Cobblestone walk, Wall Street between St. Marks Place and Belmont Place, St. George.
They didn't flatten Ward, Grymes, Todt and Emerson hills on Staten Island in order to lay down a street grid, as they flattened Murray Hill in Manhattan, according to a recent article in The New Yorker. On Staten Island, it looks like they just made roadways around the hills, or built access roads where they could––that is, wherever the grade wasn't impossibly steep.
Staten Islanders found another way to make their ascents and descents less arduous and more convenient. They built a series of steps, stairways and walkways that people still use today to get up and down the hills.
Two of these stairways––both on the south side of Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville––are longer, wider and more substantial than any I've found in St. George or in Tompkinsville north of Victory Boulevard.
But first, a few urban-archaeological stair-remnants. Catch 'em while you can.
STAIRWAYS TO LOT-SIZE FORESTS AND STOCKADE FENCES
Close by on Victory, also on the north side, near Fiedler Avenue, are the remnants of two sets of stone retaining walls and slate steps. One will soon disappear under leaf-cover, then earth. Both led to what probably were residences. Today they lead to lot-size forests of maple, ailanthus.
Maples are growing undisturbed in and around another stone-wall-with-steps remnant, this one leading directly into a stockade fence. You'll find it south of Victory Boulevard, on the west side of Westervelt Avenue between Hendricks and Benziger avenues in Tompkinsville.
GETTING UP WARD HILL
Of course you could just walk up Fiedler Avenue––shown here on its rise from Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville––and use the sidewalk like a normal person, as my Aunt Harriet would have said. For the rest of us, there are other ways up Ward Hill. The east stairway, and the west. As you'll see, both have their charms.
THE EAST STAIRWAY. This is the closer of the two stairways to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. There's no sign or marker. It's just sort of there, in a little down-at-the-heels courtyard off the south side of Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville, roughly parallel to Monroe Avenue, across the street.
Not an auspicious beginning, but wait. It gets prettier, the commercial clatter from the street below starts to subside a bit, and then . . .
. . . before you know it, you're at the top--Tompkins Circle--where you stop a moment to look out at the bay, take a brief rest, and maybe do some stretches before heading down the hill to Victory Boulevard.
THE WEST STAIRWAY. This handsome Craftsman-style stone and timber archway leads to a wide and open stairway, obviously much used, that takes you to Willis Avenue and the adjacent Avon Place.
If you'd like to sample some of Ward Hill's panoramic views of the bay--with Brooklyn in the distance--walk left on Willis to Fiedler Avenue. Turn right on Fiedler and continue up the hill to Tompkins Circle. Stay on the bay side of the circle and you're practically guaranteed to see water. And Brooklyn.
UP NEXT: The third part of this entry, covering small sectors of Ward Hill and Stapleton.