A historic look at Dorothy Valentine Smith House in Sunset Hill, Staten Island

Posted by Anthony Licciardello on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 at 2:11pm.

On Staten Island’s North Shore, you can find the neighborhood of Sunset Hill.  This is a nice area that doesn’t have too much of the hustle and bustle of the city life.  In this neighborhood, aside from the nice parks you can find, there are a few New York City Landmarks.  One of these landmarks is the Dorothy Valentine Smith House.

The Dorothy Valentine Smith House is located at 1213 Clove Road, on a nice plot of land that actually holds two landmarks—the other one being the John King Vanderbilt House.  The Dorothy Valentine Smith House wasn’t built until sometime between 1893 and 1895 by John Frederick Smith, the father of Dorothy Valentine Smith.

Prior to the home’s existence, this area had been used as farmland during the eighteenth century, much like the rest of Staten Island.  It was owned by the Corson family and had been passed down to the Vanderbilt and Vredenburg families, who had all been related in one way or another.  Up until the late 1880s, the site of the Dorothy Valentine Smith House and the John King Vanderbilt House had been one lot.  It was later subdivided into two separate lots.  At first, John F. Smith owned the plot of land that the John King Vanderbilt House stands on, but just a short year later, it had been passed on to Joseph Mortimer Vanderbilt, and John F. Smith obtained the plot of land this his house was established on.

John Frederick Smith was a prominent person in the Staten Island banking and insurance circles.  He was very much interested in Staten Island’s civic groups, cultural life, and history.  He had moved to Staten Island with his parents, Charles H. and Mary Ann Vredenburg Smith, when he was still a toddler, around 1862.  In 1877, he had started working at a Staten Island insurance firm, the Miller and Simonson Insurance Firm.  After working for them for about fifteen years, he became a partner.  Shortly after becoming a partner, he became the sole owner of the firm, up until 1908 when he sold it.

After John Frederick Smith passed away, his daughter, Dorothy Valentine Smith, resided in the house in which he built.  Dorothy Valentine Smith was a lot like her father, being interested in Staten Island’s civic groups, cultural life, history, and social services.  One of the civic groups she was dedicatedly involved in was the Visiting Nurses Association, for which she had been the president of the Board of Trustees for about fifteen years.  She was not only interested in these fields; she also playeDorothy Valentine Smith Homed a big role in making sure that Staten Islanders would remember their past.  She wrote several history books and articles, and was one of the founders of the Richmondtown Restoration Inc. and a trustee of the Staten Island Historical Society.  She had also restored some of the John King Vanderbilt House.

The Dorothy Valentine Smith House became a landmark not only due to the great history behind the area in which the house is built, but also because of the home’s characteristics.  This house was built in a style which took some aspects from the Queen Anne style of architecture.  It was constructed as a two-and-a-half story home with a rear wing that came out off the main area of the house, creating an “L” shape.  It includes a wrap-around porch that has its turned posts on top of tall plinths, one tall chimney in the main area and another in the rear section, decoratively-glazed window sashes, and gabled roofs that had a decorative wood trim with a small sunburst in the peak.

Along with this house and the John King Vanderbilt House, there are two other smaller structures on the site.  One of them is behind this home and had been a one-car garage.  The other is on the side of the house and had been used as a toolshed.  The Dorothy Valentine Smith House became a New York City Landmark in October of 1987.

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