Hearings held for nine Staten Island buildings


Staten Island Armory in Westerleigh, Staten Island. Image: LPC.
Dutch Reformed Church in Port Richmond, Staten Island. Image: LPC.

Commissioners hear testimony on Armory building, two churches, and several residences within the borough. On August 11, 2009, Landmarks held hearings for nine potential City landmarks on Staten Island. Chair Robert B. Tierney said the hearings were part of Landmarks ongoing effort to preserve the borough’s 19th century heritage. Council Member Kenneth Mitchell, whose district includes all the buildings, said all nine properties are important to Staten Island’s history and deserve designation.

Landmarks first considered 327 Westervelt Avenue, a shingle-style residence built around 1887 in the New Brighton neighborhood. The building features a three-story turret and is believed to have been designed by Edward Alfred Sargent. The property’s co-owner supported designation and described the restoration work he and his partner had performed on the building, which he said was likely “slated for the wrecking ball.” A representative of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy said the building was “a rusty nail away from falling down” before the current owners purchased the property, calling it one of Staten Island’s “genuine treasures.”

Landmarks then considered four attached three-family flats, known as “Horton’s Row,” also located on Westervelt Avenue. Originally comprised of 12 attached buildings, eight of the flats have either been demolished or significantly altered.

The four intact flats are examples of multi-family homes rarely built on Staten Island in the 19th century. “Horton’s Row” was named after Harry Lawrence Horton, who built the flats in 1880 to provide rental housing for moderate-income families. The narrow three-story flats feature full-width porches, bay windows, and paired columns, while the four-story corner flat includes a full-height projecting bay. A resident testifying in support of designation said the flats serve as a “window to the past” for future generations.

The Staten Island Armory, at 321 Manor Road, was inspired by medieval architecture and roughly resembles a Norman castle. Built in 1926 and designed by the architectural firm Werner & Windolph, the brick-faced armory includes limestone trim and is separated from the street by a broad lawn that creates a large open space. Only the western portion of the campus would be landmarked, leaving the remaining property available for the National Guard’s unburdened use.

Council Member Mitchell stated that the armory is one of Staten Island’s most recognizable buildings and unique for both its architecture and military history. Residents noted the armory’s historic highlights, including that it originally housed horse-mounted soldiers.

Robert McCormick, the owner of 63 William Street, a two-story vernacular Greek Revival-style home, said that he supported designating his property. Although he called it a “mixed blessing” financially, McCormick said he was determined to ensure the house’s survival. Linda Eskenas of the Preservation League of Staten Island also testified in favor of designation.

James G. Burger built Port Richmond’s Dutch Reformed Church in 1844 and Oscar Teale enlarged it in 1898. The proposed designation of the Greek Revival-style church would also include its cemetery and Sunday school building. The cemetery, predating the church, served as a burial ground as early as 1704 and contains legible gravestones dating to the 1740s. The Church’s president, Warren McKenzie, asked all the church’s congregants to stand with him in support of designation, to correct what he termed as the church’s “mistake” when it opposed landmarking in 1966.

Architect Isaac Pursell built the Christ Church, located at 72 Franklin Avenue, in 1904 and modeled it after English parish churches of the 14th century. The cruciform stone church is an example of the Gothic Revival-style and features Tiffany stained-glass windows. Susan Fowler, a member of the church’s planning committee, testified that the Episcopal congregation was “delighted” by the potential designation, saying it treated the property as though it had already been landmarked.

Landmarks did not set a date to vote on any of the items.

LPC: 327 Westervelt Avenue House, 327 Westervelt Ave. (LP-2349); 411 Westervelt Avenue Flat, 411 Westervelt Ave. (LP-2377); 413 Westervelt Avenue Flat, 413 Westervelt Ave. (LP-2378); 415 Westervelt Avenue Flat, 415 Westervelt Ave. (LP-2381); 417 Westervelt Avenue Flat, 417 Westervelt Ave. (LP-2382); Staten Island Armory, 321 Manor Rd. (LP-2369); 63 William Street House, 63 William St. (LP-2367); Reformed Church on Staten Island, 54 Port Richmond Ave. (LP-2384) ; Christ Church, 72 Franklin Ave. (LP-2383) (Aug. 11, 2009).

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