Fanciful and endangered former infirmary building on Staten Island
The Old Staten Island hospital in a Gothic Revival castle structure, built in the 1890s, is in danger of being demolished by the City of New York. If it is demolished, it will slide the neighborhood of Tompkinsville into ever more poverty and abandonment. (December 2011)
It is a neo-medieval style brick structure with four castle-like turrets midway up a hill with dramatic views of New York Harbor. I lived about a mile or so from the infirmary when I first moved to New York from Oregon. There are no such historic structures in Oregon. Maintaining these structures helps maintain the diversity of the American experience by preserving them for locals and tourists alike.
It would be a shame to lose the "castle" like flavor of the infirmary. Ive heard that the building has been assessed and at that time it was considered quite deteriorated. I believe, however, that whatever could be saved of the structure would be meaningful. When I later moved to Manhattan, I moved near the New York Cancer Society, a similarly abandoned building on Central Park West, and its revitalization enhanced the character of the neighborhood.
Demolition was planned to start in December, with necessary permits delaying the demolitions completion. (December 2011)
This chateau-inspired former hospital has been a community anchor and important part of local history for many Staten Islanders. Built in 1890-91 by architect Alfred E. Barlow, the chateau style building was four turrets, and a brick facade with parapets. The interior of the building features a central staircase made of iron frame and railings with wood rail trim. The steps are made of white marble. A stone wall surrounds the six-acre site at the intersection of Castleton and Cebra Avenues.
The building was named after the founder of the first voluntary hospital on Staten Island. Funds were raised by prominent Staten Islanders to build the hospital. The hospital was later named Staten Island Hospital, and the site was vacated in 1979. By the late 1990s, a failed condo development left the building and six acre site in legal limbo with tax liens. HPD has spend minimal funds to secure the site for the last 30 plus years. In 2010, a referee of the court was assigned to deal with the liens connected to the property.
Neighborhood residents and preservationists have joined with the local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter to call for the preservation and re-use of the architectural and historically significant structure. The presidents of the AIA have requested that the infirmary become a New York City landmark, but not one public hearing has even been held. Currently, the Coalition to Save the Castle, the Preservation League of Staten Island, and Councilwoman Debi Rose are requesting that the building be stabilized instead of demolished. Advocates for the buildings preservation are working on getting a June 2011 building condition report so that an independent engineer can review the findings. The DOB has issued an emergency order to demolish, without making the DOB report public. Discussions are currently underway to stabilize or preserve a portion of the structure. (December 2011)
Already a landmark in the hearts of Staten Islanders, this former hospital deserves official designation, and protection. Too much of Staten Islands history has already been razed for cheap, ugly, over-crowded housing and strip malls. The chateau-inspired building and former hospital features four turrets and red brick. There is nothing else like it in Staten Island or the rest of New York City. Many Staten Islanders were born there. (January 2012)
Former Samuel Russell Smith Infirmary, a.k.a S.I. Castle., is in a desperate condition, but you can witness the fine architectural details and styles, both inside and outside. It will be a shameful thing if we cant restore this jewel of late 19th century architecture in New York. (February 2012)