Rossville, Staten Island

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Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church
Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church
Rossville is located in New York City
Coordinates: 40°32′28″N 74°13′01″W / 40.541°N 74.217°W / 40.541; -74.217Coordinates: 40°32′28″N 74°13′01″W / 40.541°N 74.217°W / 40.541; -74.217
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
CityNew York City
BoroughStaten Island

Rossville is a neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, on the island's South Shore. It is located to the north of Woodrow, to the west of Arden Heights, and to the south and east of the Arthur Kill. Rossville is located within Staten Island Community Board 3.[1]


Early history[edit]

Originally inhabited by the Raritan Indians, the area that eventually became known as Rossville remained largely free of European settlers until 1684 when the first land survey of the area was made by the British, who obtained Staten Island from the Dutch in the Treaty of Breda, which ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War. In 1692, Daniel Perrin, a Huguenot originally from Jersey, was granted 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land in the area (then known as Smoking Point) by Governor Benjamin Fletcher. The earliest known permanent settlement of the area is thought to be around the early 1700s by Peter Winant (1654-1758), son of Pieterse Wynant, one of the earliest known permanent settlers of Staten Island, who arrived from Holland in 1661.[2]

During the mid 18th century, the area was known as Old Blazing Star, and later simply Blazing Star, for a tavern located there. The Blazing Star Burial Ground, an abandoned cemetery dating from the mid-1750s, can be found just off Arthur Kill Road, north of Rossville Avenue (40°33′24″N 74°12′42″W / 40.5568°N 74.2118°W / 40.5568; -74.2118 (Blazing Star Burial Ground)).[3]

19th century[edit]

The Blazing Star Ferry, which crossed the Arthur Kill to Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, was established in the years before the American Revolution. When the Richmond Turnpike (known today as Victory Boulevard) was built across Richmond County in 1816, it improved connections to the western parts of the island and to the competing New Blazing Star Ferry in Long Neck (known today as Travis), which had steamboat and stagecoach connections to Philadelphia.[4]

Lyon Castle, Rossville, early 20th century

By the 1830s the area was renamed Rossville after Colonel William E. Ross, who had built a replica of Windsor Castle (originally known as Ross Castle, later known as Lyon Castle) on a bluff overlooking the landing of the Blazing Star Ferry.[5]

By the mid 19th century, Rossville was a thriving farm community and the village grew around it. However, when the Staten Island Railroad, which bypassed Rossville, opened in 1860, most Staten Islanders began referring to neighborhoods along its route by the name of the nearest station; hence Rossville became colloquially part of Prince's Bay.

Poor transportation caused the town's decline until the completion of the West Shore Expressway in 1976. The resulting residential building boom encouraged longtime farmers to sell their land to developers which fueled rapid growth in the area, continuing to this day.

Sandy Ground[edit]

Within Rossville is Sandy Ground, among the oldest surviving communities in the United States founded by free African Americans prior to the American Civil War, with the first documented land purchase by an African American in the area dating to 1828, just months after the abolition of slavery in New York State. Several of the community's historic structures are still extant, including five that have been designated as New York City landmarks, including a church, a cemetery, and three homes. Some residents also live in the original community.[6]

After slavery in New York was abolished in 1827, freedmen settled in the area known since colonial times as Sandy Ground, which was located in the area around what is now the intersection of Bloomingdale and Woodrow Roads in Rossville. These early settlers were skilled in the oyster trade, and brought this knowledge with them to Staten Island. The island's main hub for oyster harvesting was Prince's Bay, within walking distance from the Sandy Ground community. Sandy Ground also served as an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and is the oldest continuously settled free black community in the United States.[7][8] Oyster farming ended around 1916 due to water pollution in the harbor.[8]

Fire of 1963[edit]

On April 20, 1963, Rossville was the scene of the worst of three devastating brush fires to strike Staten Island; the three fires collectively destroyed more than 100 homes, rendering over 500 persons homeless and causing in excess of $2 million in damage.[9] Although remnants of the original Sandy Ground settlement still exist, most of the original houses were destroyed in the fire.[8]

Rossville's character was transformed permanently by the fire. Once the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was opened 19 months later, it and many other Staten Island neighborhoods saw massive new home construction. Many of the homes in Rossville which had been spared by the fire were demolished to make way for new, often larger ones.


The Sandy Ground Historical Society, was organized on February 28, 1980 at 1538 Woodrow Road. It preserves the history and physical surroundings of the Sandy Ground community and maintains the Sandy Ground Historical Museum.[10]

Although originally mostly farmland, Rossville has become largely suburban in nature—a fact lamented by its original residents, nearly all of whom have since moved away, in many cases after having been bought out under pressure from aggressive developers who have torn down most of the original homes and replaced them with condominium developments and semi-detached homes.[11] Ten families descended from the original settlers, however, still lived in the area as of 2008.[6]


Older structures[edit]

St. Joseph's Church and Cemetery[edit]

St. Joseph's Church, the oldest Roman Catholic church still standing on Staten Island, is located on Poplar Avenue in Rossville. St. Joseph's was founded on July 2, 1848, by Father Mark Murphy, pastor of St. Peter's Church, when he celebrated Mass for 58 Catholics in a house on Rossville Avenue as a mission of St. Peter's parish. In 1851, a small chapel dedicated to St. Joseph was completed on Poplar Avenue. When Father Francis DeCaro, O.F.M., was appointed as first pastor in 1855, St. Joseph's became an official parish — the third oldest of Staten Island's 36 parishes after St. Peter's and St. Mary's.[12]

St. Joseph's Cemetery (located at the end of Barry Street), which dates from the early 1850s, is the second oldest Catholic cemetery on the island.[13]

Rossville African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church[edit]

The Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed on Dec. 5, 1850. William H. Pitts, was the first minister, and the founding members were Caesar Jackson, Francis Williams, William Webb, William H. Stevens, John J. Henry, Moses K. Harris, Israel Pitts, Isaac Purnell, Ishmael Robins, Henry Jackson, Elizabeth Titus, Sarah J. Landin, Esther V. S. Purnell, Ann M. Bishop, Grace Williams and Louisa Harris.[14]

The current building is one of four African American churches on Staten Island which predate the 20th century. It is also one of two churches affiliated with African Methodism on the Island which predate the Civil War. Recently examination of the adjacent burial ground revealed the remains of over 500 interments (versus the 97 extant headstones), representing one of the larger collection of 19th Century African American burials in New York City.[15]

Harris Home[edit]

One of the more prominent families to live there was the Harris family. The circa 1906 home of Isaac Harris still stands at 444 Bloomingdale Road. He was the son of Silas Harris, one of two brothers who settled in Sandy Ground with their families early in its history. The Isaac Harris house was designed by architect Stanford White of the firm of McKim, Meade and White, who drew up the plans as a gift after Harris' years of service on his household staff. The house boasts a gambrel roof and front bay. Harris' home is one of only about 12 of the original old homes still standing in the community.

Many families still live in the community that was founded by their ancestors.[16]

Landmark properties[edit]

Five properties have been designated as New York City landmarks.

Landmark Name Address When Built Image Date Designated
Reverend Isaac Coleman and Rebecca Gray Coleman House 1482 Woodrow Road before 1859 Reverend Isaac Coleman and Rebecca Gray Coleman House - Sandy Ground - Staten Island.JPG February 1, 2011[17]
Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church 584 Bloomingdale Road 1897 Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church - Sandy Ground - Staten Island.JPG February 1, 2011[18]
Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery 124 Crabtree Avenue circa 1852 Rossville AME Zion Church Cemetery - Staten Island - August 2015 - 06.JPG April 9, 1985[19]
Baymen's cottages 565 and 569 Bloomingdale Road 1887–1898 565 and 569 Bloomingdale Road Cottages - Sandy Ground - Staten Island.JPG February 1, 2011[20]

Newer structures[edit]

Witte Marine Scrapyard[edit]

One of the largest marine scrapyards on the East Coast, the Witte Marine Scrapyard, known as the Staten Island boat graveyard, is located at 2453 Arthur Kill Road. Now officially known as the Donjon Iron and Metal Scrap Processing Facility, the scrapyard was opened in 1964 by J. Arnold Witte, Sr.[21] The scrapyard is known for its large assortment of obsolete steam tugs, ferries, carfloats, and other craft. Witte acquired them faster than he could break them up; the end result is dozens of vessels slowly rotting in the muck of the Arthur Kill.[22] A number of noteworthy vessels, including the New York City Fire Department fireboat Abram S. Hewitt, which was involved in the rescue of survivors of the 1904 General Slocum tragedy and was the last coal-burning fireboat in operation in the FDNY's fleet, can be found here.[23] Scenes from the 2010 thriller Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, were filmed on location at the Witte Marine Scrapyard.[24]

Woodbrooke Estates and Fawn Ridge[edit]

There are two large condominium developments in Rossville. One is known as Woodbrooke Estates, which is a 629-unit development with 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom condominiums. This development was completed in phases between 1981 and 1987. Woodbrooke Estates is surrounded by Barry Street to the north, Rossville Avenue to the east, Winant Avenue to the west, and Gervil Street (between Balsam Place and Correll Avenue) to the south. The other, slightly smaller condominium development in Rossville is Fawn Ridge, a 521-unit development which borders Woodbrooke Estates to the south. Fawn Ridge, which was constructed by Muss Development Company[25] (the same developer that built Woodbrooke Estates), was built between 1987 and 1990, and is located along Correll Avenue, between Rossville Avenue to the east, and Winant Avenue to the west. A 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) shopping center, located at the corner of Rossville Avenue and Grafe Street, was opened in 1992.[26]

Fire safety[edit]

Rossville is home to the city's first new fire company in over a decade, FDNY Engine Company 168, which was organized in June 2005. Engine 168 operates out of a brand new firehouse located at the corner of Rossville Avenue and Veterans Road East, which was built in 2004, and is staffed with an FDNY EMS Battalion.[27]


Rossville is served by the New York City Department of Education and is located in Region 7, Community School District 31.[28]

Elementary school students are zoned to PS 56 Louis DeSario School,[29] and middle school students are zoned to either IS 75 Frank D. Paulo School[30] or IS 34 Totten School.[31] For children with learning and emotional disabilities, there is a K-12 Special Needs school called South Richmond High School PS/IS 25.[32]

The Roman Catholic elementary school in the area is the St. Joseph - St. Thomas School.[33]

Nearby high schools include Tottenville High School and St. Joseph by the Sea High School.


Rossville is served by the S74/S84 local buses on Bloomingdale Road and Rossville Avenue, and the S55 on Bloomingdale Road. It is also served by the SIM25 Manhattan express bus on Rossville Avenue, and the SIM26 on Bloomingdale Road.[34] Some parts of Rossville are also within walking distance to the Pleasant Plains station on the Staten Island Railway. New York State Route 440 passes through Rossville.

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ Staten Island Community Board 3
  2. ^ Clute, J. J. (June 2009). Old Families of Staten Island. ISBN 9780806347684. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  3. ^ "SHIP GRAVEYARD, ROSSVILLE, Staten Island". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  4. ^ The New York Public Library - Staten Island on the Web - Staten Island's Old Names
  5. ^ The New York Public Library Postcard Collection - Lyon Castle: Rossville, Staten Island
  6. ^ a b Lee, Donna (7 November 2008). "On Visionary Soil, the Dream Turns Real". New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Black history lives at Sandy Ground". Staten Island Advance. April 24, 2005. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c Lee, Donna. "On Visionary Soil, the Dream Turns Real". November 7, 2008. New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  9. ^ "The History of Staten Island". Staten Island Advance. April 24, 2005. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  10. ^ "Sandy Ground Historical Museum". Office of the Borough President. Archived from the original on July 25, 2013.
  11. ^ New York Times – Living in Rossville, Staten Island: Steeped in History, With a Feel of the Brand New May 11, 2008
  12. ^ Catholic New York - St. Joseph's Church in Rossville Celebrates its 150th Anniversary July 2, 1998
  13. ^ Forgotten NY - Cemeteries - Burial Grounds of Richmond
  14. ^ Biddle, William T. "A.M.E. Zion Church" in History of Methodism and the Methodist Churches of Staten Island, ed. A. Y. Hubbell (New York: Richmond Publishing Company, 1898), p149
  15. ^ Staten Island church discovers 574 underground burial spots in cemetery, one of first free-black communities Accessed December 23, 2017
  16. ^ Ferreri, James G. (2005-02-28). "On Sacred Ground". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  17. ^ Reverend Isaac Coleman and Rebecca Gray Coleman House
  18. ^ Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church
  19. ^ Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery
  20. ^ 565 and 569 Bloomingdale Road Cottages
  21. ^ Maritime Reporter and Engineering News - Donjon: All Service, All in the Family June 4, 2004
  22. ^ "Bing Maps - Driving Directions, Traffic and Road Conditions". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  23. ^ "The Boatyard - Shaun O'Boyle". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  24. ^ "The History of Donjon Recycling". Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  25. ^ "Muss Development LLC". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Postings: Ribbon-Cutting; Rossville Shopping Center", The New York Times, March 1, 1992.
  27. ^ Archives of the New York City Mayor's Press Office - Release #349-01 November 5, 2001
  28. ^ New York City Department of Education Region 7 webpage
  29. ^ PS 56 Louis DeSario School webpage
  30. ^ IS 75 Frank D. Paulo School webpage
  31. ^ IS 34 Totten School webpage
  32. ^ South Richmond High School PS/IS 25 webpage
  33. ^ St. Joseph - St. Thomas School webpage
  34. ^ MTA Regional Bus Operations. "S bus schedule".
  35. ^ "Bradley Beach NJ". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  36. ^ JAMES A. BRADLEY (1830–1921) PAPERS, 1891–1897 - Lois R. Densky, Gregory J. Plunges, April 1981 Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Newington-Cropsey Foundation website Archived 2007-06-27 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "Caleb LYON". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  39. ^ Staten Island Advance - A gala draped in grandeur - St. George Theater celebrates its 76th anniversary December 4, 2005

External links[edit]