Detail, ironwork gate, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007
A LITTLE UNFINISHED BUSINESS
If you're looking for stairs, paths, walkways and myriad other weight-bearing toeholds that people have cobbled together to help them get up and down hills, this is the place. Stapleton, Staten Island.
We'll get there shortly. But first, there's a little unfinished business on Ward Hill to take care of. [For more on Ward Hill, see Part 2.]
URBAN ARCHAEOLOGY: THE HIDDEN PATHS OF NIXON AVENUE
Walking along Nixon, a U-shaped block with great views of the Narrows, there's no reason you'd notice this rusting iron stair-rail sticking out of a blanket of leaf-cover. It's the only clue that an old stairway leading to the Ward mansion, at the very top of Ward Hill, began here.
If you lift the leaves that cover it, you can see the foundation stones that support the stair-rail's bottom step.
The story goes that the father of a little girl who lived on Nixon Avenue at least a decade ago created a path for her to use on her way to and from Trinity Lutheran School. The path began here (see that concrete ledge on the right?) . . .
. . . and ended here, in what is now a lot-size forest at the bottom of the hill on St. Pauls Avenue near Cebra Avenue, Stapleton. Trinity Lutheran is right across the street. Only the barest trace of the path survives, and only where it began, up on Nixon.
UP ST. PAULS, INTO THE HILLS
Our walk up St. Pauls Avenue starts in Tompkinsville, where St. Pauls and Van Duzer street begin their parallel routes. They start from a single point--Van Duzer below, St. Pauls above--then fan out into a wider and wider V.
The long, slow rise of St. Pauls Avenue begins to pick up here, at Paxton Street.
Almost immediately on the right--and up!--are cliff houses rivaling those on Corson Avenue in Tompkinsville for dizzying height and complex stair arrangements.
A PEDESTRIAN INFRASTRUCTURE
Staten Island's close-to-the-ferry neighborhoods were developed at a time when many, perhaps most, people walked. An old pedestrian infrastructure survives.
These stone steps up from the roadway at the corner of Beach Street and St. Pauls Avenue in Stapleton are an example.
There are steps up from the St. Pauls Avenue roadway at the entrance to each house as well.
There's even sidewalk seating.
WELCOME TO STONE STREET, UNLESS YOU'RE A CAR
Located opposite Trossach Road off St. Pauls Avenue in Stapleton, Stone Street is probably more accurately described as a hilly alley than a street. It's a slice of old Staten Island the home improvers haven't caught up with yet.
Stone Street is only one block long––from St. Pauls to Van Duzer. Too narrow for cars, the street has only one house on it, a modest cottage.
Walking up Stone Street from Van Duzer to St. Pauls. Handrails run almost the entire length of the street. There's not a car in sight. Bliss.
Glimpsed on a porch on St. Pauls Avenue near Cebra Avenue, Stapleton.