When you think of Staten Island, many do not jump to the idea of it being an architectural destination. The borough is rich in history and landmarks that include a variety of fascinating buildings with Greek Revival and “haunted” Victorian Mansions, to even an American architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright original.
- The Ambassador Arms: We are kicking this list off starting on the North Shore of Staten Island. On 30 Daniel Low Terrace, you will find the classic and charming Art Deco apartment building known as the Ambassador Arms. Built in 1932, designed by architect Lucien Pisciotta, the exterior features a unique design with ornate blue, orange, and gold terra cotta trim. The lobby of this apartment building, which once houses famous celebrities, such as Paul Newman and Martin Sheen, remains mostly the same and the details have been preserved. In fact, Martin Sheen’s son, actor and director Emilio Estevez was born and raised in this building, until his father’s career took off and they moved to Manhattan.
- Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden: This park located on the northern edge of Staten Island, right off Richmond Terrace, is boosted by its Classical Revival. Originally, the area used to be the home to retired sailors. Snug Harbor’s main gem is Temple Row, a collection of 19th-Century Greek Revival buildings that are now the home of the cultural center and museums. Opposite to these buildings, there is a New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, a walled garden created by a team of Chinese artist and volunteers in the late 1990s.
- Staten Island Borough Hall: Right across the street from the St. George Ferry Terminal, overlooking the Manhattan skyline, sits the building designed by the same architects who designed the New York Public Library main branch, Carrere (who was a resident of Staten Island) and Hastings. Built in 1906, its purpose was to welcome Staten Island being elected as New York City’s fifth borough. It was designed in the style of a French hotel (Hotel de Ville), with a brick and limestone exterior.
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto: This work of art built in 1937 was actually created by many architects. This Catholic Folk Art Monument is considered the literal labor of love of Italian immigrant Vito Louis Russo, in the wake of his son’s death. It was built by the members of Our Lady Mount Carmel Society, comprised of Italian-American workers. It was built in their spare time using fieldstone, seashells, and blown glass as their materials. This sprawling structure is hidden behind the Church of St. Joseph and is open to the public.
- Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: This suspension bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn is one of the longest bridge in the United States and one of the last major projects planned by Robert Moses. Built in 1964 and designed by Othmar Ammann, who was also the man who designed the George Washington Bridge, the construction for the Verrazano took five years to complete. The bridge is now the starting point of the New York City Marathon.
- The Ernest Flagg Estate: Making our way to the East Shore of Staten Island is the estate of architect Ernest Flagg, who was best known for his projects like Manhattan’s Singer Building, which is now demolished, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. However, his most ambitious project was his own estate that surrounds land on Todt Hill. Built in 1898, the development was centered around Stone Court, a Dutch Colonial Revival mansion that included a gatehouse and a fieldstone water tower. Flagg also designed many smaller stone houses on Todt Hill, trying to keep those properties affordable and beautiful.
- Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art: Located on Lighthouse Hill, this museum houses one of the largest collections of Tibetan and Himalayan artifacts in the United States. Designed by Jacques Marchais, an American collector of Tibetan art, she took this project as her passion and built the house to resemble the art she collected. It is the first of its kind in America, being designed after a Himalayan monastery. The complex includes a fish pond, gardens, and Buddhist meditation cells.
- The Gustav Mayer House: The Italianate New Dorp Mansion was originally owned by Gustave A. Mayer, the creator of the sugar wafer. His two daughters, Paula and Emilie, lived in the house into their old age, painting frescoes on the wall. The two were never married and resembled the lifestyle from the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens. A photographer bought the house in the 1990s, leaving most of the house untouched from its 1855 glory. It becomes a favorite spot for celebrity fashion shoots because of the state of the elegant decay.
- The Crimson Beech: As mentioned above, Frank Lloyd Wright was a famous New York architect. He has two buildings that are still representing him today in New York City: The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan and his prefab dwelling on Lighthouse Hill, Staten Island. The home is one of eleven of its kind that Wright designed for builder Marshall Erdman. There is one in Madison, Wisconsin. It was “transported” to Staten Island for homeowners William and Catherine Cass. The L-shaped home includes a sunken living room and cathedral ceilings. However, the home is a private residence.
- The Kreischer Mansion: Making our Top 10 List for the second time, this mansion is not only an architectural piece in history but also includes a haunting story. Originally, the property included two Victorian-style mansions in 1885, one for each of the sons of Mr. Balthasar Kreischer: Edward and Charles. However, Charles’ house burned down in 1930 and Edward committed suicide by gun in his house in 1894. The property had been flagged by haunting tales throughout the two centuries. In 2005, the property’s caretaker, who also happened to be a hitman for the mob, was murdered in the mansion and burned his body in the basement. The fitting backstory worked well when HBO’s Boardwalk Empire later filmed on the property.
What are some of your favorite Staten Island architecture landmarks? Share thoughts in the comments below or join our conversation on Facebook!
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