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.
“Boys sift through the rubble of one of 16 homes destroyed near Surf Avenue and Manhattan Street in Tottenville. The April 20, 1963, fires would become known as Black Saturday.” http://photos.silive.com/advance/2011/03/125fire1jpg.html
“April 20, 1963 -Black Saturday: Brush fires destroy more than 100 homes on Staten Island including Rossville's Sandy Ground community and Tottenville's beach community south of Hylan Blvd.” http://www.tottenvillehistory.com/history-timeline.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
Pre-Foreclosure Proceedings for Staten Island Landmark 2008 http://gothamist.com/2008/02/19/bank_starts_to.php
“Our Island agents recently completed the sale and closing of the 1869 Bedell house to Tommy Kocian, a local attorney.” http://ourislandrealestate.com/images/ourisland.pdf