When you think of sailors on Staten Island, your immediate thought is most likely to be of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, on Staten Island’s North Shore—and rightly so. For those unaware, this recreational facility was built in the early 1830s as a home for retired sailors. While it did, in fact, attract many sailors to our borough, sailors had been coming to Staten Island’s shores for years prior to the opening of the institution—or so we have been led to think. The North Shore of Staten Island seemed to be a prime location for sailors and those who were retired from the service.
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden sits in an area often referred to as Randall Manor. It sits right on the shore, with an entrance on Richmond Terrace. Before the retired home for sailors was ever even a thought, a Vernacular-style home had been erected just a short distance away from the future institution. Also located on Richmond Terrace, this home faces the Kill Van Kull and New Jersey. The exact year during which the home was erected is a topic of constant debate, as is the name of the home’s original owner.
One story is that the home was built in 1770 by a retired officer of the United States Navy, Captain John Neville. By the nineteenth century, the home was purchased by County Judge Jacob Tysen, who had worked nearby. Eventually, the parlor on the first floor of the home was used by him as a courtroom. The home sits between Clinton Avenue and Tysen Street, which was likely to have been named for Judge Jacob Tysen.
The second version of the story names Richard Housman as the original owner of the house, having erected it in 1783. Judge Tysen had been its second owner, while Captain John Neville was its third. In this version of the story, Captain Neville resided in the home between 1868 and 1882, which would have meant that he moved there after Sailors’ Snug Harbor had been established. The only issue with this is that a map created during Captain Neville’s apparent residence here shows that the land had been owned by the Hayes family.
Nevertheless, in recent years, a local historian had apparently traced the ownership by sifting through deeds in the county clerk’s office. The conclusion this historian came to would be the second version above. In both versions of the story, the home had later been used as a tavern, known as the “Old Stone Jug.” This tavern was frequented by residents of Sailors’ Snug Harbor. Their constant visitation caused the institution to purchase the tavern and shut it down.
While it may all still be a bit questionable, we know one thing for certain: this home, located at 806 Richmond Terrace, is a great example of eighteenth century architecture, whether it be pre- or post-Revolutionary. It is a two-and-one-half story house with a two-story veranda. Everything about the exterior of this home was created to be symmetrical; the front steps lead up to the front door, located in the center of the home. On either side of the home are two windows each, which match the windows on the second floor of the home’s main façade. In the steeply-pitched roof are two dormer windows, on either side of the home, with a dormer bay window at the center. At both edges of the roof are two chimneys. The Tysen-Neville House was designated as a New York City Landmark on November 15, 1967.Posted by Anthony Licciardello on