Step Back In Time: Historic Richmond Town,
Tired of life in the 21st century? Try stepping back in time. Historic Richmond Town seems a world away. Stretched out on a 100-acre swath of rich grassland, this was the site of Staten Island’s first community in 1685. It is now a make-believe museum town with 40 sites in various architectural styles. Some buildings were part of the original community and others were relocated from other parts of Staten Island. Historic Richmond Town is a wonderful place for families to while away a few hours.
Your starting point is the Visitor Center in a former 19th century Greek Revival courthouse. Here you can pick up a map for a self-guided tour, huddle and make your plans. It’s great fun to go around on your own and very easy as well. Nearby is the Staten Island Historical Society Museum, formerly the County Clerk’s and Surrogate’s Office, which houses bits of Americana, including the kid-pleasing exhibit, TOYS!
Places to explore include the Voorlezer’s (lay minister’s and teacher) House 1701, the oldest standing building that served as a school in America. Built by the Dutch Reformed Church, it also is the oldest structure on its original site in Richmond Town and a National Historic Landmark. Another stop is a Dutch Flemish farmhouse with furnishings to represent a Methodist household in which basket making was an important seasonal activity and source of supplemental income. Be sure to check out the General Store and the adjacent 19th century Stephens-Black House, filled with period furnishings.
Delighting visitors daily are costumed interpreters and craftspeople who demonstrate Early American trades and crafts such as printing, tinsmithing, basket making, and butter-churning. In summer, you might want to make a reservation for the Traditional Dinner, served outdoors with old-fashioned utensils. Old Home Day in October highlights crafts and there’s a month-long Christmas celebration.
Before you leave, have a bite at the Parsonage restaurant or informal Bennett Refreshments. Then walk about one-half mile east and up steep Lighthouse Hill to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, the largest collection of its type in the West.
Begin and end your historic adventure aboard the Staten Island Ferry (dating from the 19th century) and be sure to wave as you glide past the Statue of Liberty.
(Historic Richmond Town, 441 Clarke Avenue, 718-351-1611; adults, $5; seniors, $4, 5-17, $3.50; Sept-May, Wed.-Sun., 1-5; June-August, Mon., Wed-Sat. 10-5; closed Tues. From the ferry terminal, take Bus S74 to Richmond Road and St. Patrick’s Place, and follow the signs to the Visitor Center. Educators: For curriculum based tours, call 718-351-1611, ext. 280.) #