LIGHTNING RELEASES (1/13/2014) – Between the Boat and the Bridge lies Stapleton, one of the older waterfront neighborhoods of Staten Island, New York.
The Bridge refers to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the United States. The Boat refers to the Staten Island Ferry that transports 75 thousand people a day for free between Staten Island and Manhattan.
Stapleton was built in 1836 on land once owned by the Vanderbilt family. It was a long-time commercial center of the island, but struggled to revive after two decades of neglect following the building in 1964 of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which shifted the commercial development of the island to its interior. Due to recent development it is now in a position to experience a 20th century renaissance. Stapleton is named after William J. Staples, who laid out its streets and established the ferry service in 1817 with his partner Minthorne Tompkins, son of the United State’s sixth vice president Daniel D. Tompkins.
Regardless of the state of the neighborhood, Stapleton always has had a vibrant social scene. First on the scene were the Breweries which were established in the 1850’s. Abundant local springs and a steep hillside held perfection for “laagering” beer in caves. This attracted George Bechtel and in 1853 he founded the original location of Bechtel’s Brewery on VanDuzer Street at Broad Street. Due to rapid demand, George opened another brewery at 695 Bay Street, which has also been home to many great restaurants over the decades. The offshoot of the brewing industry during its prime was the main social activity in Stapleton. The breweries provided picnic grounds and dancing from April and ending with an Oktoberfest related celebration in October.
Prohibition ended the beer industry and started the formation of Speakeasies which were abundant in the neighborhood, the most well known being in the cellar of today’s Dock Street Bar & Grill located in Edgewater Hall at 691 Bay Street which was frequented by the Barrymore’s & Vanderbilt’s. Over eight decades later the cellar still has the same aura as years gone by, which features an amazing underground bar with brick arches, antique bar and bank vault.
Soon after prohibition, theatre and acting life were next to be added to the Stapleton social scene. In the late 19th Century, Vaudeville actor Maurice Barrymore purchased a farm on Staten Island where he kept his collection of exotic animals. Maurice appeared in local plays held in Edgewater Hall. His children John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore’s amateur stage appearances were in Fort Wadsworth where they lived with their grandmother Louisa Lane Drew. Well-known actor, Drew Barrymore is his great grand daughter.
Next came the bar & grills as we know them today. One such owned by Jack Demyan called Demyan Hoffbrau, on the former site of Bechtel’s Brewery served as part of the continuing social scene for decades where Jack’s artwork graced the walls. The former beer caves served as a hip setting for nighlife.
The 1983, the commissioning of the Navy Homeport in Stapleton helped launch a food & beverage revival. In a few short years, over 30 bars stretched across a 10 block straight away along the Bay Street corridor. The 1993 decommission ended the revival.
Twenty years later the Stapleton’s 20th Century Renaissance, roaring 20’s is reoccurring again. The roaring 20’s referring to 2020. The North Shore could be the best waterfront deal in all of New York City. New York City and Ironstate Development are building a public plaza, rental and retail complex on the Stapleton waterfront. In addition, developer Richard Marin has received approval to build a 60 story Ferris Wheel called the New York Wheel in St George, a neighboring town, which is planned to be the world’s largest. BFC partners has received approval to build a million square foot outlet mall and a 200-room boutique hotel next to the New York Wheel.
With its vibrant historic background and landmark status, Edgewater Hall located at 691 and 695 Bay St lies in the heart of Stapleton has carried on the tradition of the great Stapleton social scene. It houses lofts for catering, bars & restaurants. Clients throughout New York City and the TriState area gather here and other local bars to socialize.
About the author: Ettore Mazzei is the owner of the Edgewater Hall. It is also home to his catering company Chez Vous Caterers founded in 1986, Dock Street Bar & Grill and Gatsby’s on the Bay Restaurant. Chez Vous offers elegant full service catering at inspiring prices at Edgewater Hall, at their client’s home, office or event space.