Tottenville Businesses of the Past: Part 2
by Angie Mangino
Originally published in the STATEN ISLAND REGISTER, August 28, 2001 as the second of an ongoing series
Following the publication of the first article of this series on the history of Tottenville, two community residents came forward to share information about the history of their community and we discovered other interesting data in an 1898 tract by the Richmond Publishing Company.
Dorothy Walters Johnston of Tottenville, whose ancestors include the Tottens, shared a painting of the early 1900’s that takes in Main Street from Old Broadway (now Arthur Kill Road) to the former Tottens’ dock and shows the Perth Amboy shore across the Arthur Kill, with the Lehigh Valley Railroad coal docks.
The scene was originally painted by Chester Graham, 5367Aruthur Kill Rd., who supplied the information about Tottenville as it existed in 1900. Accompanying the article is a similar picture painted by Edith Dow in 1982.
Going further along in time, Dot Johnston shared a piece called “Tottenville in Prose” whose author was listed as just “Scotty.” It originally appeared in a 1960 article in the Staten Island Transcript newspaper.
More Tottenville businesses are recalled as the article speaks of the oystermen, of a houseboat owned by Bowery Pete, the bowling alley run by Jean Porter, Ben Streeter who had summer boarders; Hampy Ellis who built boats; Jimmy Healy who served you drinks and snacks; Reilly’s lunch wagon, the First Bank there years before the first A&P; two barbers, Pete Dilge and Jake Bentz; Nan Bedell’s drug store; Donaldson’s shoe store.
Also, Michael Andriany shoe repair; Cuny’s jewelry; Derickson Bros. and Enoch Corson’s grocery stores; Dr. Washington; Helhn’s Baking shop and Charley Lehman’s drugstore; Sevenhaar’s plumber shop; Paul Van Name’s home; George Sleight and George Cunningham, butchers; Ben Brown’s hardware store; the post office with its postmaster, Reuben Wood; Ben Cotrell, who had a fast horse; Ike Bedell who ran a grocery store and also buried the dead; Sharott’s butcher; Henry and Mike Levenson’s two clothing stores.
Also, Frank Russell’s ice cream; Hubbard R. Yetman’s real estate and insurance business, now being run by his daughter, Laura, and his son, Bill; that Taylor Elliot once grazed a cow where Dr. Stauff’s dental office then stood; A.C. Brown running the largest shipyard; if there was a fire, the whistle of S.S. White in Princes Bay would blow. People went to the rink to skate on the ice; listen to old Tottenville’s band and, on Saturday nights, dance or watch basketball at the old Knights of Pythias dance hall or go to Jim Laird’s picture show.
Diane Scheming, who lives in the house Captain John Totten built in Tottenville, known as the “Compass House,” shared the following information.
Many well-to-do sea captains made their home in Tottenville. Captain Benjamin Warford, Abraham Wood, James Sprague, Cornelius Disosway, Adam Lyons and John Totten were but some of them.
Captain John Totten was the child of John Totten (born 1771 - died 1847) and Nancy Cole. He was one of 12 children. His brother, Ephraim J. of Tottenville, born in 1806, served as supervisor for Westfield in 1846-1847.
When Captain John Totten (born 1801) married Elizabeth Butler (born 1808 – died 1878), his house was built sitting on an angle. The reason for the name Compass House is that it was built with the four walls facing the four compass points, north, south, east, and west.
He had two houses built for his daughters; one for Mary Oakley, wife of Webb Hopping, and one for Anna Louise, wife of Jacob Devoe.
His eldest daughter, Elizabeth Butler, with her husband, Samuel Looker Hopping, had a house and store where the SIRT tracks are now.
Totten had three sailing vessels trading with London and along the Atlantic seaboard. Two of his vessels were lost at sea.
In 1898 the Richmond Publishing Company compiled the Industries of Staten Island Before Consolidation. The section on Tottenville adds to the picture of businesses at the time.
Main Street had J.P. Bedell & Son, funeral directors), Tottenville Lumber, New York Bazaar (dry goods), DuBois & Drake (fruit and vegetables), Lyon House (wines, liquors, & cigars), Sprague & Laforge (printers), the newsroom of John Kall, along with doctors, the public dock and many hotels.
Many Main Street stores went by the names of the proprietors such as Mrs. K. Hoehn, bakery; B. Williams, real estate and insurance; J. Derickson, groceries; A.M. Donalson, goods and shoes; J.F. Bedell, druggist; Jacob Herrel, boots and shoes; P.C. Dilg, barber; Hop Sing, laundry; F.S. Yackarino, fruits, nuts and confectionery; Charles Lehman, drug store.
Also, M. Sterling, confectionery; Emil Sevenhaar, stoves and furnaces; E. Corson, groceries; George W. Slaight, meat market; James W. Bedell, groceries; J. Kopperberg, tailor; Michael Levinson, tailor; H.A. Guyon, stoves and heaters, with plumbing; John White, cigars and confectionery; W.B. Sharrott,, meat; Henry Levinson, dry goods; and F.A. Russell, confectionery.
Railroad Avenue had A.P. McDougall, horse shoer; J.S. Ellis & Son, shipbuilders; W.H. Smith, boat repairing and justice of the peace; Cole Brothers, lumber and cement; J.W. Russell & Sons, grocers; Jacob Eagle, tinsmith; Robert Lee & Sons, carpenters; Louis Larsen, shoemaker; P. Peterson, grocer; W.W. Palmer, notions.
Also, Andre Abrams, carpenter; Johnson & Lovett, painting; H.L. Sprague, carpenter; David Robins, painting; John B. Wood, real estate; James W. Henderson, express by steamer; Jacobson W. Wood, carpenter; Charles Yetman, carman; Fred Frazier, carman, William Yetman, mason; hotel, doctors, attorney and the office of the Staten Island Times newspaper with A.Y. Hubbell as editor and publisher and Miss M. Viola Smith as assistant editor. It was listed as the official Republican paper of the county and, additionally, did book and job printing.