Staten Island is calling. 2020 was the first year I didn’t set foot on the island of myth since Forgotten New York began “principal photography” in 1998. In fact I rented a room at a Rosebank B&B across the street from the Alice Austen House in February 2005 for easy access while I was shooting the pictures for Forgotten New York The Book. Covid crisis or no covid crisis, I intend to break the schneid as soon as the glaciers melt in springtime 2021. Maybe I’ll even rent another room.
Meanwhile, here’s a photo from February 2016 when I was scuttling around Charleston, a.k.a. Kreischerville. The following year I had a very well received FNY tour in the area, which I had on the 2020 schedule for a return trip before you know what happened.
The crown jewel of Kreischerville is its remaining mansion at Arthur Kill Road and Kreischer Street.
Before the Kresicher brickworks arrived this was called Androvetteville after a landowning family. In 1850, there were only about thirty scattered dwellings. Balthazar Kreischer had arrived in the USA 1836 from Bavaria and was immediately tasked with rebuilding lower Manhattan, much of which had been destroyed in a December 1835 fire. Later, Kreischer was tipped off about the clay deposits in the region by fellow German immigrant Nicholas Killmeyer in 1850. Kreischer returned the favor and set up Killmeyer in the grocery business: his store is still in place at Winant Place and Arthur Kill Road
Balthazar’s son Charles constructed this grand Stick-Style mansion on 4500 Arthur Kill Road just south of Englewood Avenue in 1885; his brother Edward’s identical building was on the adjoining plot. In the 1990s, it was rumored that George Harrison, who was taking cancer treatments on the island, had expressed an interest in purchasing the mansion, but changed his mind when security concerns became a problem. In the early 2000s the house was completely renovated.
The chimneys are made of yellow Kreischer brick.
The mansion has a recent infamous reputation. It was a used as a mob-owned restaurant until 1996; in 2008 caretaker Joseph “Joe Black” Young, a hitman employed by the Bonanno crime family, was charged and convicted for the brutal murder of a mob associate in 2005.
Over a century earlier, Edward Kreischer committed suicide at the brick factory, and those who believe in ghosts say Edward can be seen roaming the halls of his brother’s mansion.
In February 2016, I could wander on the lawn right up to the building as bold and brazen as you please and get terrific shots like this, but the house has been fenced off since then. I wonder what its fate will be.