JACK’S POND, Great Kills

by Kevin Walsh

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.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

8/14/20

7 comments

George Panos August 14, 2020 - 6:09 pm

Just moved here in dec. Oakwood heights. Still learning all the spots and all the wildlife. Just left gtkills beach.

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Bill December 5, 2020 - 1:16 am

Great Kills had dozens or large ponds, brooks and streams as I recall from the 1960s. Very few remain. We would make rafts to go fishing and to catch frogs and salamanders. One is Kingfiser Park and another at Evergreen Park. All the streams are now underground, submerged for development.

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providence August 14, 2020 - 6:47 pm

Always interested in history of places..TY

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Karen Carella August 14, 2020 - 7:51 pm

Have you ever heard of the Vanderbuilt Motor Parkway? Or the Brooklyn Queens Greenway? We ride our bikes on this and would love a map of what it looked like way back when.

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Anonymous August 16, 2020 - 2:26 pm

I thought Jacks pond was named after a huge turtle

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Joshua Best October 12, 2020 - 10:14 am

Come back and take another look at Jack’s Pond now, JAnuary 2020 was the middle of massive renovation and ecological enhancement project which is now mostly complete. Pond has much more water, stone and cedar rail fences, and wetland plantings, fish restocked, etc now.

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Albert, Roscoe and Jackie Boy December 13, 2020 - 5:01 pm

I had walked my three small Dog’s down to Jack’s Pond and through the wooded path to Hillside Terrace for almost 19 years. The Dog’s loved the walk and so did I. During this walk you might have met up with area neighbor Johnny Wheel’s. John could tell you about the flora and fauna of Jack’s Pond and even some back history. Yes the pond was loaded with turtles a couple of bullfrogs, small sunfish and catfish. And strangely enough large fresh water clams. But it had also fallen on hard-times in where it had filled in with sediment from runoff over the years. Just like Joshua alluded to above the renovation project has turned it into an outstanding hidden gem. I would also like to mention the community at times took it upon themselves to clean up the neglected marsh weeds and overgrowth. Kudos Guy’s, you know who you are.
And lastly God Bless your spirit Johnny Karl.

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