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In Memory of Bill Franz

(January 13, 1942 - December 15, 2009)

While working for Bill at the Staten Island Register I learned so much. He taught me the importance of in-depth research to get all the facts in order to back up my words with substance and impartiality. By doing so, he helped to make me a strong writer. My debt to him is immeasurable. 

Bill was a journalist of a caliber that unfortunately is sorely lacking in today’s society. He was my mentor, and even more importantly, he was my friend.


As a tribute to him, I have posted some of the many articles I wrote for the Staten Island Register when he was its News Editor.

Tottenville Businesses Part 1

Tottenville Businesses of the Past

by Angie Mangino

Originally published in the STATEN ISLAND REGISTER, September 12, 2000 as part of an ongoing series

Perth Amboy Ferry

First operated in June 1860 with steamboats, the first true ferryboat was the Maid of Perth which set sail in 1867. The ferry was a profitable enterprise as an adjunct to the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Even after the Outerbridge Crossing opened in 1928, it continued as a profitable project because of its frequent and reliable service over a period of 81 years. This company’s last ferry, the Charles Galloway, left Perth Amboy for Tottenville on October 16, 1948.

Subsequent ferry service was provided by smaller boats until 1963, when this service between Staten Island and New Jersey was terminated.

Tottenville Shipyards

In 1898 there were eight boatyards in Tottenville. After 1900, however, they declined as steel replaced wood in ship construction.

The biggest shipyard was Brown, across from Ward’s Point, off Hopping Avenue. The others included Ellis, Rutan, Butler, Sleight, Nass, Tracy and O’Boyle.

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.

Hotels and Restaurants

After 1897 the “Palaces of the Public,” as they were called, offered indoor running water for the guests in Tottenville’s hotels. In the early 1900’s, Amboy Road and Broadway (now Arthur Kill Road) were the only two streets paved with stone, and that’s where most of the hotels were.

A few of the many hotels in Tottenville were the Aquehonga Hotel, Morton House, Old Ferry Hotel, Tottenville Ferry Hotel, Tottenville Hotel and West End Hotel.

During the early 1900’s, Main Street was lined with six hotels – John Boss’s, William O’Brien’s, William Carpenter’s, Bloom’s, Porter’s and Streeter’s.

The Tottenville Casino, on Surf Avenue, started not as a gambling casino, but as a huge restaurant. By providing music and dancing, this establishment became Tottenville Beach’s center of social activity.

Staten Island Transcript

Begun in 1861 as a four-page weekly newspaper called the Westfield (Staten Island) Times, the newspaper later renamed the Staten Island Transcript became increasingly important in the 1890’s. The Transcript, by serving Tottenville faithfully, grew to a semi-weekly newspaper serving the entire South Shore of Staten Island with 12 to 16 pages.

In 1898 it reported on the Spanish American War and the concrete battery built at Ward’s Point and informed its readers about the consolidation of New York City.

It also told of the opening of the Tottenville Library through the work of the Philemon Library & Historical Society. The society, first called the Philemon Club, was founded in 1897 with its primary goal being the attainment of a Carnegie grant for a public library in Tottenville, which was, in fact, received in 1904.

In extant copies of the newspaper, one can still read about the Outerbridge Crossing opening in 1928 and the 1936 opening of the new, million-dollar Tottenville High School.

Disosway’s Mill

Disosway’s was the only grist mill to serve Tottenville for over 200 years, begun around 1700 by Cornelius Disosway. In 1786 he left the mill to his sons, Cornelius and Israel. As years went by there were name changes to the mill as the ownership changed.

In the 1800’s it was Butler Mills. Many years later it became Cole’s Mills. The apparent last owner, W. Weir, added a saw mill in 1870, with the subsequent name becoming Weir’s Grist & Saw Mills. Shortly after 1900 the mill was entirely razed, removing it from the Tottenville landscape and concluding a long history as a business there.


In 1850 Samuel Hopping started a lumber company, which was to become the Tottenville Lumber Company of Runyon. In 1907, it was one of three separate businesses to consolidate as Seguine-Runyon-Styles, Inc. These were the Tottenville Lumber Company of Runyon, the coal business of Henry G. Styles and the masonry supplies business of Joseph C. Seguine of Princes Bay.

Gage’s Sandpaper

Gage’s Sandpaper factory was built in 1866. Gage’s sense of humor combined with his pride in his sandpaper by his having a rebus printed on each sheet of sandpaper. The rebus deciphered read “Gage’s Lasting Respects to All.” The factory was torn down in 1948.

Atlantic Terra Cotta

Begun in 1897, Atlantic Terra Cotta was in operation until the early 1930’s when it fell victim to the Depression, as so many other businesses did.

By 1906 the company was employing up to 500 people, making it one of the largest employers on Staten Island. Fondly talked about by current Tottenville residents, the company is credited with providing housing for their employees.

Terra cotta was fire-resistant, lightweight cladding and construction material which was extremely versatile and relatively inexpensive.

Atlantic Terra Cotta was the primary manufacturer of architectural terra cotta ornaments used on major skyscrapers and other buildings, one example being the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The company’s smokestack was a familiar Tottenville landmark for 80 years until 1988 with the demolition of the 135 foot structure.

Nassau Smelting & Refining

Nassau Smelting & Refining Co.’s plant was built in 1900 on the Richmond Valley line of Tottenville. The smelting works (Tottenville Copper Company) was bought by Western Electric in 1931, another result of Depression times. In 1971 it became a metal recycling plant and renamed Nassau Recycling Corporation.

Howat Ceramics

As the Depression had an impact on Tottenville with the closing of Atlantic Terra Cotta and the changeover of Nassau Smelting and Refining, a few unemployed craftsmen went into business for themselves. One of the notable ones was Walter L. Howat, who had been the chief chemist at Atlantic Terra Cotta. He established a small ceramics plant near his home on Hopping Avenue in 1933 which continued in business until the mid 1960’s.

Tottenville Businesses Part 2

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 Johnston

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

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.

Before Consolidation

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.

Remembering the fragility of every human life

By Angie Mangino

Published in the Staten Island Register June 4, 2002

On May 30 – the traditional Memorial Day before our holiday celebrations were moved to be part of a long weekend – New York City marked the end of the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site with a ceremony that began at 10:29 a.m., marking the fall of the last piece of steel after the collapse of the second tower at 10:28 a.m. on September 11.

Standing on the press ramp overlooking the site, I found that, when it began with Firefighter James Sarokac ringing the FDNY bell in 5-5-5-5 code, the traditional signal for a fallen firefighter, I didn’t need to jockey with the rest of the press to get the best vantage point. Just being present at the site wrote the story in my heart.

The procession centered on a stretcher with an American flag folded on top, symbolizing all those not recovered who perished on September 11. It was placed in a waiting ambulance; followed by a truck that was draped in black cloth that carried the last load of steel (better known as the “Stars and Stripes beam”) covered with an American flag.

Firefighter Julian Ponteveccio and Police Officer Edward Harrigan played Taps, followed by an NYPD helicopter flyover. After the Pipe and Drum Unit played “America the Beautiful,” the procession continued north along West Street to Canal Street.

A combined FDNY/NYPD/PAPD Ceremonial Unit formed a line across the top of the ramp, officially marking the end of the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site; although the recovery process continues as the Fresh Kills Landfill with remains identification still going on at the office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

When the ceremony was over, the ring of cell phones and buzz of conversations of many of the crowd started, a concrete sign of moving on. Yet, as the rest of the press left, I found myself cemented to the spot, quietly looking out at the place that claimed so many lives, getting the feeling that I was looking at a new form of cemetery. I told myself it was time to leave, but my heart and soul kept me rooted to the spot.

That’s when I noticed the man with the hard hat standing alone; and some firefighters and police personnel who had replaced the members of the press who had left. Not one of us spoke, but there was an unspoken mutual acknowledgment that leaving was difficult.

Grieving, being an individual process, has its own timetable. As I looked out I saw not just the pain of September 11, but the pain of every day since then and of the days to come.

Yet when I looked from the dusty concrete walls that looked aged, sad and war-torn on a floor of wet dirt with mud traces throughout to notice three white birds flying across the pit, I became aware of the frame of existing skyscrapers around the site that reached up to a sunny blue sky. It was then that I fully sensed the spiritual presence at the site, so many touching me and calling me to remember, but also so gently releasing me to go on.

The inner peace of the human spirit is there to encourage, no matter what happens in the physical world, as all these people, now at peace, live on in our hearts always to be remembered. If we are to learn anything from September 11, we must never forget the fragility and preciousness of each and every life.

Mejia Receives Award

By Angie Mangino

Staten Island Register

May 11-17, 2004

Rossville resident Guillermina Mejia will be one of five honorees at the May 14 award ceremony in Manhattan of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.


Mejia is the principal program coordinator for safety and health, District Council 37, AFSCME. District Council 37 is the largest public employee union in New York City, with over 9,000 members and retirees living on Staten Island. 

Register readers will remember her as one of the Staten Islanders in City Council chambers who witnessed the shooting last July 23 that took the life of Councilman James Davis. Ironically, while she was there in support of the Councilman as he was advocating a bill to prevent workplace violence, she found herself standing in the balcony four feet directly opposite Othniel Askew, the shooter. 

NYCOSH will present the Karen Silkwood Award to Mejia for her day-to-day efforts to improve workplace safety for city workers. 

"NYCOSH has been a great resource and partner for me in ensuring the well-being of DC37 members," said Mejia. "Through NYCOSH's timely information and updates on safety and health issues; their efforts to promote legislation that has a positive impact on the work environment; and its excellent development programs; I am better prepared and equipped to address the concerns and needs of DC37 members."

Each year NYCOSH presents this award, named for Karen Silkwood, to a rank and file safety activist. 

Twenty-eight-year-old Karen Silkwood was a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers and a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Crescent, Oklahoma. She died on Nov. 13, 1974 while driving from a union meeting in Crescent. The Oklahoma State Highway Patrol received notification an hour later of a single car accident seven miles south of Crescent with the driver, Karen Silkwood dead at the scene from multiple injuries. 

Circumstances surrounding her death have been the subject of many books, articles and a motion picture entitled "Silkwood," with Meryl Streep portraying the union activist in the film. During the week just prior to her death, unexplainably exposed to plutonium, Silkwood was allegedly gathering evidence for the union to support her claim of negligence of Kerr-McGee in maintaining plant safety. Kerr-McGee closed its nuclear fuel plants in 1975.

The evening's other honorees include Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Roger Toussaint, Omar Henriquez, and the World Trade Center Medical Screening Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital. 

"It is an honor to receive an award from NYCOSH," Senator Clinton said. "From defending OSHA's ergonomics regulation to providing Ground Zero workers with the best medical care available, it has been a pleasure to work with NYCOSH and I look forward to working with them in the future." 

Roger Toussaint is the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100. 

Omar Henriquez is the immigration campaign coordinator of Service Employees International Union, Eastern Region. 

"Each of our five honorees has shown an unswerving commitment to protecting and promoting the workplace safety and health of workers and volunteers in the New York City area," said William F. Henning Jr., chair of the NYCOSH Board of Directors. 

"Our awards ceremony will be an important opportunity for a broad cross-section of the occupational safety and health community – including political leaders, labor union officials, occupational healthcare workers, immigrant rights activists and rank and file safety and health activists – to share ideas and to socialize." 

NYCOSH is a non-profit coalition of more than 250 union organizations and more than 400 individual workers, physicians, lawyers and other health and safety activists. Part of a nationwide network of 25 union based safety and health organizations, NYCOSH is dedicated to the right of every worker to a safe and healthful job providing occupational safety and health training, advocacy and information to workers and unions throughout the metropolitan New York area.

copyright 2002 Staten Island Register

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