Rossville, Staten Island

Rossville is the name of a neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, located to the west of Prince's Bay, on the island's South Shore.


Early History of the Area

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 of land in the area (then known as Smoking Point) by Governor Benjamin Fletcher.

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 of Arthur Kill Road, east of Rossville Avenue.

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.

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.

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 on the basis of what station along the railroad line was nearest; hence Rossville became colloquially part of Prince's Bay, the closest station to it.

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

Sandy Ground

After slavery was abolished in the State of New York in 1827, freedmen from all over the state, as well as far away as Maryland and Virginia, 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. Oyster harvesting was a major business on Staten Island during the 19th century and was mainly conducted on the island's south shore. The area of Prince's Bay was the main hub and was within walking distance from Sandy Ground. 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.

Although remnants of the original settlement still exist, most of the original houses were destroyed in the Rossville Fire of 1963. The Sandy Ground Historical Society, which preserves the history and physical surroundings of the Sandy Ground community and maintains a museum and library, was organized on February 28, 1980, and is located at 1538 Woodrow Road.

St. Joseph's Church and Cemetery

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.

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.

The Rossville Fire of 1963

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. Rossville's character would be transformed permanently by the fire as it turned out, for once the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was opened 19 months later, it and many other Staten Island neighborhoods would witness massive new home construction (with many of the homes in Rossville which had been spared by the fire actually being demolished to make way for new, often larger ones).

Witte Marine Scrapyard

Once of the largest marine scrapyards on the East Coast, the Witte Marine Scrapyard is located at 2453 Arthur Kill Road in Rossville. Now officially known as the Donjon Iron and Metal Scrap Processing Facility, the scrapyard was opened in 1964 by J. Arnold Witte, Sr. 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. 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.

Woodbrooke Estates and Fawn Ridge

There are 2 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 (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 shopping center, located at the corner of Rossville Avenue and Grafe Street, was opened in 1992.

New Firehouse/EMS Station

Rossville is also 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.

Rossville Today

Although originally comprised of 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.


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

Elementary school students are zoned to PS 56 Louis De Sario School, and middle school students are zoned to either IS 75 Frank D. Paulo School or IS 34 Tottenville School. For children with learning and emotional disabilities, there is a K-12 Special Needs school called South Richmond High School PS/IS 25.

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

Nearby high schools include:

Notable Residents

External links


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