Aren’t All Trees Magnificent?

Aren’t All Trees Magnificent?

When I began working at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in 1985, the search was on. We were looking for trees that would fit the bill for “The Great Trees of New York City” program. Sure enough, we had plenty of great trees at Clay Pit, including sandy barren survivalists like the Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana and Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida. The ladder species only releasing its seeds when its fire heated cone burst open. We also had the most stunning assortment of oak trees that could ever be imagined. Those wild and crazy oaks mixed and mingled till it was almost impossible to identify the new varieties they had formed. This was when the great naturalist Carlton Beil was alive to focus in on these wonders. Hell’s bells he loved them all and he spent...

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The Augustinian Academy

The Augustinian Academy

In 2016, the Augustinian friars informed Our Lady of Good Counsel that owing to a dwindling population of clergy they were leaving Staten Island, a location they had served for 117 years. It was in 1899, that the Augustinians agreed to establish a school for boys on the island. The original school was in the vicinity of Austin Place in Tompkinsville. It was named Catholic High School of Richmond Borough. Seeking expansion, ground was broken in 1923, off Howard Avenue on Grymes Hill, for a new school to be named Augustinian Academy. Augustinian Academy welcomed both students and postulants. Hence it was also considered a “minor seminary” that assisted young men to join the order. The population of students was always small. Between 1899 and 1969, when the last...

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Goats and Home Buying in the 1920’s

Goats and Home Buying in the 1920’s

I know you have all been wondering about this, so I thought it was important to share… 🙂 During the 1920s, 130 Staten Islanders had licenses to keep goats. Yes, you needed a license to own a goat at this time. It was common to see goats in Rosebank, Old Place, at Lambert’s Lane and around Chelsea. On the south shore goats were a problem for the railroad as the belligerent livestock often stood on the tracks and halted trains. Conductors had to get off the trains and manually remove the goats themselves. But change came and the Board of Health began cracking down on goat keeping. Realtors too were anxious to rid the borough of goats since the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing would soon bring in new residents who wanted to buy new houses in goat-less...

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“I Was Expected to Pave Them.”

“I Was Expected to Pave Them.”

Twelve million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. The majority were Italian. Most were escaping the rural poverty of Southern Italy. By 1900, there were 200,000 Italians in the City of New York. In ten years the population more than doubled. At this time, it stood at 545,000 and it was increasing. The men were mainly laborers. They built streets, buildings, walls, subway lines and more. There was an old Italian saying: “Well I came to American because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here I found out three things, first, the streets weren’t paved with gold, second, they weren’t paved at all, and third I was expected to pave them.” There is little history on the early Italians who worked or settled on Staten Island. But, there is one...

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Help!

Help!

Museums, a botanical garden and even a zoo! Every cultural organization on Staten Island does the best they can. They are all underfunded and understaffed. You would be amazed at how few full-time workers are at each of these institutions and you would be amazed at all that they accomplish. All are blessed with part-time workers, volunteers, contracted individuals, etc. Historic Richmond Town and Snug Harbor are also, I do not want to use the word burdened, but it is an appropriate word, by structures that are old, historic and outdated. They are extremely difficult to maintain. Staten Island organizations include the Noble Maritime Collection, the Tottenville Historical Society, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Conference House, the Staten Island Museum,...

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They Don’t Build Them Like That Anymore!

They Don’t Build Them Like That Anymore!

I was in Graniteville last fall and took a few pictures on Willow Road West. I was so happy to see that a few of the simpler Italianate buildings that I remember from my youth were still standing. Italianate architecture is characterized by the presence of a low-pitched roof, decorative brackets under an ornamental cornice, and tall narrow windows that are sometimes shaped differently from story to story. These lovely buildings are usually two to three stories high. The Graniteville structures were altered, but they were still standing. A rare occurrence for an older building on Staten Island. When I saw that one house had a year emblazoned across the top, I was thrilled. Seeing those years preserved on an historic building has brought me joy since I was a...

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The Hiker: Dashing, debonair, and adventurous…

The Hiker: Dashing, debonair, and adventurous…

A bronze statue stands at the corner of Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Tompkinsville Park. Dashing, debonair, and adventurous he is called “The Hiker.” This likeness is in honor of Teddy Roosevelt’s First United States Volunteer Cavalry. They were called “The Rough Riders” and they are credited with taking San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was a victorious charge. “The Hiker” is also said to represent Joseph S. Decker, a Staten Islander who was killed during that war. The late Marjorie Decker-Johnson was a descendant of the young man. According to Mrs. Johnson unbeknownst to his mother, Joseph joined the National Guard. Buried in Cuba, he was disinterred and reburied at the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery in...

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