Tottenville’s history begins in 1676 with a crown grant by James, Duke of York, to British sea captain Christopher Billop, of 932 acres of land in what is now Tottenville. With a second crown grant in 1687 to “the Manor Bentley,” his land grew to 1630 acres, covering all of Tottenville. Billop built his house, what we know as the Conference House, around 1680, giving it the name Bentley after a ship he had commanded.
As for me, I discovered Tottenville in 1978 when my husband and I moved here with our two young sons, both under the age of two. Take a woman from the Bronx, bring her to an apartment on Sanford Street which did not have a sidewalk in front of it at the time, but did have the landlord’s rooster which woke her each morning with its ungodly “cock-a- doodle-doo,” and as you can imagine, I was not initially a happy camper.
“What do you mean there’s no Chinese restaurant in Tottenville? No bagel store? No diner? Are those people really riding horses along Amboy Road? Where am I? Are you sure this is part of New York City?”
Tottenville, along with the rest of Staten Island, indeed was part of the historic union of the five boroughs in 1898 to form New York City. You could have fooled me!
However, we did have a pizza place in 1978 that not only gave me a taste of my past, but became a close tie to my personal history in Tottenville. Remember Antonio’s?
I remember Joe Ventura, the owner, one day saving me from a pack of stray dogs who thought my babies might be tasty as I maneuvered their coach carriage on my way to getting pizza with the boys.
I remember Joe opening his restaurant early for me on that icy winter day in 1986 as we returned from the cemetery after my mother’s funeral, immediately serving a bottle of wine to us to warm us as his gift of condolence.
Most importantly, I remember him as the one who introduced me to the true spirit of Tottenville community that continues to sustain me today.
If you told me in 1978 that in 1981 I would be encouraging my husband to buy our own house In Tottenville, and that in 1998 I would begin research to share Tottenville history, I wouldn’t have believed you!
However, here I am, in love with this town of Tottenville.
When did you discover Tottenville?