Spanish Camp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Spanish Camp, also known as Spanish Colony, was a private gated community on Staten Island. It was near the present-day Annadale section of Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. It existed from the 1920s to the first decade of the 21st century when it was demolished.

History[edit]

Spanish Camp was started in 1923 by emigrants from Spain, most of whom were anarchists, under the name Spanish Naturopath Association. The 18-acre (73,000 m2) property, located on New York Harbor and off Poillon Avenue on the southeastern shore of Staten Island, had its own streets and services, quite independent of anything having to do with the rest of Staten Island and New York City. A small pond and associated wetlands were included. A small beach faced New York Harbor, adjacent to an ornate picnic area and athletic field. Roman Catholic activist Dorothy Day lived for years in one of the cottages. In 2000 the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the founders, against the will of most residents, sold the property for $7.1 million to a developer, John DiScala. Residents owned their homes, but the land was the property of the Naturopath Association, whose members were descendents of the founders. Residents were forced out, but the developer was blocked by various court actions brought by former residents and by refusal of the City Planning Department to issue permits for construction. The developer had promised to preserve the home Dorothy Day lived in, and a few sample other areas. However, her former home was leveled by a bulldozer as the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was about to declare it a historic landmark, and the developer then claimed there was no evidence she had ever been near the property.

As of 2006 DiScala's firm has declared bankruptcy, and he is trying to sell the otherwise vacant land to other developers.

Spanish Camp Life[edit]

Spanish-American immigrants founded Spanish Camp in 1929 as a seaside summer retreat from various New York City barrios. Camp life included tan canvas tents on raised wooden platforms with open-air kitchens under canopies in the back; common showers, latrines, and water pumps; plentiful clamming and fishing, seasonal performances by celebrated Flamenco dancers and musicians in the Salon—a lantern-strung hall with barn-like doors in the center of the Camp. In the late 1930s and early 1940s the tents were transformed to became small summer bungalows; later, many were winterized. In 1972, Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day bought a bungalow near the beach. She spent the last eight summers of her life in Spanish Camp, enchanted by the sound of breaking waves through her kitchen window, and the simple, cooperative living of her neighbors.

Spanish Camp and Dorothy Day[edit]

On February 9, 2001, the cottage where Dorothy Day lived at Spanish Camp on Staten Island was demolished. The cottage was among the last remains of Spanish Camp. Dorothy Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was a part-time resident of one of the cottages during the 1970s. Dorothy Day is under consideration for sainthood by the Vatican because of her work for the poor.

Legacy of Spanish Camp[edit]

The not-for-proft, Spanish Naturopath Society had owned Spanish Camp's 17 acres (69,000 m2) on Raritan Bay in southeast Annadale on Staten Island. It had sold the site to a developer John DiScala in 1999. John DiScala of Volpe-DeSimone, Inc., planned to build mini-mansions on lots on the site and called it "Central Park East Estates"; reminiscing Central Park in Manhattan.[1]

Up until the time of the demolition, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was in talks with John DiScala regarding landmarking the cottages and having Friends of Dorothy Day Cottages maintain them.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ O'Shea, Karen (2006-10-04). "$40M Pricetag for Historic S. Shore Site Former Spanish Camp, the Focus of Controversy, Being Marketed As 'Rare' Development Opportunity". Staten Island Advance. 
  2. ^ "Dorothy Day Cottages Demolished". Preservation League of Staten Island. Retrieved 2009-08-22.