Archive for smith’s infirmary

Staten Island

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2012 by Pat Regan

The forecast for this day was to be in the upper 50’s so I got an early start and headed to Staten Island. Staten Island? I really don’t know Staten Island at all. I’ve lived in NYC most of my life. As a kid you think Manhattan is it! The Yankees and the zoo soon introduce you to the Bronx. Later you realize there are girls in Brooklyn and Queens and that becomes interesting. In fact an ongoing joke here is…”I’m in a long distance relationship. She lives in Brooklyn.”

I had ridden the Staten Island Ferry on numerous occasions just for the ride and view. I even stepped off a couple times but got right back on the boat. I rode through Staten Island with blinders on to get the Jersey shore. But I’ve never stopped to have a look.  Now it was time to explore this mysterious island that geographically seems more like New Jersey than New York. My first stop would be just across the Verrazono Narrows Bridge at Fort Wadsworth.

Looking down on Battery Weed at Fort Wadsworth, you can see downtown Manhattan in the distance to the left.

Unfortunately the fort was not open today. I talked with a park ranger. He wasn’t very clear at all about when they are open. He said, “Sometimes on Sundays. You should check the website.” “The National Parks website?” I asked. He said, “No this one.” as he handed me a paper and pointed to this address…

The fort may be all locked up, but I was able to stick my camera through some open bars and peek inside.

Below is the former home of Alice Austen, a photographer from the late 1800’s.

This is the view of the city from her back yard. She lost everything during the Great Depression, but the house is now a museum to honor her.

Below is an old horse stable simply named Stable “A”. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Department of Street Cleaning (later to become the Department of Sanitation) used this place to keep their horses. Back then all their vehicles were horse drawn. It still houses trucks and equipment for the Department of Sanitation.

The Smith Infirmary Hospital. This is what first attracted me to investigate Staten Island. I read about this place online. From what I could gather it is not going to be preserved. The damage is too great and it’s slated for demolition. For all I knew at the time, it may have been gone already. But as I rounded a turn on Cebra Avenue I could see those spires still pointed upward.

There were large fences all around the front of the property so I rode around to the back where I was able to climb a stone wall and slip between a broken chain link fence. Once inside the walls I could see that the plywood had been pulled away from one of the basement doors. For me it may as well have been a welcome mat.

Inside it was everything I had hoped for. A decrepit mess. Time for the pictures to do the talking.

I tip-toed around the upper floors thinking I was alone, then these pigeons bustled and scared the %!@%#& out of me.

I rode toward the Western shore of the island and stopped by a small community turned cultural center called Snug Harbor. The chapel below was built in 1854.

Snug Harbor was originally developed as a home for retired sailors. Now it is a Cultural Center. There are some great looking buildings at Snug Harbor. A row of Greek revival buildings were heavily shaded and partially obstructed by scaffolding so I didn’t photograph them. There is also a long row of these small brick homes as seen below. I would have snooped around a little more at Snug Harbor but there is only so much time in a day and I had more to see.

Upon exiting Snug Harbor I chatted it up with an old security guy at the gate. He used to ride a Triumph. He also steered me in the right direction for some gas and my next destination, Historic Richmond Town.

I knew there were some old buildings in Richmond Town. I didn’t know it was one of those places where they try to make history ‘come alive’ with people dressed from the era. But it is winter and things were generally quiet. With few exceptions these old structures were moved to this location from other parts of Staten Island. The house below is one of those exceptions; it sits in it’s original place in this town once called Coccles Town.

Putting the camera up against the glass made for a good shot in this recreated general store.

I leaned on the glass again at the carpenter’s shop.

The house below is called Christopher House and was originally built in 1720. It was moved here from Willowbrook.

CLICK HERE to see an interactive map of Richmond Town.

While in Richmond Town I noticed a lighthouse in the high hills above. I asked a lady in one of the houses about the lighthouse. She told me the small creek that runs through town was once quite large. People used to travel here from the inlet on the west side of the island and the old lighthouse guided their way.

Another one of the sites I was eager to see was this old boat graveyard off Arthur Kill Road. Unfortunately most of it is behind the walls of a large salvage company with strict orders against photography. I went in twice to try and was turned down quickly. They said the boss flips when people try to snap shots of the rustic wonders. However about half a mile down the road there is a spot where you can view a few of the decaying beasts.

My final destination was the Conference House (AKA Bentley Manor) at the southern end of the island. It was build before 1680 and once housed an unsuccessful peace conference to try and settle the Revolutionary War. While here I talked to an old guy riding a HD Sportser. He was checking out my bike. He used to work on lots of the old British bikes and once had a BSA Gold Star with a Super Rocket engine. He said he had taken photos of the boats at the old salvage yard. He told me the guy’s name who owns it and described him as crotchety but said maybe if you catch him on a good day he will let you take some photos. I hope so.