By the 1840s, Staten Island residents recognised the need for a reliable mass transit system in order for their part of New York City to grow. Their petitions led to the incorporation of the Staten Island Railway in 1851, a major infrastructure project financed by Cornelius Vanderbilt. On June 2, 1860, the route from Tottenville to Stapleton was completed. This modern transit system incorporated both ferries and trains. Over the years records were set (the drawbridge at the Arthur Kill station was once the largest in the world), and various stations were rebuilt or abandoned completely. This article uncovers a number of disused Staten Island Railway stations that once formed part of the backbone of the borough’s transport infrastructure, only to be closed forever and, in some cases, demolished. Many of these stations line the abandoned North Shore Branch of the SIR, and may one day find themselves open for commuters again.
(Image: MTA of NY)
No-one’s quite sure when Atlantic station opened in the Tottenville neighbourhood of Staten Island, but it’s thought to be some time between 1909 and 1911. It was named for the place it was built to serve, mainly transporting workers to and from the nearby Atlantic Terra Cotta Company factory. These workers churned out many of the decorative features seen on buildings all across New York. Abandoned NYC says that even though the factory was demolished in the 1940s, some rubble – and occasionally even the terracotta tiles they were so famous for – remain extant at the site.
Despite the factory’s demolition decades ago, Atlantic station remained in use until January 21, 2017, when its two platforms finally closed. The disused Staten Island station “ along with its sister station, Nassau “ was replaced by a single facility between the two: Arthur Kill. The need for Staten Island Railway stations to comply with accessibility laws made it more cost effective to build a whole new station, marking the end of an era. Atlantic “ like Nassau “ had had little investment since the 1960s, when new uncovered and shelter-less platforms were built. Access to the disused station is now restricted.
Elm Park Station
Elm Park station lies on the abandoned North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railway. The ruins of the station, which lie beneath the Bayonne Bridge, are intriguing to behold. But the story of how it came to be there is equally fascinating. When the now-disused Staten Island Railway station was originally opened in 1886, it was as a surface station. It wasn’t until the 1930s that Elm Park was moved to its current location below street-level, and its platforms rebuilt.
When the North Shore Branch was abandoned on March 31, 1953, Elm Park closed with it. The years have not been kind to the disused station, which lies derelict. Access steps have been removed and the structure itself stands in overgrown decay. In the last few years, the abandoned Staten Island station has been at the centre of another sort of mass transit concept: a proposed aerial tramway, running from Elm Park, along the Bayonne Bridge, and to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s Eighth Street station. But crossing state lines complicates the project, and feelings about it are mixed.
Livingston station once sat at the opposite end of the North Shore Branch to Elm Park and today, only a few indications of its one-time presence endure. Like Elm Park, it opened in 1886 and was closed on March 31, 1953. But unlike Elm Park, the ruins of which can still be seen, Livingston station was demolished upon closing. The station sat along the water, on land that was once the site of the mansion belonging to the man who gave the area its name: Anson Livingston. His home was known as Bleak House, and was purchased by the railway for use as a station building. It served several industrial buildings in the immediate area, including the Richmond Light and Railroad Company, which operated streetcars.
The disused station site is now employee parking for the Con Edison facility across the road, but there is a chance it may once again be returned to its mass transit roots. The proposal involves rebuilding the disused Staten Island Railway station into what’s now a parking lot, in order for it to become a hub for light rail and bus services.
(Image: Adam Moss)
Like Atlantic, above, Nassau station closed down on January 21, 2017. And like Atlantic, it was named for one of the nearby factories whose workers used its platforms on a daily basis: the Nassau Smelting & Refining Company. From 2006, the site “ which has changed hands multiple times “ became the location of a major cleanup of toxic materials. Sold in 2016 for a proposed mixed-use development, it’s possible the wider area could soon be revitalised.
It’s too late for the Nassau station, though. Expanded in 1971 in a project funded in part by Nassau Smelting, the station didn’t undergo the same modernisation during the 1990s as others on the line. Decay set in early, and parts of the disused Staten Island Railway station were closed as early as 2010. After the opening of Arthur Kill, Nassau was closed and demolished.
Port Richmond Station
Port Richmond station opened in 1886 and closed on March 31, 1953 as a part of the series of closures that brought the abandonment of the SIR’s North Shore Branch. When Port Richmond welcomed its first passengers, it was a wooden surface station with two higher level platforms. It also welcomed fishermen; with the nearby bridge, it became something of a popular fishing spot.
In 1935, the station got something of an overhaul when it Port Richmond Viaduct was added. The mile-long bridge was a part of a station overhaul with an eye on increased safety, and at the time it was touted as the longest in the US. That was back in 1937, and there’s a chance the viaduct could now give the station a new lease of life. Curbed New York reports that the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation kick-started a 2017 competition for ideas to revitalise the area. A $10,000 prize was offered for the best way to repurpose the abandoned railway viaduct between Port Richmond and Tower Hill. One of the most popular suggestions was a linear park, making it possible that Port Richmond might again become a destination.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark Station
(Image: Adam Moss)
Richmond County Bank Ballpark station also lies on the abandoned North Shore Branch between Wall Street and Richmond Terrace, where it was built with a specific purpose in mind: transporting people to and from the ball game. It was opened on June 24, 2001, and would only be operational on days when the Staten Island Yankees were playing at the nearby Richmond County Bank Ballpark. Until the opening of nearby Arthur Kill, it was the newest station on the line. But as it was only open through the baseball season from June to September, its use was limited.
Perhaps, therefore, it’s not entirely surprising that Richmond County Bank Ballpark station was first on the chopping block when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was faced with budget concerns. To add insult to injury, the official closing date of the now-disused Staten Island Railway station coincided with the team’s 2010 home opener on June 18, leaving baseball fans with no choice but to walk from Saint George station or catch the bus.
Sailors’ Snug Harbor Station
(Images: 1, 2 Jim.henderson)
The side platforms and northernmost track have been removed, the latter paved for recreational use through this disused Staten Island Railway station. A second track lies overgrown and forgotten alongside. Opened in 1886 and closed on March 31, 1953, Sailors’ Snug Harbor station lies serene in its abandonment. It can be found at the northern point of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, an 83-acre park that took its name from a previous use as a home for retired sailors.
Founded after a bequest from deceased Revolutionary War soldier, Captain Robert Richard Randall, the estate opened in 1833 and retained its purpose into the 1960s, when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors must now take the bus from St. George Terminal, but the disused station may reopen amid plans to reactivate the Staten Island Railway;s abandoned North Shore Branch. Perhaps its old platforms will once again serve those attending events at Snug Harbor.
Tower Hill Station
Tower Hill sits along the North Shore Branch between Port Richmond and Elm Park, and it’s also been targeted for its revitalisation potential, along with Port Richmond. The viaduct, which was added to the stations in the 1930s, is at the centre of a proposed adaptive reuse project spearheaded by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation. Future plans may be boosted by the fact that, as Curbed New York reports, the viaduct remains in good condition, despite the fact that its stations themselves have been disused for decades.
Tower Hill station was the subject of of the same 1937 construction project that also raised Port Richmond from ground level to its current elevated position. Although it closed less than 20 years after this work was completed, it remains one of the more intact of the Staten Island Railway’s defunct stations.
West New Brighton SIR Station
Little remains of the West New Brighton ghost station. Opened alongside other North Shore Branch stations in 1886, and closed with them as well, the station “ also known as West Brighton “ lay between Port Richmond and Livingston. During its heyday, West New Brighton boasted Victorian architecture, a station house on the eastbound platform. The platforms were connected by an overpass. Originally made from wood, a concrete bridge replaced the original trestle in the 1930s, when it was still a popular place for locals to fish from.
The disused station’s future has been the subject of ongoing talks. But pay a visit to the site today and you’ll find that only the barest traces remain. One set of tracks is completely gone. The other is still extant, sunk into the earth. Infilled with planks and paved over to allow truck access, heavy wear and tear means they’ve begun to reemerge beneath the road.
Woods of Arden Station
(Image: Google Street View. Site of the abandoned Woods of Arden station)
Erastus Wiman was a Canadian businessman turned Staten Island resident, and when he moved to the island after being made partner in a major NYC mercantile firm, he set about developing the area to its full potential. According to SILive, this included the establishment of reliable mass transit, and Wiman became instrumental in consolidating the operation of the area’s ferries and trains under the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In addition to opening the Staten Island Amusement Company and buying the Metropolitan Baseball club, he also bought a property, which he called Woods of Arden.
It’s good to be influential, and in 1886 Wiman oversaw the opening of the Woods of Arden railway station, at a cost of $112.55. As much a resort, inn, and summertime vacation spot as it was a home, Wiman arranged for the construction of Woods of Arden station to give him and his guests with easy access to the estate. It’s unclear when exactly the station closed, but it’s believed to have happened in 1894 or 1895. That’s about the time Wiman encountered major financial difficulties. In 1895, he was put on trial for forgery after cashing a check that he signed in his firm’s name. Even though his original conviction was overturned, Erastus Wiman was sued again. He sold his properties and died after suffering a stroke in 1901.
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