me to the Staten Island Railway. I took a look for Jack’s Pond, off Ramble Road south of Amboy Road. It’s hard to find if you aren’t looking for it and is one of a series of small ponds and lakes scattered all around the island.
Jack’s Pond was named, the story goes, in 1878 when Jack’s Ice House opened for business in Great Kills. Ice, of course, was delivered to houses before the age of widespread refrigeration and Staten Island, with its numerous small ponds, also had several ice houses. When winters were colder than now, Jack’s must have been a natural for ice skating and hockey.
The word “kill” is often seen in staten Island place names like Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull and Great Kills. It’s a Dutch word meaning “creek” or “channel.” Arthur Kill is an English bowdlerization of Dutch words meaning “the other channel” and has nothing to do with the Round Table or murdering anyone named Arthur.
Great Kills was originally named Cairedon and Newtown until the two regions became large enough to combine. At first the combined town was called Giffords, after a local surveyor and roads commissioner Daniel Gifford; his name survives in Gifford’s Lane. Great Kills was adopted in 1865 after a short stint as Honeywood, a name that survived in early telephone exchanges. I’m unsure what body of water “great kills” refers to but the largest one nearby is Raritan Bay.
At the southeastern corner of the neighborhood is the Staten Island Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which was formerly known as Great Kills Park. Immediately to the west of this is a harbor and marina, home of the Great Kills Yacht Club. Many residents refer to Great Kills Park as Crooke’s Point, and Sergey explored it in 2018.