Staten Island Neighborhood Profile: Richmondtown
As far back as the inhabitance of the Lenape Indian, oystering was very popular on Staten Island. At the center of the Island, many oyster and clam shells were found around Richmond Creek, a stream which empties into the Fresh Kills. This discovery led to the naming of the nearby area as Coccles Town. Due to its geographical location, Coccles Town became the county seat of Richmond County in 1729. Being the governmental center of Richmond County, the area's name was then changed to Richmondtown, making it more appropriate.
Richmondtown was a very popular place during the American Revolution. British troops established their quarters in many buildings and slept in the homes of Richmondtown's families. In 1769, the Reformed Dutch Church was built on Arthur Kill Road. Claiming it was a "Rebel Church," the British burned the church during their stay. The windows of St. Andrew's Church were destroyed by gunfire during the war; once, in 1776, and again in 1777. Before the British had left, they burned down many buildings, including the Courthouse. Once the war had ended, many churches, buildings, and homes had to be rebuilt. In 1793, the second County Courthouse was built.
In 1837, a bigger County Courthouse was built, making it the third of its kind in Richmondtown. This time, it was built on Center Street. In 1898, however, the consolidation of Staten Island with the other boroughs to form Greater New York had caused the government to begin moving from Richmondtown to St. George, as it was the closest point to Manhattan. By 1919, the government buildings and offices in Richmondtown were abandoned.
In 1856, the Staten Island Historical Society was established. During the Great Depression, volunteers of the organization felt that pieces of Staten Island's past should be preserved. By 1958, a 100-acre site was obtained for the creation of Historic Richmond Town. The "village" contains many houses that were restored from Richmondtown, as well as many that were relocated from other neighborhoods in Staten Island.
The oldest building in Historic Richmondtown is the Britton Cottage, which was built around 1670 at New Dorp Beach. It is well-known for being the residence of Nathaniel Lord Britton, who lived there from 1895-1915 and was the creator of the New York Botanical Garden. The oldest building in the village that has not been moved from another neighborhood is Voorlezer's House, which was built around 1695 by the Reformed Dutch Church. Voorlezer is a Dutch word, which translates as the pastor's assistant. This building had served as a school, church, and residence throughout the centuries.
Several of the structures in Historic Richmondtown date back to the 18th century. One of these buildings is the Treasure House, which was built around 1720. It got its name from a local legend which stated that around 1860, $7,000 worth of British coins were hidden in the building's walls. Far more than half of the structures in the village are from the 19th century. The Third County Courthouse, of which we spoke earlier, and 1848's Richmond County Clerk's and Surrogate's Office are included in these structures. Two buildings from the 20th century also stand in the village: Public School 28, which was built in 1907, and the Schwiebert House, built around 1910. The Schwiebert House is now home to the museum offices, which the school contains the Historical Society's library and archives. Next to the visitor's parking lot, there is also a private burial ground whose tombs date back as early as the 1780's.
Historic Richmond Town is not just a site to see historic houses. The main idea was to have people actually experience the lifestyle of the 19th century. Seasonal activities take place, with monthly, scheduled events. Many structures only had their exteriors restored. These buildings are currently used for such activities, as well as for the Historical Society's offices.
Today, Richmondtown has come of age and is considered one of Staten Island's more high end real estate communities. Post Verrazano-Narrows bridge in the early 1960's the area became a mainstay for modestly priced High Ranch Homes and Ranch homes are still a predominate part of the housing landscape here. However, the 1980's Richmondtown was beginning to see its metamorphosis into a high end or luxury home community. Sprawling California, large Broadside Ranch homes and 80's contemporary style homes began to make their presence. The late 1990's right up until now Richmondtown has seen its biggest growth spurts with the new construction of mansion sized modern Center Hall Colonials being the most prominent part of the area's architecture.
There are two local buses and one express bus, which make stops in Richmondtown. The s54, a local bus, travels to West New Brighton and Eltingville via Manor Road. Along Richmond Road, you may find the s74, another local bus, traveling to either of the destinations of St. George or the Bricktown Mall. The x15, the neighborhood's express bus, also takes Richmond Road. It comes from the Eltingville Transit Center and takes the Verrazano Bridge to get into Lower Manhattan.
There are many public and private schools in the area of Richmondtown. The public schools are P.S. 23, at 30 Natick Street; P.S. 50, at 200 Adelaide Avenue; Staten Island Technical High School, at 485 Clawson Street; and New Dorp High School, at 465 New Dorp Lane. The Catholic schools in the area are St. Patrick's School, at 3560 Richmond Road; Our Lady Queen of Peace School, at 22 Steele Avenue; St. Charles School, at 200 Penn Avenue; Monsignor Farrell High School, at 2900 Amboy Road. The other private schools in the area are Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, at 2495 Richmond Road; New Dorp Christian Academy, at 259 Rose Avenue.