The House That Elmer Built
Last week, the Tottenville community lost a piece of its history. On September 9, the century old Manor House, a beautiful waterfront mansion located at 500 Butler Boulevard, was demolished. Although the Butler Manor Civic Association attempted to preserve the historic house, it was torn down by its new owner to make way for the building of luxury homes.
According to the Staten Island Advance, The Manor House was built in 1908 by Elmer Butler after his original mansion burned down in a fire that took the life of his daughter. Elmer Butler was a "scion of the South Shore family that made its fortune in the thriving maritime and boat-building industry along the waterfront. At one time, the 65-acre Butler estate stretched from Raritan Bay across to present-day Amboy Road." Mr. Butler traveled to Europe in search of building materials that were fire resistant and hired Lamb & Richards, the architects who designed Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill estate, to design his new home.
For the past 45 years, The Butler Manor House has been occupied by the Staten Island Montessori School and I had the pleasure of visiting the school many times to read to the students there. I was always impressed by the beautiful white building and peaceful, rural atmosphere; it was almost like taking a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I will miss the dedicated staff and wonderful students, who exuded enthusiasm for books and reading. My visits to the school were often the high point of my day. The school has relocated to another Staten Island location.
For more information on the history of this home, SI Treasure Blog is an excellent resource. According to a recent post, the Manor House Estate originally included "a mansion, cottages, a second house, carriage house, several barns, outhouses, racetrack and a gatehouse." The blogger also states that the home currently on the corner of Hylan Boulevard and Butler Avenue is part of Butler Manor and served as the cottage for the estate's gatekeeper. And if you look very closely when passing Butler Boulevard, you can still see the original brick pillars that marked the estate's entrance.
Since the Gatehouse is part of the original estate and even older than the recent Manor House, there is still some hope that it may be landmarked and preserved for future generations. It would be a shame to lose this important piece of Tottenville history and the last remains of Elmer Butler's extraordinary home.