view of raritan bay from tottenville at the end of the staten island railway
Sunset view of Raritan Bay from Tottenville

The Richmond Valley, Arthur Kill, and Tottenville stops on the Staten Island Railway leave passengers at the southernmost settlement not just in New York City, but in all of New York State. Like most of Staten Island, the Raritan band of the Lenape tribe controlled most of the territory in Tottenville. One of the first settlers to arrive there was Royal Navy Captain Christopher Billop, who named the area “Bentley Manor” after his ship. The name was changed to Tottenville in the mid-19th century to honor John Totten and the Totten family, who lived on the land for several years.

The residences in Tottenville are unique when compared to the rest of the housing developments on the South Shore. The Victorian-style architecture used for many of the homes resembles the style in the St. George area. Most of the buildings were preserved to honor the area’s significance during the American Revolutionary War, avoiding any restructuring or modernization to accompany the progress of nearby residential areas.

conference house in staten island
Conference House, site of crucial Revolutionary War meetings, located in Conference House Park

Conference House Park, for instance, was the site of crucial peace negotiations that took place between the British and Continental armies during the war. The stone manor, built-in 1680, was named the Conference House because of these talks and eventually became the central attraction for visitors to Conference House Park. The former Lenape campsite and burial ground feature small beaches, bike and walking paths, and a visitors’ center.

Tottenville used to be a prominent shipbuilding and oyster harvesting town during the start of the 1900s. For these reasons, the area was quite industrial and had factories lined up all along the western shore of the town. When shipbuilding companies began to transition from wood to steel construction, business started to die down in Tottenville. The oyster business was also shut down because of the growing pollution in Raritan Bay and in Arthur Kill.

Next, read about the secrets of St. George, Staten Island!