Places and Street Names
We can learn a lot about the history of our towns from the names of the streets and places.
In 1903, William T. Davis, noted Staten Island historian, compiled a map to identify and record the locations of many named places throughout Staten Island, based on the descriptions found in Morris' Memorial History of Staten Island (1898); virtually none of these places exist today.
Many of our streets were named for prominent families who were successful business people or civic leaders and owned large amounts of land. Now that we have a better understanding of the history of our town and the people who came before, we'd like to share with you some of what we've learned about these street names and the families they were named for:
Amboy Road - one of the 9 oldest roads on Staten Island. It was often referred to the "the road leading to the ferry." This ferry (18th century) ferry led to Perth Amboy, NJ.
Arents Ave. - Craig Ave., between Johnson Ave. and Main St., was named for Stephen D. Arents, master sail maker. Arents's house was located on Johnson Ave. and, if still standing, would be in the middle of Craig Ave.
Arlington Ave. - Pittsville Ave. between Brighton St. and Yetman Ave.
Arthur Kill Road - This road, which runs parallel with the Arthur Kill waterway between Staten Island and New Jersey, was once segmented as Fresh Kills Rd., Mill Dam Rd., Broadway, Washington St., and East Broadway. It does not appear as one continuous roadway in Tottenville until the 1910s.
Aspinwall St. - Some streets were named for property owners who owned large amounts of land but never actually lived here. Aspinwall and Satterlee Sts. are examples.
Barnard Ave . - Owen H. Barnard built and owned a silk mill on Richmond Valley Road. Although he lived along the waterfront near Allentown Lane in Charleston, he also owned acreage near today's Barnard Ave., Tottenville, where his daughter Belle lived after his death.
Billop Ave. - See Depew Ave.
Brighton St . - Formerly Garretson Place. Named for Garret Garretson, farmer, who owned many acres extending from Amboy Rd. to the Bay. The "Brighton" connection is not yet known.
Butler Ave . - Daniel Butler, oysterman, resided at the corner of Butler Ave. and Amboy Rd., and owned several acres here.
Bethel Ave. - Formerly named Church St. and renamed for Bethel United Methodist Church. At one time Church St. crossed the railroad tracks and connected to Arthur Kill Rd.
Craig Ave. - The section of Craig Ave. between Bentley St. and Amboy Rd. was formerly named Elliott Ave. Walter T. Elliott who was an educator, surveyor, and businessman. His house at the corner of Bentley St. and Craig Ave. was demolished in 2008. The "modern" section of Craig, from Amboy Rd. to Hylan Blvd., was constructed in the late 1920s about the same time Hylan Blvd. was built. It was named for Mayor Hylan's Comptroller, Charles Craig.
Depew Ave. - Billop Ave. between Brighton St. and Rockaway St.
E. Broadway - Arthur Kill Rd. between Church St. and Main St.
Elliott Ave. - See Craig Ave.
Ellis St. - Jacob Ellis established Tottenville's first shipyard on the Sound, between Main and Tyrrell Sts. Jacob's brother, Cornelius C. Ellis, another Tottenville resident, was a tug boat captain and harbormaster for New York City.
Eureka Place - The section of today's Craig Ave. that runs between Butler Ave. and Bentley St. was named for the firehouse at the corner of Butler and Craig (192 Butler Ave.).
Fisher Ave. - Members of the Fisher family arrived in Tottenville in the early 1800s and owned many acres of land. It is written that the earliest Fisher house (which still exists today) was built to face the Arthur Kill, but later turned to front the newly opened road known today as Fisher Ave. Prior to the 1940s, vehicular traffic crossed the railroad tracks at Fisher Ave. to continue along Broadway (now Arthur Kill Rd.) to Richmond Valley.
High St. - See Lenhart St.
Hart Pl. - Named for Cornelius Hart, former County Clerk of Richmond County, who was a successful land developer. The area surrounding Hart Pl. was once referred to as Hart Heights. Although plans were drawn, the area was never developed by Hart.
Hopping Ave . - The Hopping family, related by marriage to the Tottens, were prominent residents and business people.
Hylan Blvd . - Named for John Francis Hylan (1868-1936), the Mayor of New York City from 1918 to 1925. Not many people remember when Hylan Blvd. was constructed in 1927. A median, albeit short-lived, ran down the center of the road from Page Ave. to the Conference House. Hylan Blvd. continued to the water's edge where the Russell Pavilion stands today.
Johnson Ave . One of Tottenville's earliest families, the Johnsons were large landowners, mariners, and oystermen, who lived near the water's edge on the Sound as early as the 18th century.
Joline Ave . - Formerly called Central Ave., Benjamin Joline, farmer, settled near the bay circa 1830 where he owned copious amounts of land.
Lee Ave. - Formerly Center St. and later named for the Robert Lee family, builders, who constructed many homes along this street and the surrounding streets. Robert Lee and family resided at 7372 Amboy Road.
Lenhart St . - Named for Chaplain John L. Lenhart, Amboy Rd. resident, who was the first naval chaplain to die in service to his country in 1862. Rev. Lenhart drowned aboard the USS Cumberland. A monument to his memory was erected in Bethel Cemetery, Tottenville and still stands today. Formerly called High St.
Madsen Ave. - Danish immigrant Hans Madsen farmed the land and distributed bottled milk from his Richmond Valley property.
Main St. - Originally named Totten St. until 1897. Totten St. led to Totten's Landing on the Sound, and became the business center of the village from the mid-1800's through the late-1900's. It was a showplace of handsome homes built by wealthy seamen and merchants.
Page Ave. - Originally named Beach St., it renamed in honor of artist William Page who had built an eight-sided house near today's Hylan Blvd. in the 1860s.
Pittsville Ave. - See Arlington Ave.
Richmond St. - Main St. below Clermont Ave.
Sleight Ave./Sprague Ave. - Many streets were named for the early families that lived here for generations, among them, the Sleight and Sprague families. Andrew Sprague and John Sleight were both in the oyster business.
St. Andrew's Place - Near the Nassau train station, St. Andrew's Church at one time owned several acres in this area.
The Point - Originally a reference to Ward's Point. In the 1940s to 1960s families could drive south of Hylan Blvd. to the water's edge, park the car in the sand, and spend a day at the beach. Barbeques were a favorite; swimming was not uncommon. In the 1960s-1970s, Hylan Blvd. ended at the water's edge and was known as "The Point," a popular hang-out for young adults.
Washington St. - The stretch of present-day Arthur Kill Rd. between Main St. and Bentley St., probably named for the Washington Hook & Ladder Co. formerly located there.
Wood Ave. - There were numerous Wood families residing in Tottenville early on. Wood Avenue was laid out in 1868. Elias P. Wood, oysterman, owned much of the land surrounding this street.
Yetman Ave . - This street was named for Hubbard R. Yetman, teacher, justice of the peace, state assemblyman, and first Borough Superintendent of Schools in Richmond County. Yetman lived at 5336 Arthur Kill Rd., at the southeast corner of Yetman Ave. The house was built by William Joline, Yetman's father-in-law, ca. 1845. Yetman Ave. was originally mapped as William Street, possibly to honor Joline. In the 1890's, it was popularly referred to as Hogan's Alley. The street was graded and paved in 1896, more than a year earlier than the town's most important road, Main St.
Many local victims of September 11 have been honored with a secondary street sign throughout the community. The official name of the street, however, has not changed.