In 1998 while researching for the centennial anniversary of Our Lady Help of Christians church, I found a fascinating book stored in reference at the Tottenville Public Library.
In 1950 Benjamin Franklin Joline self published a portrait of Tottenville entitled Tottenville in Retrospect. The book’s narrative began in 1668. History came alive for me as I read of the people of Tottenville, recognizing their names from the street names of the town. The only problem I found was that it ended in 1898, the year Staten Island became part of New York City, and the year with which I had wanted to start!
Where was the history of the next 100 years?
The Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) awarded a grant in 1999 to continue my research to answer that question and to hold an interactive workshop at Our Lady Help of Christians Auditorium on September 24 of that year.
In 2000, the New York Public Library sponsored another workshop at the Tottenville Branch, and in 2002, the N.Y. State Assembly named me a Staten Island Woman in History. The 50 Plus show at the local Community TV station interviewed me about this work and Gabe Pressman’s report on Tottenville on WNBC included reference to my work.
Life intervened to put my work on hold, but today, thanks to the work of the Tottenville Historical Society, I find a renewed interest in the history of Tottenville at a time when I have more hours to devote to sharing the deluge of information I had discovered.
First, there was Tottenville, The Town the Oyster Built by Barnett Shepherd, which accounts for those 100 missing years, and just recently a book by the Tottenville Historical Society on Tottenville in the Images of America series of Arcadia Publishing.
I now see the direction my own book-in-progress is to follow as I write biographical essays on people from Tottenville from my perspective as a Tottenville resident since 1978. Which raised the question, what am I to do with the volume of over ten years of research that will now not be in the book? Thus this blog is born.
Come on a journey with me each week to delve into the history of our town and to share your comments to assist me in the direction the sharing of all this information takes.