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
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.
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.” http://www.tefcsi.com/who-we-are/
“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.”