Port Richmond, located on the Kill Van Kull waterfront, was once an industrial and transportation center of Staten Island. Up until about the 1960’s, Port Richmond was the one of the busiest, if not the busiest, commerce sections on Staten Island. What made Port Richmond such a busy area of commerce? Why did the livelihood in Port Richmond seem to suddenly die out in the 1960’s? The answers to both of these questions have to do with industrialization and transportation.
Being located along the Kill Van Kull on the North Shore, Port Richmond was in prime location for the many shipyards and factories that sprang up in the 19th century. The Burlee Dry Dock, Starin Shipyard, and Van Clief’s Dry Dock were among the dozens of shipyards on Staten Island after 1820.
On July 4, 1892 the first electric trolley on Staten Island ran from Port Richmond Square to Westerleigh. In 1896 the Staten Island Midland Railroad Company ran its first electric car from Port Richmond to Richmondtown. The trolley continued to run along Port Richmond Avenue until the 1930’s. From the late 1800’s up until 1953, the Staten Island Railway North Shore line ran. It stopped at both the Port Richmond Square to access the shopping center and Tower Hill near Elm Park. These industrial advancements in technology helped to increase activity in the once hustling and bustling Port Richmond. However, with the coming of the end of their run, life in Port Richmond seemed to slow down.
The industrial center that was Port Richmond seemed to slow down in the middle of the 20th century. With most commercial activity moving inland at places like Forest Avenue and the opening of the Staten Island Mall in 1973. Factories, businesses, shipyards, the trolley and the North Shore Railroad have since closed down.
The waterfront has become almost lifeless. The few historical landmarks and attractions have seen their value diminish over the years. These historical attractions include restaurants like Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. Ralph’s Ices has branched out and now there are several locations all over Staten Island. Denino’s pizzeria remains the premiere Italian restaurant however, it has seen increased competition from the many new pizzeria’s all over the island.
Port Richmond is no longer the industrial center it once was. As it is now, it is a worn down, lower income neighborhood. During a walk through the neighborhood with some classmates, I saw many worn down buildings, inactive shipyards like the Staten Island Marina Inc., slow businesses, graffiti, scattered trash, and lifeless streets. That being said, Port Richmond remains one of the oldest and most historically important neighborhoods on Staten Island.
1)”North Shore.” Home. Web. 16 Apr. 2012. <http://oldstatenisland.tripod.com/north_shore.htm>.
2)”Port Richmond – Old Staten Island.” Old Staten Island. Web. 16 Apr. 2012. <http://www.statenislandhistory.com/port-richmond.html>.
3)Papas, Philip, and Lori Weintrob. Port Richmond. Print.
4)”History: A Timeline of Staten Island.” Staten Island Advance 21 Apr. 2010. Print.