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Tottenville History

Tottenville History 1910-1919 August 2016

This summer has been a hot one here in Tottenville, but thanks to air conditioning I’ve completed more of the book proposal, and began the draft of the book’s Introduction.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Keep cool!

-          Angie


Did you know?

A Titanic survivor returned to Tottenville in 1912.

Staten Island Borough Presidents

George Cromwell 1898-1913

Charles J. McCormack 1914-1915

Calvin Decker Van Name 1915-1921

NY City Mayors

William J. Gaynor 1910-1913

Ardolph L, Kline Acting Mayor Sept.1913-Dec.1913

John P. Mitchel 1914-1917

John F. Hylan 1918-1925

NY State Governors

Horace White 1910-1911     

John Alden Dix 1911-1912

William Sulzer 1913     

Martin H. Glynn 1913-1914

Charles s. Whitman 1915-1918

Al Smith 1919-1920

US Presidents

William Howard Taft 1909 -1913

Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921

Historical Setting 1910- 1919 in the US & in the world


·         The Boy Scouts of America founded

·         Typhoid Mary [Mary Mallon] is freed from her first periods of forced isolation and goes on to cause several further outbreaks of typhoid in the New York area

·         William H. Taft is first US president to throw out a 1st ball at a baseball game

·         Father's Day celebrated for 1st time (Spokane, Wash)

·         NYC Mayor Wm J Gaynor seriously wounded during assassination attempt

·         Alva Fisher patents electric washing machine

·         Aug 26th Mother Teresa, [Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu], born in Skopje Ottoman Empire, nun and Founder of Missionaries of Charity (Nobel Peace Prize 1979),(d. 1997)

·         Apr 21st Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens], American author (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), dies at 74

·         Aug 13th Florence Nightingale, English nurse, dies at 90

·         Nov 20th Leo Tolstoy [Lev Nikolayevich], Russian novelist (Anna Karenina, War & Peace), dies of pneumonia at 82


·         NY Public Library building at 5th Avenue dedicated by President Taft

·         Feb 6th Ronald Reagan, born in Tampico IL, actor (Bedtime for Bonzo) and 40th US President (R) (1981-89), Feb 6th Ronald Reagan, Tampico IL, actor (Bedtime for Bonzo) and 40th US President (R) (1981-89), (d. 2004)

·         Mar 25th Jack Ruby, killer of Lee Harvey Oswald, born in Chicago, Illinois, (d. 1967)

·         Jul 16th Ginger Rogers [Virginia McMath], American actress, dancer and singer (Top Hat, Kitty Foyle) born in Independence, Missouri (d. 1995)

·         Aug 6th Lucille Ball, American comedienne and actress (I Love Lucy, Mame), born in Jamestown, New York (d. 1989)


·         Arizona was admitted to the Union as the 48th state

·         Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) forms in Savannah, by Juliette Gordon Low

·         Camp Fire Girls organization announced by Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick

·         RMS Titanic sinks at 2:27 AM off Newfoundland as the band plays on

·         The Cunard liner RMS Carpathia brings 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic to New York City

·         District of Alaska becomes an organized incorporated territory of the United States

·         Apr 12th Clara Barton, organizer (American Red Cross), dies at 90


·         NYC's Grand Central Terminal opens

·         The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution becomes law, providing the legal basis for the institution of a graduated income tax

·         1st prize inserted into a Cracker Jack box

·         Brooklyn Dodger's Ebbets Field opens

·         17th amendment provides for election of senators by popular vote

·         Henry Ford institutes moving assembly line

·         The first ship sails through the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

·         Charlie Chaplin began his film career at Keystone for $150 a week

·         Jan 9th Richard Nixon, born in Yorba Linda, California, 37th President (R) of the United States (1969-74), (d.1994)

·         Feb 4th Rosa Parks, born in Tuskegee Alabama, American civil rights activist (bus protestor),(d.2005)

·         Jul 14th Gerald R Ford, [Leslie King], 41st US VP (1973-74)/38th US President (R-1974-77), born in Omaha, Nebraska (d. 2006)

·         Mar 10th Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, conductor on Underground RR, dies in NY at about 93


·         US Congress establishes mother's day

·         Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and his wife Sophie are assassinated in Sarajevo by young Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip, the act provoking WWI

·         Aug 18th US President Woodrow Wilson issues "Proclamation of Neutrality"

·         Sep 5th US President Wilson orders the US Navy to make its wireless stations accessible for any transatlantic communications - even to German diplomats sending coded messages; this will lead to the interception of the Zimmermann telegram, helping to bring the US into the war

·         Oct 7th 44th US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (26) weds John F. Fitzgerald's mother, Rose Fitzgerald (24)

·         Oct 28th Jonas Salk, medical scientist who created the polio vaccine, born in NYC, New York (d. 1995)


·         US House of Representatives rejects proposal to give women right to vote

·         May 7th RMS Lusitania sunk by German submarine off the southern coast of Ireland; 1198 lives lost

·         May 7th Alfred G Vanderbilt, US millionaire, dies aboard Lusitania

·         Jul 21st Wilson sends the third Lusitania note, warning Germany that future infringement of American rights will be deemed 'deliberately unfriendly'

·         Dec 10th 28th US President Woodrow Wilson marries 2nd wife Edith Galt, a descendant of native American Pocahontas


·         Feb 22nd The House-Grey Memorandum, drafted by US and Britain, states: 'Should the Allies accept [the American idea of a conference to end the war] and should Germany refuse it, the United States would "probably" enter the war against Germany'

·         Apr 18th US Secretary of State Warns Germany that the USA may break diplomatic relations unless torpedo attacks on unarmed ships stop

·         May 27th President Wilson addresses the League to Enforce Peace, founded in 1915, and gives public support to the idea of a league of nations

·         Boys Scouts of America forms

·         Coca-Cola brings current coke formula to the market

·         Woodrow Wilson (D) re-elected US President

·         Jul 1st Dwight Eisenhower marries Mary `Mamie' Geneva Doud in Denver, Colorado


·         Jones Act: Puerto Rico territory created, US citizenship granted

·         Apr 6th US declares war on Germany, enters World War I

·         US Congress passes Selective Service Act, authorizing the federal government to raise a national army for the American entry into World War I through compulsory enlistment

·         New York State adopts a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote in state elections

·         US becomes 13th country to declare war on Austria during World War I

·         May 29th John F. Kennedy, 35th US President (1961-1963) and Senator (D-Mass), born in Brookline, Massachusetts (d. 1963)


·         Jan 8th US President Wilson outlines his Fourteen Points for peace after the Great War

·         US House of Representatives passes amendment allowing women to vote

·         Dec 4th US President Woodrow Wilson sails for Versailles Peace Conference in France, 1st President to travel outside US while in office

·         Apr 8th Betty [Bloomer] Ford, US 1st lady (1974-77) and founder of the Betty Ford Center clinic, born in Chicago, Illinois (d. 2011)


·         Prohibition ratified by 3/4 of US states; Nebraska is 36

·         Jan 25th Founding of League of Nations

·         Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, with the 1919 proclamation of President Wilson to commemorate the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, when the fighting after World War I ended with an armistice, to honor the veterans of World War I for achieving peace.  This was seventh months before the official end of the war that was to end all wars with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

·         US Congress passes the Women's Suffrage Bill, the 19th Amendment

·         NY Daily News begins publishing

·         Jun 28th Treaty of Versailles, ending WWI and establishing the League of Nations, is signed in France

·         1st scheduled passenger service by airplane (Paris-London)

·         American Legion incorporated by an act of Congress

·         Sep 25th US president Woodrow Wilson suffers a breakdown in Colorado, his health never recovers

·         Oct 2nd US President Woodrow Wilson has a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed

·         US President Woodrow Wilson's veto of Prohibition Enforcement Bill is overridden

·         Alice H Parker patents gas heating furnace

·         Jan 6th Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (R: 1901-09; Nobel 1906), dies in NY at 60

·         Jun 28th 33rd US president Harry Truman (35) weds Elizabeth Truman (34) in Independence

Some Highlights in Tottenville 1910-1919


Post office name changes to Bentley Manor.

“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.’"


“By 1910, Tottenville beaches had become popular for summer vacationers from Manhattan and New Jersey”



On February 11, 1911 Mary Vassallo, my mother, was born near Naples, Italy; came to the US with her family to the Bronx; moved to Middle Village, Queens; then  lived the last years of her life on Swinnerton Street in Tottenville until her death on January 27, 1986.'s+Day+Look+at+two+Tottenville+mothers.aspx



On May 3, 1912 Pat Vassallo, my father, was born in the Bronx.  With my mom he moved to Middle Village, Queens; then lived on Swinnerton Street in Tottenville, active at the Tottenville Senior Center.  He moved to Woodrow Road after my Mom’s death, living there until his death on July 12, 1991.

Titanic Survivor returns to Tottenville

“Staten Islanders in the vicinity of Tottenville are rejoicing over the safe arrival of Miss Mary Davies, of London, a sister of Mrs. E. Langford.  Miss Davies arrived at her sister’s home about 1:30 yesterday morning, and was immediately placed under the care of a physician for fear of serious illness from the cold and exposure resulting from the awful catastrophe of the Titanic.”

The Staten Islander, Sat., April 20, 1912


Mary Davies married John Wilburn in 1915.  He later operated Matheson & Wilburn Hardware at 175 Main Street.  Mrs. Wilburn was a life member of Eastern Star in Tottenville.  Later moving to Syracuse New York, Mrs. Wilburn died on July 29, 1987 at the age of 104, the oldest know living survivor of the Titanic disaster.

Tottenville Historical Society Newsletter June 2012


“Congregation Ahavath Israel organizes and incorporates in 1916.  It is not until 1933, however, that the congregation builds a house of worship.”


The Palace opened in 1914 and was a beautiful old time silent movie theater on Craig Avenue that closed not long after the Stadium opened, unable to compete with the new theater that was twice as large on Main Street and showed “talkies.”

“The Palace Theatre was located on Craig Avenue, between Main Street and Butler Street, Tottenville. It is listed as operating in the 1914-1915 edition of American Motion Picture Directory.”


“Tottenville Evangelical Free Church began in 1915 when thirteen Christian brethren (five men and eight women), all Norwegian, came together for their mutual concern of the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A little over a year later this small group met at the Red Front Hall on Main Street and Eureka Place in Tottenville on December 28, 1916 for the purpose of incorporating “The Norwegian Evangelical Free Church” (of Tottenville) and to elect trustees.”

‘The Norwegian Evangelical Free Church elects trustees and incorporates.  In 1917, a lot at 266 Wood Ave. is purchased and a church built in 1924.  Today, it is called Tottenville Evangelical Free Church.’


“… in 1916, the New York Department of Health declared clamming and oystering in the waters around Staten Island unsafe.”  This brought an end to the oyster industry in Tottenville.


World War I

“The first local draft board on Staten Island opened on May 25, 1917.  Richmond County sent more men to the war effort per capita than any other county in the United States. Of the 5,000 Islanders who served, 141 were killed. ..

Six local men lost their lives during the Great War:

Private Almer G. Russell

Lieutenant Walton U. Beauvais

Private Thomas Cavallo

Private Peter L. Massey

Clarence R. Klinger

Sergeant John W. O'Meara., Jr.”

World War I brought another massive expansion in shipbuilding to Tottenville, with the most notable shipyard being Cossey.  Opened in 1908, this 20-acre plant was the center of Tottenville’s shipbuilding for 22 years until 1930.  Its 250 workers built 1,149 boats.



“July 13, 1918 A.C. Brown & Sons, Tottenville, S.I., expect to have the steamer I. J. Merritt for the Merritt & Chapman Derrick & Wrecking Co. ready for launching by the end of August.”



After attending a Tottenville Civic Association sponsored town hall meeting with Borough President James Oddo on July 13,   I was happy to find that the association is continuing to live up to its motto of “fostering a unique small town quality of life.”

For a town hall to be successful, its main goal should be to open a two-way conversation between residents and elected officials.  From my experience as a reporter for the Staten Island Register, I never expect a meeting to solve everyone’s problems, but I am always encouraged when I witness a respectful conversation that addresses the issues, which this meeting did.

I look forward to seeing the follow-up from this meeting.


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