In 1999, I was a COAHSI Premier Grant recipient to further my Tottenville history research to result in an interactive workshop presentation at Our Lady Help of Christians auditorium.
In 2000, the New York Public Library sponsored another presentation at the Tottenville branch.
This led in 2002 to a New York State Assembly Citation naming me one of the Staten Island Woman in History.
Those interactive presentations were amazing, with one incident repeating in my mind as I write this month’s blog post.
One man raised the question as to why I hadn’t discussed the1963 fire, to which my honest reply was that it was before I moved toTottenville, and I hadn’t found mention of it in my initial search at the St.George Library.
As he detailed the horror as a firefighter struggling to combat the fire with increasingly low water pressure on that day in April 1963, he also detailed the help from Tottenville residents. He told of a woman who started the assistance by pulling milk, juice and just about every form of liquid from her refrigerator, a desperate measure that other residents joined in to attempt to save their houses.
What struck me most, though, was when a woman in the audience called out his name and ran to embrace him. She was the woman of whom he was speaking who started the milk, juice process! The reunion of the two touched my heart, as it did that of the audience.
Now that’s Tottenville history coming alive, totally representative of the community spirit embedded in residents in the past, as it holds now in the present after the devastation of that more recent tragedy of the storm named Sandy last October.
“It would come to be known as “Black Saturday,” an afternoon of hell for hundreds of Staten Islanders who watched helplessly while their dreams were engulfed by runaway brush fires.” http://www.silive.com/specialreports/index.ssf/2011/03/firefighters_watch_helplessly.html
Other April events from Tottenville History
“It appears from a document filed with the City Division of Franchises that the original application of the New York and Staten Island Electric 'Company was dated April 20,1897, and that in this application the company agreed -to be subject to such reasonable regulations as might be prescribed by the village authorities. The company also promised, in case its application was granted, to light all public buildings in the village free of charge, to pay into the village treasury 1/2 of 1 per cent of its gross receipts and to purchase the existing lighting plant of the village for the sum of $250.” http://www.tottenvillememories.net/villageoftottenville.htm
“In April 1910, in response to a petition of 300 names, the Post Office Dept. changed the name to Bentley Manor. Supporters of the historic name, led by the D.A.R., responded with two petitions containing over 1,300 signatures. The Washington Post, dated November 5, 1910, reported the following: "Complying with a general request by citizens, Postmaster General Hitchcock yesterday ordered the name of the post office at Bentley Manor, N.Y.,changed to the old name of Tottenville." http://www.tottenvillehistory.com/History-Tottenville-Staten-Island-New-York/history-tottenville/All-Pages.html
“Landmarks designated nineteenth century home to prevent further destruction. On April 12, 2005, Landmarks held a public hearing and acted immediately to designate the James L. Bedell House; an 1874 single- family home located at 7484 Amboy Road in Tottenville and considered one of the best-preserved Second Empire style houses on Staten Island’s South Shore. Landmarks scheduled a public hearing to consider the house for designation after the owner, John Grossi, Jr., spraypainted the house bright orange and green.” http://www.citylandnyc.org/tag/james-l-bedell-house/?s=Tottenville,%20Staten%20Island
Landmarks Preservation Commission
April 12, 2005, Designation List 361
JAMES L. AND LUCINDA BEDELL HOUSE, 7484 Amboy Road, StatenIsland
Landmark Site: Borough of Staten Island, Tax Map Block 7900,Lot 5
This Month in the History of Tottenville
As I share events in March related to Tottenville through the years, I’d first like to share
an event I attended this month that shared significant information from the history of
On Sunday, March 24, 2013, in the Conference House kitchen,Barnett Shepherd gave a
sponsored by the Preservation League and the Conference House Association,
entitled “Staten Island Preservationists and Saving the Conference House.”
Author of Tottenville: The Town the Oyster Built,
Shepherd is an expert on history and restoration,
speaking with a passion of people who did so
much, as well as those currently continuing the
work, to preserve the Conference House along
with other places seeped in historical significance.
One slide of the Philemon Society Group portrait from 1898 came to life as Shepherd
introduced each of the women captured in it. As he shared a bit about them, he put faces to
the history this group accomplished.
His book is full of more information about them, including the club’s declaration of its
choice of name.
“The meaning of Philemon is love and love means kindness, cooperation, and
consideration for others.”
At the lecture, Shepherd shared how the Society, which first began as a literary group,
grew into a strong supporter and activist organization for the preservation of historical
Their new mission statement in 1909 when becoming
the Philemon Literary and Historical Society now
included zeroing in on the preservation of buildings,
making them the forerunners of current historic
preservation activism today.
“The object of the Society is to engage in and promote the study and love of literature,
history and patriotism to promote and urge the preservation of buildings and lands of
historical interest in the Borough of Richmond.”
As mentioned in last month’s blog, these women were instrumental in the establishment of
the Tottenville Library, which opened November 26,1904. This month, I’d like to share
what I learned from Shepherd about their part in the saving of the Conference House.
After sharing the history of ownership of the Conference House, Shepherd told how it was
in 1906 when the Philemon Group first took interest in the Conference House, now empty.
They continuedin their efforts to save the Billopp House, called by many the “Old Stone
House,” focusing on Borough President Jack Lynch to help.
It was William T. Davis’s later suggestion of stressing the importance of the
Peace Conference on Sept. 11, 1776 at the Billopp House, changing the name to the
Conference House, to take the emphasis away from Billopp, who was loyal to England,
that led on September 30, 1925 to the formation of the Conference House Association.
Officially opened to the public on May 15,1937, the Conference House restoration work
began in 1926.
Philemon Literary & Historical Society in Club Women of New York 1913-1914
Conference House History
The Preservation League of Staten Island
Publication Date: March 10,2010 Tottenville: The Town the Oyster Built
Release date: March 21,2011 | Series: Images of America (Arcadia Publishing) Tottenville
Tottenville through the years in March
March 7, 1788 -- New York State Legislature divides Staten Island into four towns:
Castleton, Northfield, Southfield, and Westfield.
March 11, 1888 --Sudden blizzard is among worst in city history; Father Drumgoole dies
of pneumonia after getting caught in storm.
“At the time of Carnegie's offer to fund branch libraries, the two-year-old Tottenville Free
Library had almost 3,400 volumes and was in need of its own building.
On March 16, 1901, the day that the Carnegie gift was announced in the newspapers,
Library Association President Frank Joline submitted an application for funding on behalf
of his Board of Trustees; two separate accounts claim that Tottenville's request was the
first filed with the City Comptroller, who "on reading it, said laughingly, that the
committee must have been at work before breakfast. “ The application was then presented
to the appropriate New York Public Library officers.”
Tottenville Evangelical Free Church “In March of 1958 the congregation voted to
withdraw from The Congregational Church Association, which was received on good
terms with well wishes from the Association. The church voted to join with The
“By 1969, there were 540,000 American troops in South Vietnam. It was not until
March 1973 that the last U.S. ground troops came home… In November 2008,during a
solemn ceremony, a monument was dedicated at Tottenville High School for the former
students who lost their lives during military service.”
Repairs needed – past and present
“Repairs were made to add piles placed at the pier foot of Bayway, Raritan Bay Park
Tottenville, by owners…finished March 18, 1902.”
“The city Parks Department is in the process of making repairs to the damaged bird blind
and a destroyed walkway bordering the beach in Conference House Park.
The bird-watching site and gravel trail that wrapped around it were hit hard by a
March 2010 nor'easter …”
People of Tottenville
“Patti Hansen, who is of Norwegian ancestry, was born and raised in the Tottenville
section of Staten Island, New York.” Birthday – March 17, 1956
William Frerichs died on March 16, 1905.
Paul Zindel died on March 27, 2003, at the age of 66.
“Paul Zindel, writer of young adult and children's books, was born in Tottenville in 1936,
and died in 2003 in Manhattan.”
I thought for this month’s blog that I would try something different. The month in history format is a popular way of gathering tidbits of history, so here goes with random events related toTottenville and its people that have February dates.
Please leave your comments about your interest in this attempt at a bit of the past followed by current events.
“In 1897 a group of women founded the Philemon Club (later known as the Philemon Literary and Historical Society), to pursue their interest in literature, art, science, civics, philanthropy, and music; their male counterparts established the Philo Debating Society.
“Spanish American War
Three views of Dorothy Day in February through the years from those posted on Catholic Worker from 1917 to 1970 with more information about her life.
Sharing a couple of articles that I wrote about Dorothy Day:
Carmine Mangino was born Feb. 12, 1949 and died Feb. 28, 2011. In memory of my late husband, I am sharing information on two organizations that were a big part of his life in Tottenville: our parish Our Lady Help of Christians and Boy Scout Troop/Post 46 out of Bethel Church at the now demolished Guthrie Memorial Scout Shack on Brighton Street.
Carmine found solace in our parish, developing an extra special personal rapport with Father Burke and Father Quinn (who under medication he mistakenly called Father Burke in the hospital, the highest compliment he subconsciously bestowed on Father Quinn.)
In addition, the Boy Scouts were such a huge part of his life in Tottenville, with him especially proud watching both of our sons progress to the highest rank of Eagle Scouts, something Carmine, due to circumstances at the time, had not been able to do himself as a young man.
Our Lady Help of Christians Church
Boy Scouts Troop 46 Guthrie Memorial Scout Shack
“The Staten Island Playwright’s Collective presented “Tailor-made,” a short story adapted into an original short play, in Wacky Love Shorts in February 2011. This led to their most recent presentation in February 2012 of 7 By 7: 7 Deadly Sinful Shorts, where I wrote of Pride in “In the House of Mourning.” From my interview with Tottenville writer Jaclyn Lurker http://www.angiemangino.com/blog/People+of+Tottenville.aspx
This month Staten Island Parent Magazine published What is Love? the second of a 3part series ReBuild, ReNew, ReCover that I’ve written for them, which begins on page 72. The storm named Sandy continues to impact Tottenville, as well as so many thousands elsewhere.
It is a new year full of new possibilities, yet so much residue of the sadness of last year is still affecting too many people. Many of us are able to be “back to normal,” but unfortunately, too many of our neighbors are not.
Pauline Murphy published a video onYouTube on Nov 1, 2012 called
“Hurricane Sandy: Unforgettable Images of the "Forgotten Borough"
I am writing a three-month series called “Rebuild. Renew. Recover.” for Staten Island Parent Magazine covering how Staten Islanders are all in this together as the long process to full renewal and recovery unfolds. Together we will rebuild our Island, forgetting no one along the way.
Part one is in the January issue titled “New Year Resolutions,” which begins on page 42.
I am most interested in your comments to what I wrote for them.
Since this is a Tottenville history blog, here are two links specifically connected to Tottenville and the storm, since current events are our history in the making.
Tottenville Historical Society: Aftermath of Sandy in Tottenville
Faces of the storm: Staten Island teen lit the way to safety
Wishing you every blessing of the New Year, I hope you are well, and ask that you please do not forget your neighbors. --Angie
November / December 2012
So much sadness occurring recently has challenged the holidays this year.
Deaths, homes and possessions lost, killing of innocent children and teachers, all weigh heavy on our hearts.
However, to disregard the holidays completely is to do a disservice to ourselves. Of course, we do not need the commercial aspect of the holidays that tears us from the real meaning of them. Yet we need holidays, to take a step out of our everyday lives, to reflect on that which we do have, and on that which we can give. That goodness keeps us on the path of defeating evil. It is what makes us truly human.
No one can do everything to make our world better, and to eliminate all pain, but every one can do something to try. Together, just imagine what we can do!
Staten Island Parent Magazine asked me to do their December cover story about the holidays on Staten Island this year, as well as to begin a series in January reflecting on the recovery.
The Holidays on Staten Island This Year by AngieMangino
Some years ago, Our Lady Help of Christians Church gave out a flyer by an Unknown Author that I framed to put out with my Christmas decorations each year since then. I would like to share it with those who may not have seen it, as both a holiday gift and an appropriate reminder at this time for all of us.
It says what is in my heart right now better than I can as I wish all of you a blessed holiday season and New Year.
“If I decorate my house perfectly with red and green bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though hurried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure forever.”
After Sandy, all I had planned for this issue no longer seems appropriate to write now. Rather than totally skipping an October blog, I think it important to try to resume some sense of normalcy in a surreal time for the people of Tottenville and all of Staten Island. This disaster was worse than imagined.
There was some damage to my home – destroyed outdoor light fixture, fallen tree, rip at top corner of house, and a snapped electrical pole by my house that caused a power outage from Monday at 7pm until a temporary repair could make it safe to restore power on Thursday at 8pm. I was one of the lucky ones.
Friends were staying with me who evacuated from their Zone A home in Oakwood Beach. When they were able to return home, they discovered a flooded destroyed home and car,and are now staying with me until they can rebuild their lives.
To me, the most important lesson from this storm is the importance of life. Our “stuff” is replaceable. Our lives are not. Too many people died on Staten Island to protect their homes, not believing that this storm could become as devastating as it was. This tragic loss just adds additional wounds to an already hurt community.
I see recovery as a twofold process. Those with loss must take both the practical and the emotional steps to recovery. The practical is to save anything, and then recover with the assistance of their insurance, help available from FEMA, and the support of others who want to help. The emotional healing comes from working through the stages of grief, supported by loved ones and the community,both mourning lost lives and the loss of homes.
The outreach on Staten Island was fantastic! Even before agencies came, the churches, local groups, and citizen volunteers went into action on the streets to help. Water and food was there for them as people cleared their homes, along with needed gloves, boots, clothes,towels, blankets, and care boxes of toiletries, as others helped with debris cleanup to lighten the load.
Most important of all was the hands-on moral support of neighbor helping neighbor, who gave the gift of both support and hope to get through a most difficult and devastating time.
As life returns to normal for those not in th edirect path of destruction, please remember to keep reaching out to those who will be continuing to rebuild their lives one slow step at a time. Together we can heal!
On August 16, Teresa Carpenter shared from her book New York Diaries at Fraunces Tavern Museum. A project that took hers even years, Carpenter used 120 diaries, making her selection based on how the entry affected her, discovering many tiny details about NewYork from them.
What a wonderful setting for this talk by presenting it at Fraunces Tavern Museum!
Built in 1719 as Stephan Delaney’s residence, it became a popular tavern when Samuel Fraunces bought it in 1762. George Washington gave his farewell address here to the Continental Army officers in 1783, since many pre-Revolutionary activities took place within its walls.
When New York was our country’s first capital, The Department of War, Treasury, and Foreign Affairs rented the tavern for its offices. The Sons of the Revolution bought this historic building in 1904, returning it to its colonial state, opening to the public as a museum in 1907.
I could relate to the many hours Teresa Carpenter spent on her project, since my own research of the history of Tottenville involved more time than I ever anticipated on the research. Her talk inspired me with an idea about which I’d like to reach out to you, my readers.
Do any of you have any diaries from people in Tottenville? Your own, a parent’s, grandparent’s, or one found in your Tottenville home when you bought it? What a magnificent source of information and inspiration they would be!
I am basing Tottenville Speaks on the premise of the people from our town, both from the past and presently, sharing their lives with readers.
So, please join into this project.
Either comment on this blog post or send me an email at AngieMangino@aol.com and let’s make sure this written record becomes a reality, teaching future generations about the people of our wonderful town.
When thinking of Tottenville, one first thinks of the Conference House, the site of a 1776 peace conference that was unsuccessful in putting an end to the Revolutionary War.
On June 30 this location not only offered a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Staten Island OutLOUD during the day, but was also the subject of a fundraiser in the evening at St. Sylvester’s Parish Hall on Targee Street to generate funds to continue all that it offers.
Kill-her Entertainment hosted a show, Shake, Rattle, and Roll Over Dead, which was the main event of an evening that included a buffet by Little Italy Gourmet with beer, wine, and soda to benefit the Conference House. The cast presented an entertaining mystery that got one’s grey cells working to solve the murder, while they tickled one’s funny bone with the performance's witty lines.
With a scene set at the Trailer Park Music Award Show, country and rock stars compete for the Artist of the Year award when things get shook up with an untimely murder.
The talented cast included:
Nikki Lauren as Maybelline Hortown
Vinnie Mazella as Billy Bob Hortown
Natalie Wilder as Polly Darton/ Amia Pain
Christine Reinhart as Pat Rentacar
Charlie McLaughlin as Johnny Crash
Joseph Smith as Pelvis Esley
Mary McConnell as Patsy Kleinberg
Kimberly Cantoni as Daisy May Due
And Nate Ullrich as Abner Little
After the show, winners of the Chinese Auction to further benefit the Conference House received their prizes and yours truly was the happy recipient of a framed photograph of the Conference House donated by BorisVinokur.
Summer - 3
South Shore Artists
On June 2, in honor and memory of Shirley O. Witte, the South Shore Artists Group presented the 45 annual Conference House Art Show, returning this year after the one absence in 45 years last year when they could not secure the location with the Parks Department not having the funds to provide the needed rows of fencing. So this year, the group brought their own purchased portable fencing to be able to return to their traditional site.
Shirley became part of the group in October 1988, and by June 1990 began chairing the annual Conference Art Show, which she was to do for twenty years. She served 2 terms as President, and twenty years as treasurer. The Group described her lovingly.
“Shirley had a warm and nurturing nature. Her beautiful watercolors mirrored her serenity. She was a treasure that we will never forget.”
I was not feeling well the day of the exhibit, but once there, the beautiful works of art and the artists I met, made me glad I pushed myself to attend. That night I was exhausted, but speaking with artists like 90-year-old Rose Mammana gave me a surge of energy to enjoy the event. A Tottenville resident since 1970, Rose was one of the early members of the South Shore Artists Group.
In 1945, Thea Wilbur Olsen and three artist friends started the Group to paint on a regular basis. They always met on Tuesday, first at Wolf’s Pond, then at Richmond Memorial Hospital. Their group gained more artists, with their first art show at the Chevrolet dealership on Main Street.
Now 40 members, both men and women, still meet on Tuesdays at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church Hall in Eltingville, with a long waiting list of artists wanting to join.
Kathy Krantz Fieramosca, who currently teaches at the Art Lab in Snug Harbor, was the judge for the event.
First Place Awards went to Elliot Appel for oil acrylic, Thomas Birardi for photography, and Jean Wright for watercolor.
Honorable Mention went to Vito Armetta, Mafalda Cento, Dominic Denaro, Susan Ippolito, Karen Ladley, Renee Lichtman, Michael Sarapuchiello, Barbara Sekolski, and Everet Artist/Designer.
Theadora Hadzi won the Student First Place Award, with Rita Moog winning the Participant Award.
Our Lady Help of Christians parish, founded in 1898, was active even prior to its founding. In 1890, a house on Yetman & Craig Avenues was the site of the first Mass in Tottenville. At the Centennial Mass in 1998, Cardinal O’Connor used that very same silver chalice from that first Mass.
With respect for the past, and hope for the future, the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians continues to be an integral part in the lives of its parishioners. In the true sense of community, the parish holds an annual picnic on the Sunday closest to the May 24th feast day of Our Lady Help of Christians.
What I find particularly important about this annual celebration is the tradition of the entire community gathered to socialize, catch up with each other, and continue the religious significance of Jesus having us break bread together.
There’s something very down to earth when that bread holds hot dogs, burgers, or sandwiches,
since it touches the very practical application of the scriptures in our everyday lives.
“They will know we are Christians by our love,” applies with the loving work of the volunteers, the observance of the children in their Communion outfits at the May Crowning, and the laughter of the children and adults alike at the games, rides, and other activities.
Personally, this has become a tradition for my grandson and me.
Having been away on vacation on Mother’s Day this year, I had my family gather on May 20th as our Mother’s Day celebration this year. (Hallmark does not determine for me when our family can celebrate.)
As my kids cleaned up the yard and fired up the grill, my grandson Gino and I snuck out to go up to OLHC not to miss the time together there.
This year I witnessed the past and future come together. My son Joe went through OLHC grammar school in class with John Ruggeri. After the picnic this year, Gino came running into my yard to tell Uncle Joe how he made new friends at the Feast Day Picnic with John’s daughters.
Yes, traditions of the past carry forward to hope for the future!
History of feast ofOur Lady Help of Christians