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Richmond Valley History

Richmond Valley Train Station, 1927

Tucked into a small natural depression just north of Tottenville, Richmond Valley blends into the landscape. It is an area of great natural beauty that offers exceptional landscape, wildlife, flora and fauna, woodlands, and historic legacies.

In 1828 a post office was established on Richmond Valley Road near Amboy Road. A grocery store and one-room schoolhouse soon followed. In 1860, when the Staten Island Railway was extended to Tottenville, a station and ticket office were built here. The office is long gone, but the Richmond Valley Station exists today.

The Disosway family, and later the Coles, were among the earliest settlers of Richmond Valley. Records indicate that Cornelius Disosway's grist mill was constructed on Mill Creek Pond prior to 1772. It was the earliest known commercial establishment in southwestern Staten Island. Later owners of the mill would include the Butlers, the Coles, and, by 1870, the Weir family who were the last to operate the mill.

At one time, four separate Cole family households occupied the corner of Richmond Valley Rd. and Arthur Kill Rd. The area was appropriately known as "Cole's Corner." In the 1870s Abram Cole and his sons established a successful coal and lumber business at the end of Richmond Valley Road on the waterfront.

The Totten family, who owned more than 60 acres of land north of Amboy Rd., was instrumental in establishing a Methodist congregation in Richmond Valley. The forerunner of Tottenville’s Bethel United Methodist Church, known as The Tabernacle, was built on land donated by Joseph Totten. In the early 19th century, The Tabernacle also served as a schoolhouse and a meeting place for the growing community.

In 1897, a two-story, two-room schoolhouse was built at the corner of Cole and Weiner Sts., known as Public School 2. When the school term ended in June 1943, fifteen students waved good-bye to their school and to their teacher, Miss Ava A. Butler. The school closed permanently. The building remained empty until it was razed in 1959. Miss Butler, who was educated in the school, taught there for 29 years.

Along the winding stretch of Richmond Valley Road,the 22-acre site occupied by Gateway Cathedral, an independent, fundamentalist Christian church and educational facility, is undergoing expansion. The church opened in 1993. It is bounded by Richmond Valley Road to the south and Boscombe Avenue to its north. Around the turn of the 20th century, this site was home to Dr. Peter C. Juhl, veterinary surgeon. A park, race track and picnic grounds were located on Dr. Juhl's property.

Barnard's Silk Mill, also on Richmond Valley Road, was a large brick edifice located closer to the Sound. The mill manufactured "giumps and fringes for undertakers use." It was owned and operated by Owen H. Barnard. Barnard Avenue in Tottenville is named for this family.

In 1940, as part of an Island-wide capital project to remove street-level railroad crossings, Richmond Valley Road was rerouted and elevated over the railroad tracks.

Today strip malls and traffic fill the stretch along Page Ave. from Amboy Rd. to the Outerbridge toll plaza where swampland and woodland once prevailed. Despite the foreboding signs announcing future commercial development, the area is still rich in woodlands, wetlands, and wildlife. Somehow, a few ponds and “peeper” frogs have survived the encroachment.