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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A Staten Island Revelation from Eleanor Roosevelt!

A Staten Island Revelation from Eleanor Roosevelt!

I was researching online at the New York Public Library website when I came across a postcard featuring the Vincent Catanese Orchestra in a Staten Island postcard collection. Wondering who Vincent Catanese was, I did an online search. I found information. It was from, of all people, Eleanor Roosevelt. In her “My Day” column for July 6, 1940, Eleanor wrote that she and Franklin were at a ceremony to celebrate his Presidential Library at Hyde Park, New York. In describing the events of the day Mrs. Roosevelt wrote: “At about 6:00 o’clock the President came back… Mr. Bowers sang for us again, accompanied on the guitar by Mr. Vincent Catanese, who has his own orchestra on Staten Island. Mr. Catanese was really remarkable, for he was able to play almost any song...

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Remembering the Old Place Mill…

Remembering the Old Place Mill…

All Staten Island mills were meeting places where farmers could share the latest news while their grain was ground. This began in Old Place around 1804, when a tide mill was built on the Old Place Creek. According to historian Loring McMillen, the mill was near what is now the Goethal’s Bridge toll booth. Early on the mill was owned by Judge Daniel Mersereau, but during 1811, it was up for sale. The ad read “a merchant’s flour mill… with bolts complete, and all the necessary machinery for carrying on an extensive establishment. Also, a saw mill adjoining these premises; a good dwelling house, with two kitchens, and sufficient room for the miller and cooper. A good cooper’s shop, together with 18 acres of good land; a large pond of water and the greatest plenty of...

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Dueling on Staten Island?

Dueling on Staten Island?

Dueling on Staten Island? Yes, it’s true. An area west of what became the historic Black Horse Tavern served as the locale for dueling between British officers during the Revolutionary War. They were settling gaming obligations. One incident involved British Army General Robertson and a French officer named Vollogne. The duel left Vollogne with a bullet in his chest. Several months later he passed away at Quebec from the injury. By today’s reckoning the Black Horse Tavern area would have been located in New Dorp, west of what is now the intersection of Amboy and Richmond Roads. This dueling ground also saw a match “between young Hamilton and Lathrop.” The first was the son of Alexander Hamilton, who himself was famously killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804....

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Staten Island’s First President…

Staten Island’s First President…

Next President’s Day let’s remember Staten Island’s first Borough President George Cromwell. A Brooklyn native who was born on July 3, 1860, his father bought an estate at what would later be called Dongan Hills. The estate itself would be known as “Far View Farm.” A graduate of Yale, George became a successful lawyer, as well as a politician and a scientific farmer (like Frederick Law Olmsted and William H. Vanderbilt). Elected to the New York State Assembly for one term in 1888, Cromwell sponsored a number of important bills including the Arbor Day Bill, removal of the Quarantine burial ground at Princes Bay, the establishment of a cemetery on Swinburne Island and a fish and oyster protection bill. After the City of New York was consolidated George Cromwell...

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Questions from Mexico…

Questions from Mexico…

A journalist from Mexico recently contacted me regarding Staten Island. He asked me what made the borough different from the rest of New York City? He also wanted to know what the island and the other boroughs had in common? A book could be written in answer to his questions, but this was my response. Please let me know what you think should be added? Staten Island is different from the rest of New York City for a number of reasons. The borough is a bedroom community that is, for the most part, financially dependent on the City of New York. Many of the island’s residents work and commute to Manhattan, and to a lesser extent, the other boroughs. Many inhabitants are employed on “Wall Street” in the Financial District. Others work in mid-town, while vast...

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