The College of Staten Island Library
The Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences


Stapleton: A Community of Contrast & Change

The community of Stapleton is located on the east shore of Staten Island and is bounded by St. Paul's Avenue, Van Duzer Street, Grant Street, Vanderbilt Ave and the New York Harbor. From the start it was an innovative community. Access to water transportation was one of the major reasons why entrepreneurs began new enterprises in the area. Plants to manufacture medical equipment, oil of vitriol, minie balls, and more flourished in the village. This strong industrial presence was fired by a community of eager and earnest immigrant workers who settled in the neighborhood. The presence of a large number of Germans gave Stapleton a unique social ambiance. This was no where more apparent than at the German Club Rooms. Located at the corner of Van Duzer and Prospect Streets, the Clubrooms hosted theatricals, concerts, balls and masquerade parties. In addition to the ready, able and willing work force, the artesian springs and the cool hillside caverns provided all that was needed for a number of soon to be prosperous breweries. Bechtel's and R&H pumped out thousands of barrels of finely brewed beer. As the years unfolded Stapleton continued to be a unique presence amongst its Staten Island counterparts. New municipal piers opened in 1921, with several of the piers being designated as the country's first Free Trade Zone. In 1942, the Army and the Navy both used the Stapleton waterfront as a Port of Embarkation for service personnel. In recent years the Navy built the Home Port at the site. Planned with a future that promised unending growth and prosperity for Stapleton, the operation was abandoned, and many of the dreams and hopes for a revitalized community fell by the wayside.

"Stapleton: A Community of Contrast & Change" also highlights how residents have rallied together to fight crime, preserve the area's phenomenal architecture and history, and tried to spur economic growth. In looking at the evolution of Stapleton, one can see a community on the cusp of continual change. One can see a people who were, and are, continually trying to better themselves and their community. One can see visionaries with foresight looking toward the future in order to preserve what is best in their neighborhood, while also trying to accept what is helpful in modernization and what its bad points can do to a lovely historic community. Stapleton reaches into a person's heart, and its positive qualities tug at those proverbial heart strings. On the other hand its problems and issues can cause an angst not only alone, but more so when contemplating their resolve. Will it be time, money or studies that save Stapleton? More than likely not. No doubt the answer will be the hardy stock that have always composed the song of Stapleton. Those who live there now will move on knowing that they have improved and preserved a very large portion of the community for future residents who will find and embrace this fascinating area, much as has been done in the past two hundred plus years.

Patricia Salmon, Curator

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