Preservationists rally to save West Brighton property

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The borough’s preservationists have adopted another historical building, and launched a campaign to save 848 Castleton Ave. in West Brighton from possible demolition.

The Henderson family constructed the clapboard building for commercial use in 1900, according to the Preservation League of Staten Island.

“It is in near original condition,” with a barn in the rear yard, the organization reports. “Its double bay windows recall some of Staten Island’s earliest commercial structures, an endangered species.”

via Photo gallery: Staten Island preservationists rally to save West Brighton property |

Obtaining Photos of your Ancestral Home

New York City genealogists are luckier than most. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographed nearly every single building in the five boroughs. This was done for tax assessment purposes at the time, but fortunately, the city Archives Dept. recognized the historical value of these photos and has carefully maintained, and restored where necessary, these images.

If you have the address of the home where your ancestors lived — easily obtained from census records (1930 or even earlier) — you can order a print of the image of the home on line. (The address, of course, appears on the left hand side of the census page, written vertically, and the house number will appear on the horizontal line where a family enumeration starts.)

To identify the exact photo you want from the collection, you can view the microfilm of the images available at the St. George, Staten Island, Library, and obtain the block and lot number, to save a few dollars.  Or you can simply order the image on line by inputting the address, and let the city identify the block and lot for an additional $5 fee.  For those of doing Staten Island genealogy long distance, that’s the best option.

Note that the building must have existed at the time the photos were taken in order to be included in the collection–but for the older buildings, it is possible you can get an image of the residence your ancestors lived in,  in 1880. 

Order photos of Staten Island homes online here.

Tottenville Dissoway-Cole House Considered for Landmark Designation

The names Cole and Dissoway are very familiar to those who are into the history and genealogy of Staten Island. Now, the New York City Historic Districts Council is advocating landmark designation for the 19th century home of Captain Abram and Ruth Dissoway Cole.  The Greek Revival style home is a rare surving example of this architecture that was once common on the island. It was continuously owned by members of the Cole family up until the 1970’s, and is located in Tottenville.


The present owners adamantly oppose landmarking, claiming it amounted to condemnation by eminent domain without compensation. The owner’s attorney testified that the building’s original fabric had been extensively damaged in a 1999 fire, and a representative of Council Member Vincent Ignizio testified that while many buildings in southern Staten Island deserve designation “this is not one of them.” The owner intends to sell the property to a developer aspiring to build a mall at the site, lending urgency to preservationists’ calls for landmarking, according to New York City Land Use News.

Landmarks has not yet set a date to vote on designations.