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Posts by Donald Laub

The Devil in the White City

The Tottenville Book Discussion group met this past Monday night to discuss The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. We had a pretty good discussion, but I think I liked the book a whole lot more than most of the group. They liked it, but they didn’t think it was fabulous like I did. It was one of the best books I have read in a long time, and I loved how he interwove the story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and of the serial killer, H.H. Holmes. (This is a nonfiction book that read like 

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Staten Island Hospital

OK, so I admit the link of  this picture to the Tottenville Branch is tenuous–it is geographically far from Tottenville, but this is where the Tottenville Branch librarian (me) was born! Sadly, the building is unoccupied and in a very dilapidated state. After Staten Island Hospital moved to its new location (sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s) this building was converted into an apartment building, but it went bankrupt after a few years. Some squatters occupied  part of it a few years ago, but they were evicted. I think there are legal issues that keep it from being 

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Outerbridge Crossing, Staten Island

Many people think the name of this bridge is the Outer Bridge, because it is on the outer reaches of Staten Island and NYC.  However, it was named after Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge who was the first chairman of the Port Authority of New York and was a Staten Island resident. (I guess the Outerbridge Bridge would sound too odd.)

The Staten Island side of the bridge is actually in Richmond Valley, the next town to Tottenville, and links the island to 

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Staten Island Side of Tottenville Ferry

New Jersey Side of the Tottenville Ferry

Perth Amboy Tottenville Ferry Slip

The site of ferry service to Staten Island dates to 1684 when the likes of Ben Franklin and the Lenape Indians used its service to traverse the Arthur Kill. The service closed in 1963. The ferry slip was restored in 1998 to its 1904 appearance. A replica of the ticket office has been constructed and used as a small museum.

I’ve never been to Perth Amboy. People tell me it is a nice town. Got to get there one of these days, but I almost always get lost when I drive in New Jersey!

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Tottenville Ferry

The Tottenville Ferry ran between Tottenville and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Tottenville residents used to shop in Perth Amboy, using the ferry. The ferry went out of service sometime in the 1960s. I have a distinct memory form the early 1960s of my father bringing the family car to a mechanic in Tottenville, and the two of us riding the ferry to Perth Amboy and back again. I don’t know why I remember it; maybe it was just nice spending some “quality” time with just me and my Dad.

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Stadium Theater, Tottenville

This is the Stadium Theater on Main Street in Tottenville. The caption on the photo says 1927 to 1951. El Paso and Alias Nick Beal, the movies on the marquee were released in 1949.  The building, I believe, is now empty, but it was recently a warehouse for furniture, I think. (The marquee is still there.) In 1968-69 it was one of the hot spots on Staten Island, as it was turned into a discotheque, complete with strobe lights. I remember a cover band doing the full-length version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. It was really groovy!

For other 

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Did Someone Say Dress Code?

The Tottenville Branch–From NYPL Digital Gallery-No date given.

The branch was renovated in 1993 and has new shelving, but the pattern of the shelving is the same. The chandeliers were gone the first time I clustered at Tottenville in the mid-1980s, replaced by ugly fluorescent lighting. Chandeliers were designed for the renovation. The designers worked from old photos. The circ desk has the same horseshoe shape, but it is in a different position. The front door is to the left of the picture.

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The Conference House, Tottenville


The Conference House, (also known as the Bentley Manor and the Captain Christopher Billop House)was built before 1680 and located near the southern most tip of New York State in Staten Island. It is famous for the Peace Conference held there on September 11, 1776, which unsuccessfully attempted to end the American Revolutionary War. The House, a National and New York City Landmark, is the only pre-Revolutionary manor house still surviving in New York City. It 

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Welcome to Tottenville

Tottenville, area approx. 1.7 square miles (4.4 km²), is the southernmost neighborhood of Staten Island, New York City and New York State. Originally named Bentley Manor by one of its first settlers, Captain Christopher Billop (1638-1726), after the ship on which he sailed to America in 1667, the district was renamed Tottenville in 1869, apparently in honor of Gilbert Totten, a local American Revolutionary War hero. (From Wikipedia)

I drive by this sign everyday on my way to work at the branch!

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Main Street, Tottenville

Main Street, Tottenville, one block away from the library. Circa 1930s.

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Picture of the Tottenville Branch

No, that isn’t a picture of me. (I drive a ‘99 Ford Escort)  Someone said it is one of the earlier branch librarians, but I think it may be a picture of Benjamin F. Joline, a Tottenville town resident who wrote a history of the town. I don’t know what year it is, but would guess somewhere from 1904 to 1920. There are now big trees in front of the branch.

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Book TV on CSPAN2

If I had all the time in the world, I think I would spend every weekend watching every minute of Book TV on CSPAN2. In case you don’t know about it, it is mostly readings and talks by authors of non-fiction books, which are mostly but not entirely related to politics. I find it  fascinating.

Since I don’t have all the time in the world, this past weekend I watched 2 hours worth. One was 

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Book Discussion of “Brighton Rock” by Graham Greene

Had another lively book discussion at the Tottenville branch. I wasn’t sure how the group would receive this one. (Plot summary below.)  While all, including me, pretty much reviled all the characters in this book, the story, and what the characters did and how they acted, made for a good discussion. Even though the description below makes it sound like a standard detective-thriller, it is suffused with moral, philosophical, religious, and spiritual questions.

There was one participant who thought the book was anti-Catholic, but everyone else disagreed. It was about 

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Book Discussion of “The March” by E.L. Doctorow

I led a good book discussion of Doctorow’s “The March” this past Monday night at the Tottenville Branch. It was recommended last year by two of the participants in the group, and I am glad I chose it.  The group liked it a lot, too, which I was glad about, at least in part because there were about 8 new people, and I wasn’t sure how they would receive an historical novel about war. But it worked.

The group liked a lot the character Pearl, who maybe is the main character and who is a half white-half black former slave, who 

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New York Public Library, Tottenville Branch [Part 4]

From the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission Study that Designated the Tottenville Branch a NY City Landmark, 1995) [Section 4 of 8] 

Carrere & Hastings

John Merven Carrere (1858-1911) was educated in Switzerland before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1877. Thomas Hastings (1860-1929), born in New York, spent a short time at Columbia University before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The future partners met in Paris, both earned their diplomas–Carrere in 1882, and Hastings in 

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New York Public Library, Tottenville Branch [Part 3]

From the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission Study that Designated the Tottenville Branch a NY City Landmark, 1995) [Section 3 of 8] 

New York Public Library and Andrew Carnegie

The New York Public Library, a private corporation providing library services under contract to the City of New York, is the product of an amalgamation first of several privately-owned libraries and, later, various free circulating libraries. The consolidation in 1895 of the excellent research facilities of the privately-owned 

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New York Public Library, Tottenville Branch [Part 2]

(From the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission Study that Designated the Tottenville Branch a NY City Landmark, 1995) [Section 2 of 8] 

The Tottenville Free Library

Early American libraries were associated with churches, towns (or school districts), colleges, or cooperative groups; during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the progressive free public library movement overshadowed those initiatives. On Staten Island, particularly following the Civil War, libraries slowly began to form with the development of 

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New York Public Library, Tottenville Branch [Part 1]

(From the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission Study that Designated the Tottenville Branch a NY City Landmark, 1995) [Section 1 of 8] 

History of Tottenville

The southwestern tip of Staten Island (Richmond County), once an important Native American habitation site and burial ground, has a recorded history which dates to the 1670s, when Captain Christopher Billopp built a stone manor house (the Billopp or Conference House, a designated New York City Landmark) and initiated ferry service to Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Billopp’s 

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Staten Island Film Festival

The third (I guess you can say annual) Staten Island Film Festival will take place from June 5 to 7, with an awards ceremony on June 8. They are actually changing the name to SINY Film Festival, because “SINY” is being used in other Staten Island promotions.

I didn’t get to attend last year’s (I was in Spain) but I did see about 5 or 6 films in 2006 and about half were really excellent, 2 were just OK and only one was dreadful.

About 75 films will be shown this year in only 3 venues: College of Staten Island, JCC in Seaview, (both deep in 

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