Silver Lake Reservoir, Staten Island

On Staten Island there are four golf courses, three operated by city, and a private one operating on state-owned land. The Silver Lake Golf Course is located on rolling terrain on the slope of the Silver Lake Reservoir.

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The shape of the lake resembles an expanded number eight with a dam across the lake’s midpoint to separate its two basins. Once a natural waterway, it was drained in 1913, lined with concrete and connected to the city’s aqueduct.

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Charles W. Leng’s Wonderful Map

When I am not getting my shoes wet by exploring streams, I look carefully at old maps and aerials in search of where the hidden waterways once flowed in the open. Last week, I conducted a park inspection in the far-off Travis neighborhood of Staten Island, where the Parks Department has a plant nursery.

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The plant nursery is a former farm, and on one of its walls is a 1968 reproduction of Charles W. Leng’s 1896 Map of Staten Island with Ye Olde Names & Nicknames by William T. Davis. There is so much information on it relating to the island borough’s history. Let’s zoom in on a few details. Continue reading

Clove Lake, Staten Island

Staten Island is a latecomer among the city’s boroughs when it comes to urbanization, as it retained its small-town appearance for more than a half-century after becoming part of New York City. The land around Clove Lake was proposed as a park in 1897 with its trails and facilities completed in the 1930s. It was the first large park in the borough, a local counterpart to Central Park and Prospect Park.

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A former estate of colonial governor Thomas Dongan, the valley around Clove Brook contains dense forest that hides the Ordovician period serpentine rock that forms Emerson and Grymes hills on either side of the valley.

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Photo of the Week

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?

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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? Continue reading

Photo of the Week

As late as 1936, steam locomotives shared tracks in the city with diesel and electric trains, horses shared the roads with trucks, and could that be a tall-masted ship docking on Staten Island’s North Shore? This week’s selected photo comes from the NYPL collection, taken by noted urban photographer Percy Loomis Sperr on May 22, 1936.

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Sperr’s photo shows Bodine Creek crossed by the old and new trestles of the North Shore Branch of the Staten Island RailwayContinue reading

Water Map for the Outer Boroughs

In 1874, a map like none other was unfurled before city planners by Col. Egbert Ludovicus Viele. Designed in a time when the city was rapidly expanding north thanks to advances in public transportation, Viele captured for posterity the locations of the island’s springs, brooks, creeks, and swamps, where land meets landfill, tracing former shorelines and hilltops. To this day, this map is used by structural engineers in Manhattan, who check it for buried streams when constructing buildings, tunnels and utility lines.

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With 82 of the 101 hidden city streams in my book located outside of Manhattan, what map did I use to find these waterways? Continue reading

New York Post visits Silver Lake, Staten Island

Yesterday, the New York Post visited Silver Lake on Staten Island to report how its low water level is revealing decades-old debris lying on its bottom, such as discarded toys, a motorcycle, and old road signs. Formerly a natural lake in the Grymes Hill neighborhood, it was redesigned in 1917 to serve as a 56-acre reservoir. Unused since 1971, it is the centerpiece of Silver Lake Park.

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In its natural state, the lake was the headwaters of the eastern branch of Clove Brook, which continued towards the smaller Valley Lake, then into Clove Lakes Park, and then north towards Port Richmond and Kill Van Kull. Portions of the brook have since been buried by the Silver Lake Golf Course and residential development.

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