If you’d like to see the oldest building still standing on Staten Island, you won’t find it in Historic Richmondtown. It’s actually further north, in the Mid-Island section of Staten Island. Just below Todt Hill, in the Dongan Hills community, you will find the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House, standing at 1476 Richmond Road. This building, which had served as a home for many generations, is one of the oldest buildings in New York, having been built in the early 1660s.
The first section of the home was erected by Pierre Billiou, whose name has been made known on Staten Island not only because of this house, but also because he was among the first permanent settlers on Staten Island. Pierre Billiou left his Amsterdam hometown with his wife in May of 1661 to come to New Amsterdam, the present New York. He and his wife were among sixteen Dutch and Frenchmen who had applied for land grants on Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s land. By August of 1661, these applicants created Staten Island’s first permanent settlement—what we know today as Old Town.
Shortly after Old Town was established, Pierre Billiou erected a home for his family. The original portion is said to date back to 1662 which, if true, would make it the sixth-oldest structure in the State of New York. The home itself shows features of the Dutch Colonial style of architecture, whose homes are known for their steeply-pitched roofs and chimneys, among other things. However, the signature feature of Dutch Colonial-style homes—the gambrel roof—was left out when the home was erected.
It is evident from the home’s designated name that Pierre Billiou was not the sole owner of the home. In September of 1677, the home and its environs were granted to Captain Thomas Stillwell, the husband of Pierre Billiou’s daughter, Martha. During Captain Thomas Stillwell’s ownership of the home, he enlarged the tiny farmhouse to better suit his and his wife’s needs. Descendants of Martha and Thomas Stillwell owned the home until the middle of the eighteenth century, at which time it was purchased by Edward Perine.
It is said that the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House played a role during the Revolutionary War, as well. Apparently, it was used as the headquarters of a British captain, which is very likely, since the British would set up headquarters in just about anyone home on Staten Island.
The original village of Old Town, in which the home was located, was eventually divided up into a few different neighborhoods. With these neighborhoods came new houses and structures, though the home Pierre Billiou had erected stayed. In fact, after the American Revolutionary War, the Perine family continued to own the home and wound up making a number of additions to it. Even with all of these additions, the home still has its old Dutch Colonial-style features.
The Perine family owned the home up until the beginning of the twentieth century, at which time it was purchased by the Antiquarian Society. This society is known today as the Staten Island Historical Society.
On February 28th, 1967, the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House was designated as a New York City landmark. Less than one decade later, on January 1st, 1976, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Staten Island Historical Society currently operates and maintains the home as a museum.