This week’s selected photo from the NYPL Digital Collections is from Staten Island, with a place name very commonly used throughout the city, Mill Pond. The first question then is which Mill Pond is depicted here and where was it located?
Previously, I reported on the mill pond located near the mouth of Bodine Creek on Staten Island’s North Shore, but I haven’t seen images of the mill pond. What exactly is the abbreviation W.N.B.S.I. in the undated postcard above?
On the Map
Looking at the 1907 Borough of Richmond Topographical Survey, we see a mill pond on the edge of the Port Richmond neighborhood. Richmond Terrace is highlighted and the North Shore branch of the Staten Island Railway is marked in red. This map and all previous maps of Port Richmond show that there was only one mill pond in that area, the Bodine Mill Pond of the border of Port Richmond and West New Brighton. That answers the abbreviation W. N. B. S. I.
The pastoral scene in this week’s photo is unrecognizable in the present condition of this site. The mill pond is buried and on top of the fill are car repair shops, alleys and a bus depot.
When it comes to historical GIS, one of my top sources is Museum of the city of New York’s Mapping Staten Island online exhibit. Users can overlay old maps of the borough atop a Google Map and see how streets evolved, neighborhoods grew, and certain streams disappeared.
Upstream with the Staten Island Museum
With the Independence Day weekend in mind, Staten Island is an excellent place for a staycation, as it has plenty of Revolutionary War history (mostly loyalist), places to hike, bike, and swim. For indoor activities, it should be known that the four outer boroughs each have a museum carrying the borough’s name. The Staten Island Museum is divided between three buildings, a main one in St. George, the borough’s civic center; and two facilities at Snug Harbor.
Online, it has its own exhibit of local postcards, many of which feature the borough’s hidden waterways. With Bodine Mill Pond in mind, here are a few postcards from its upstream tributaries.
The Actor’s Home
This undated William J. Grimshaw postcard shows a Tudor-style mansion on the shore of Clove Lake, which feeds into Bodine Creek. Before relocating to the warm climate of Hollywood, the early entertainment industry called New York its home. Many actors lived in eastern Queens, among other places. On Staten Island, the Actor’s Home served as a home for retired entertainers between 1902 and 1928. The property was acquired by the city for Clove Lakes Park and demolished in 1938.
Another undated postcard in this collection is Ferdinand Thoele’s hand-colored photo of Martling Pond. It is one of three lakes within Clove Lakes Pond. This lake borders on Saint Peter’s Cemetery and is dammed by Martling Avenue. Another postcard of this pond from the NYPL Digital Collections shows people bathing in this lake. Unfortunately today, there are no freshwater beaches within New York City. The only freshwater pond beach in the city is Brady’s Pond on Staten Island, but it’s a private pond. Swimming in park lakes is absolutely prohibited.
The phantom stream that links Clove Lakes to Bodine Mill Pond is Clove Brook. Just short of entering this pond, it merges with Palmer’s Run, another stream that has nearly entirely been buried beneath the streets. The 1907 hand-colored postcard by Mulford D. Simonson shows an old structure by the stream, likely a mill that used the pond’s water to grind grain. Palmer Run originated in Westerleigh and flowed north roughly along Watchogue Avenue, Wooley Avenue, Cortlandt Street, and Jewett Avenue.
The few undeveloped lots along the former stream bed could still be transformed into parks or bioswales. That’s for public officials and the surrounding communities to decide.
In the News:
Bensonhurst Bean reports on horseshoe crabs spawning at Coney Island Creek.
3BL Media reports on the resiliency effort at Conference House Park that seeks to mitigate the impact of storm waves.