Two new landmarks for Staten Island
For Staten Island warehouse, mansion, landmark status
by Staten Island Advance
Tuesday October 30, 2007, 6:30 PM
The city today landmarked a warehouse in Elm Park and a 19th century Todt Hill home, despite opposition from the owner of one of the properties, the former Standard Varnish Works.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the former Varnish Works on Richmond Terrace in Elm Park and a private Circle Road house, which one commissioner described today as “fantastic on many levels.”
Landmarking prevents a building from being demolished, and owners who want to make changes to the exterior of a landmark must get approval from the commission. Today’s designations must still be approved by the City Council but are likely to be upheld there.
Landmarks Chairman Robert B. Tierney said that the former Varnish Works factory evoked “the history of industry on Staten Island, in New York City and throughout the world.” Built around 1889, the factory became one of the largest manufacturers of varnishes and enamels in the world.
But owner Ed Drury said the decision to landmark the building is hurting business today. He said the designation has already forced out the only tenant, a carpet store that had hoped to renovate the exterior before learning it could not do that and meet Landmarks requirements.
“People need economic development. They need safe places to live and work — they don’t need a landmark building,” Drury said today.
The new landmarks are part of a cluster of eight Staten Island structures the commission nominated earlier this year for potential historic status. The buildings were identified as part of an internal agency review of hundreds of buildings in the borough.
The survey was prompted by a spike in the demolition of historic homes here but later criticized after a builder bought and then vandalized a house that had previously been identified on the survey.
Despite requests by the Advance, the commission has refused to release the list of historic homes it has identified.
An attorney for the owner of the Circle Road house on Todt Hill told the commission last April that his client would not oppose landmarking. The home is owned by Alice Diamond, wife of the late Staten Island Advance Publisher Richard E. Diamond.
Several commissioners today praised the Greek-Revival style mansion, which was moved from Massachusetts to Todt Hill in 1931.
“It’s so intact. What a beautiful piece of preservation,” said Joan Gerner, a Landmarks commissioner from Queens.
“This is fantastic on many levels, from where it came from to how it got here,” added Margery Perlmutter, another commissioner.
The house came from the Swift River Valley region in western Massachusetts when houses there were moved or demolished to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir.
Walter Tyler, president of the LA Dreyfus Chewing Gum Factory, commissioned a builder to move the New England-style home to Todt Hill. In the 1950s, Horace P. Moulton, vice president and general counsel for AT&T, bought the house with his wife Gretta, an early champion of the Greenbelt. The house remains a private residence.
— Contributed by Karen O’Shea