St. George, Staten Island


St. George, Staten Island

St. George is a neighborhood located at the northeastern tip of Staten Island in New York City, USA, at the location where the Kill Van Kull enters Upper New York Bay. It is the most densely developed neighborhood on Staten Island, and the location of the administrative center for the borough and for the Richmond County. It has a large percentage of Irish Americans. It is also the site of the Staten Island terminal of the Staten Island Ferry, as well as the northern terminus of the Staten Island Railway. It is bordered on the south by the neighborhood of Tompkinsville and on the west by the neighborhood of New Brighton.

History

The Revolution

Fort Hill [http://www.nypl.org/branch/staten/index2.cfm?Trg=1&d1=962&template=StGeorgeNeighborhoodHistory] [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9D0CE2DA1138EE32A25751C0A9679D946896D6CF] , one of the hills overlooking the harbor, was the location on Duxbury's Point or Ducksberry Point [ [http://www.nypl.org/branch/staten/index2.cfm?Trg=1&d1=962&template=StatenIslandOldNames NYPL] Old Names on Staten ISland] fortified by the British during the American Revolutionary War. The area was primarily rural up through the early 19th century.

The Naming of St. George

The origin of the town name was derived, not from the dragon slaying saint, but from George Law, a precocious land baron who had acquired rights to the waterfront at bargain prices. According to Island historians, Charles Leng and William T. Davis, it was only after another prominent businessman, Erastus Wiman, promised to "canonize" him in the town's name that Law agreed to relinquish the land rights for a ferry terminal. [http://www.nypl.org/branch/staten/index2.cfm?Trg=1&d1=962&template=StGeorgeNeighborhoodHistory] In the late 1880s, Wiman operated the Staten Island Amusement Company in the neighborhood, offering public athletic events, an illuminated fountain, and pageants. The St. George Cricket Grounds was part of that package, but it only lasted a few years.

The Heyday

In the 1830s, the area facing the Kill Van Kull became a fashionable resort area, with the construction of several elegant hotels along St. Mark's Place across from the present site of Curtis High School (the oldest High School on Staten Island). The grandest and last of these hotels was the Hotel Castleton, built in 1889 and destroyed by fire in 1907. In 1918, the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences moved to its present location in the neighborhood. The United States Coast Guard operated a facility in the neighborhood until moving to Governors Island in 1967. In the early 20th century the neighborhood grew rapidly. Municipal ferry service to Manhattan began in 1905. The neighborhood was the scene of several elegant buildings by the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. These included a branch of the New York Public Library (1906), the present Staten Island Borough Hall (1906), and the Richmond County Courthouse (1919).

In 1924, the "Saint George" telephone exchange was established in the new North Staten Island building of New York Telephone; this became "SAint George 7" when New York City's service underwent a major upgrade six years later. This three-digit prefix, now identified by numbers — "727" — is the only one of the five exchanges which existed immediately prior to the aforementioned upgrade that is still in service on the island (in addition to St. George itself, this numeric designation is encountered in many other North Shore communities, as far away as Mariners Harbor to the west and South Beach and Grasmere to the south).

A beautiful 2,800 seat venue, Solomon Brill of the Isle Theatrical Company broke ground in August 1928 and the doors of this picture palace opened on December 4, 1929. The cost of the project, which included an attached office complex, was two million dollars, $500,000 of which was for the theatre. Brill, who owned several other theatres on the Island, promised to bring top-of-the-line vaudeville to the borough for an admission fee of 75 cents. He envisioned the St. George as a dream show house rivaling Manhattan's cathedrals of cinema. At a time when many of the large movie houses were built by big Hollywood studios, Brill was an independent owner of fifteen theatres in the NYC area. Prior to his death in 1932, he sold his interest in the St. George Theatre to William Fox, whose name lives on as the namesake of the Fox Television Network and 20th Century Fox film studio.

The main architect was Eugene DeRosa; he was assisted by Staten Island resident James Whitford, who was known as the “dean of Staten Island architects.” Mr. Whitford also designed the Ritz, Liberty and Victory theatres, none of which exist today. The ornate interior of the theatre was designed by Nestor Castro. Mr. Castro was the art director for the Libman-Spanjer Corporation which designed the interiors of many theatres in the Times Square area. The majority of the elaborate architecture that is visible to theatre patrons is the result of Mr. Castro's artistic genius. The St. George Theatre's interior is a variety of Spanish and Italian Baroque styles.The Island's newest movie and vaudeville house outshone most of its competitors of the day, including Manhattan's Capitol Theatre on Broadway. Some of the theatres unique features included the absence of any obstructions; a $25,000 Wurlitzer organ; an advanced cooling & heating system; one of the largest cantilevered balconies ever built and velvet seats, gilded balconies and grand staircases.

A Decline

The neighborhood went into decline following the construction in 1964 of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which shifted the center of development and commerce on Staten Island to the interior of the island.

A Renaissance

. Many condominium buildings are currently being built along the shore, and near the ferry terminal, as they offer unsurpassed views of lower Manhattan and easy access via the free Staten Island Ferry.

The National Lighthouse Museum [http://www.lighthousemuseum.org/] (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and the adjacent St. George post office are immediately east of the St. George ferry terminal. The Richmond County Bank Ballpark, the home of the Staten Island Yankees, a minor league farm club of the New York Yankees opened in 2001. The stadium offers dramatic views of the harbor and the Manhattan skyline.

The 55 year old St. George Ferry terminal recently underwent a $130 million dollar renovation and now features floor-to-ceiling glass for panoramic views of the harbor and incoming ferries. [http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/ferrybus/statfery.shtml]

In 2004, Rosemary Cappozalo took over The St. George Theater which was transferred to the Richmond Dance Ensemble, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the restoration of the historic St. George Theatre and its development as a Cultural and Performing Arts center. As the new owners and operators of the St. George Theatre, they began major repairs to restore the theatre back to its' original magnificent splendor. In the Fall of 2007, the not-for-profit organization became the St. George Theatre Restoration, Inc. [http://www.stgeorgetheatre.com/] Currently the magnificent St. George Theatre shines once again and serves Staten Island and all of New York. The Hyatt St. side of a municipal parking lot faces the St. George theater. This part of the lot is noted for the greenmarket held on it during spring, summer and fall. The lot encompasses a paved over graveyard of the former quarantine that has led to some controversy. [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/nyregion/thecity/23rema.html?_r=1&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/I/Irish-Americans&oref=slogin]

In 2007, Borough President Molinaro unveiled a sweeping new vision of St. George. The new design includes closing Hyatt Street between Central Avenue and St. Mark's Place in order to create a grand, piazza-style plaza that would serve as a "gateway" to St. George and would draw tourists and others to the area. [http://www.statenislandusa.com/]

Culture

Museums

The Staten Island Museum aka Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences, located just two blocks west of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, New York City's only general interest museum, explores the arts, natural science, and local history through permanent and changing exhibitions and welcomes over 65,000 adults and school children to a comprehensive array of programs.

In 1997 lighthouse organizations across the United States banded together to create a [http://www.lighthousemuseum.org/ National Lighthouse Museum] to celebrate this important part of our maritime heritage. The museum will tell the story of the United States Lighthouse Service and become a central repository for archives and artifacts. The museum will feature interactive exhibits and displays on the history, technology, and architecture of lighthouses, lightships and other aids to navigation, from primitive fire beacons to the Global Positioning System. The museum will also honor the keepers who kept the lights shining as maritime commerce and seaborne immigration helped to make this nation grow and prosper. The site selected is the old USLHS/US Coast Guard “super depot” at St. George, Staten Island in New York Harbor. This was the major center for lighthouse supply, maintenance and experimentation for nearly 150 years. The site consists of ten acres of waterfront property with five historic USLHS buildings, a public plaza and an 850-foot pier.

Fine Arts

Artists and musicians have been moving to Staten Island's North Shore so they can be in close proximity to Manhattan but also have enough affordable space to live and work in. Recently The New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/nyregion/thecity/07hips.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1] [http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story=104bda05ad2b8da609a03bcacd3bda17be057b43] and NY1 News [http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?&aid=69203&search_result=1&stid=242] featured Staten Island has a haven for artists.

Theater

The St. George TheaterThe newly renovated St. George Theatre serves as a cultural arts center for a myriad of activities including outreach educational programs, architectural tours, television and film shoots, concerts, comedy, Broadway touring companies and small and large scale children's shows. [http://www.stgeorgetheatre.com/]

Film

The murder scene in Brian De Palma's 1973 film "Sisters" {with Margot Kidder playing both separated conjoined twins, Danielle and Dominique (the doppelgänger) took place in the apartment building on Hamilton Avenue between Stuyvesant Place and Academy Place.

Actor Paul Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, lived in the Art Deco building on Daniel Low Terrace between Crescent Avenue and Fort Hill Circle before he reached fame.Actors Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez lived in the same building.

The finale of the 2003 film “School of Rock” was shot at The St. George Theater.

Links

The Prodigal Borough [http://www.prodigalborough.com] : Real estate listings of unique properties, news, and culture on Staten Island.

ee also

*List of Staten Island neighborhoods


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