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Tottenville History


This Month in the History of Tottenville

March 2013
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
slide lecture,
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.
More Information:
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
Evangelical Free Church of America.”
“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.” 

Summer 2012 #5 Teresa Carpenter at Fraunces Tavern Museum

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 and let’s make sure this written record becomes a reality, teaching future generations about the people of our wonderful town.
Further Information:
Fraunces Tavern Museum

Summer 2012 #4 Conference House Fund Raiser

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. 
Further Information:
Conference House
Staten Island OutLOUD
Boris Vinokur  

Tea Party - a new play by Anna Mione

April 2012
On Sunday, April 22, the Staten Island Shakespearean Theatre, in cooperation with the Conference House Association, presented a newplay by Anna Mione entitled Tea Party.
It was particularly significant to be in the audience experiencing this reading, as Wayne Miller (who produced and directed Tea Party) pointed out, set in front of the fireplace that cooked the meal served at the September 11, 1776 peace conference. 
The Conference House was the perfect venue to bring the audience back to the time of John and Abigail Adams.
Anna Mione’s play has Sarah (Amanda Delalla) and Abby (Samantha Rose) reviewing American History for a quiz, with examples to correct the biased point of view of the history books. 
For example, how many knew the British were the ones who taught the Indians to scalp people, paying them for the scalps?
Current references to the Tea Party of today, and to questioning if our founding fathers actually read the Constitution with how many in Congress actually read the Health Care bill before voting on it, worked their way into the story of the two young women’s discussion.
While I enjoyed the two discussing history, and evenl earned a few things I didn’t know, the crux of the play was Abigail Adams and her correspondence with James Lovell, brought into the play through discovery of letters in an antique desk one of their mothers had purchased.
Abigail supported John Adams from the start of the Boston Tea Party, keeping him steadfast in the revolt. She wrote to him every day, even though he only wrote back to her sporadically.  She spent half of her married years alone, beginning her correspondence with James Lovell to find out more about her husband, but leading to a more personal correspondence between the two.
The end of the reading has an exchange between Abigail and Abby, but since I don’t believe in writing spoilers, I will just say this exchange between the two was the most important part of the reading to me, and I had hoped it would have had a more extended presence in the production.
After the reading, Wayne Miller presented Anna Mione to the audience, who answered some questions from the group, before joining us at the post show reception hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Maltese.
I was happy to have attended, honored to meet and to talk with Anna after the show.
Staten Island Shakespearean Theatre
 Conference House
 Books by Anna Mione
Some references online to the correspondence between Abigail Adams and James Lovell:

Conference House Colonial Christmas

The Colonial Christmas at the Conference House on Sunday, Dec 11 was a wonderful pause in the hecticness of the season, taking one back to a much simpler time. 
It was my pleasure to go with Jaclyn Lurker, a fellow writer from Tottenville, who has been so supportive of my work writing about Tottenville from the very beginning when I first applied for a COAHSI grant to do the research and to conduct interactive workshops on the history of Tottenville.  It is she who set up & maintained my first webiste, teaching me along the way that technology is my friend.  Her support keeps me going during the rough times.
Recently having her submission “Insult and Insolence” selected to be published in Bad Austen:The Worst Stories Jane Never Wrote, Jackie is in the process of writing a seven minute play on Pride for The Seven Deadly Sins, a presentation of the Staten Island Playwrights Collective, to be performed at the Unitarian Church in the end of  February.
As a special Christmas treat for both of us, we both got calls from the Conference House after the event to pick up the baskets we won. Appropriately she won the Sangria basket, while I won a wine basket of one of my favorites, Gato Negro.  
Enjoy a peak at the event with the pictures I took & share in the Christmas spirit I found there.

Christmas at the Conference House

It’s that time of year where most of us go into supercharged mode in anticipation of the holidays.  Yet during all this joyful, and unfortunately sometimes stressful, preparation, I know I have to remind myself repeatedly that all that really needs to be done will get done…and if it doesn’t get done….well….then maybe it’s because it really didn’t NEED to be done!
Annually the Conference House here in Tottenville offers a break from the stress with a short repast back in time with the Grand Illumination and Colonial Christmas.
Did you attend the Grand Illumination last Friday night, December 2?  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go this year to see the Conference House lit up with candles in each window, or to indulge in the hot cider and cookies while singing Christmas carols.  Having attended last year, I missed that sense of community celebrating the holidays from a simpler time in Tottenville’s history.
However, I do plan to attend the Colonial Christmas at the Conference House on Sunday, December 11 at some point during their hours of 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.  Hopefully all goes well for me to attend, and if so, I would love for readers of this blog to come up to me so that I can share some in- person time with you who share so much online time with me each week.

Nov 19 Memorial for 9/11 dedication

On Saturday, November 19, at 11 am at the Tottenville Memorial Site on Amboy Road & Main Street, The Tottenville HistoricalSociety will dedicate the 9/11 memorial clock and monument to honor theTottenville residents who lost their lives at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
FF Paul M. Beyer
Louis A. Caporicci
FF Scott M. Davidson
FF Francis Esposito
FF Gary P. Geidel
FF Jeffrey J. Giordano
Michele B. Lanza
FF Carl E. Molinaro
Mario Nardone Jr.
FF Paul J. Pansini.
Ten years ago, we vowed that we would never forget.  This dedication the year of the tenth anniversary is a fitting sign of the fulfillment of this vow.  Those we lost are in our hearts forever.
I encourage all who can to attend the dedication if possible, but more importantly, each time you pass the corner of Amboy Road & MainStreet, take a quiet moment to remember.
….and then why not do one good deed in their memory to make life better for others in the Tottenville community?  To me, that will be the greatest tribute to them, which this monument stands to encourage. Then we can witness with our own lives that love indeed, does live on.
For those who may have missed my September 11 post for the tenth anniversary, you can access it through this link.
More Information:

September 11, 1776 Peace Conference Reenactment

September 11, 1776 Peace ConferenceReenactment
I’ll be honest, when I think of September 11th, the year that immediately jumps into my mind is 2001, not 1776.  The reenactment, though, of the PeaceConference of 1776 at the Conference House this year held on September 10th was a fitting reminder of the previous history of that date without forgetting the significance of the date in 2001.
Peace failed on both these historic days, but America, with much pain and sacrifice, did survive both events.  May we learn from this date that however elusive peace may seem, it must always be our first, and most predominant goal.
The opening ceremony at 11am featured the Staten Island Pipers, with a moment of silence & tribute in memory of those who died onSeptember 11, 2001. 
The activities of the day around the Reenactment included Conference House tours, colonial music with dancing, craft and cooking demonstrations, as well as children’s activities of kite-making, calligraphy, butterchurning and candle making.  Booths were set up with vendors selling modern and colonial gifts, with refreshments available.
The reenactment event began at 12:30pm when a rowboat carrying John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge, and a British hostage left Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
The highlight of the event was at 1pm when the colonists disembarked from the rowboat onto the Conference House Beach.  Admiral Lord Richard Howe met them, and together climbed to the top of the hill outside of the front door of theConference House to attempt a compromise to avert the Revolutionary War.
(The actual Peace Conference was inside of the building, but to accommodate visitors with a better view of the meeting, each year the reenactment is outdoors.)
Before the war, Lord Howe and Benjamin Franklin were friends in London.  They tried to find a way for a peaceful solution.  Representing the Continental Congress, Franklin introduced Adams and Rutledge to Howe as they sat cordially around the table.  The actual conference lasted three hours as they tried to reach a compromise.
Howe stressed the advantage to the colonists to be part of the British Empire.  The delegates reiterated the colonies voted for independence after past indignities, tryingto convince Howe of the ways that an independent nation would be a benefit to England.
As they tried to negotiate peace, they were destined to fail.  The Continental Congress representatives only had the authority to work for peace through independence from England.  The King’s representative, Lord Howe, had instructions that the King would never allow the colonies their freedom.  With these conditions set firmly in place, there was no common ground with which to reach a settlement.
Photographs generously contributed to this blog post by Jaclyn Lurker.
More Conference HousePark Information:
writers' week

Tottenville Memories (Part 3)

TottenvilleMemories (Part 3)
Palace and Stadium Theaters in Tottenville
As I continue to share from the si350 program at theTottenville Library, I look forward to your comments
 & to connect you withTommy Dee for the cash reward he is offering.
Tommy Dee spoke at the event of his ten years of research of Staten Island theaters, not only in Tottenville,
 but also throughout Staten Island.  He shared that Staten Island had over 60 theaters, and he knows about
 every one of them.  His work includes a documentary scheduled for next year. 
Before discussing the cash he is offering, I’d like to share a bit about the two Tottenville Theaters.
The Palace opened in 1914 and was a beautiful old time silent movie theater on Craig Avenue that closed
 not long after theStadium opened, unable to compete with the new theater that was twice as large
on Main Street and showed “talkies.”
The inaugural opening of the Stadium was on July 12,1927, closing as a movie house in 1957.
 The reported last movie shown at the Stadium before it shut its doors was Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. 
 A link below allows you to view video clips of that and seven other movies shown at the Stadium.
Now to the cash reward.  Tommy Dee is looking for photos, posters, and programs that he does not
already have from any theater on Staten Island from the 1900’s to the 1960’s. 
So check out those attics & basements; ask family & friends; check out those yard sales;
 & contact me at and I will forward the information to Tommy.
Staten Island's 350th Anniversary (1661- 2011)

Tottenville Memories (Part 2)

Hadkins Beverage Company
Last week‘s post about the si350 program at the Tottenville Library introduced some of the history of Hadkins Beverage Company.  Now I would like to expand on that introduction.
In its time, Hadkins Beverage was the oldest soda business on the east coast, and was actively involved in the Tottenville community.
In 1918 the TA Gillespie Company, located in Morgan, (now Sayreville) New Jersey, made ammunition during World War I.  The explosion at the Morgan Shell Loading Plant, which caused shattered windows and flying debris into Tottenville, destroyed and damaged homes in New Jersey leaving 6,000 people homeless and 108 people dead, with martial law declared all the way to Perth Amboy.  James Haskins immediately took the Hadkins truck to help the people evacuating from Perth Amboy.  The teamwork of firefighters and volunteers prevented the main storage shed from catching fire, sparing Tottenville the need for evacuation.
In a handout at the Tottenville Memories event, Kathy Marsh shared the process of making the soda in a two-story building at 407 Craig Avenue.
“Upstairs in the syrup room were huge hundred gallon vats where sugar and other products were mixed.  The syrup was then piped down to the first floor where all the machinery was.  A huge bottle washing machine used to scrub the bottles perfectly clean.  From this machine the clean bottles had to be taken and put into the filling machine were first the syrup was put in, about one and a half to two ounces of it.  Then the bottle was moved slightly and the seltzer was put in and the same machine capped the bottles.  The seltzer was made in its own machine.  In this way a case was made a minute.  The cases were stacked and were ready to be delivered.  There were seven and twelve ounce and quart bottles.  Paper labels were put on the quart bottles by a machine that had to be run by a person.  A case of soda cost ninety cents with a two cents deposit on each bottle.”
Collectors still covet empty Hadkins soda bottles.
For More Information:
Hadkins Beverage Company
Morgan Company Explosion