Trip to Staten Island by Ernie Busch

Irene Katzias: Welcome to this episode of the Evergreen Woods podcast. Today we are welcoming back Ernie Busch, a resident of Evergreen Woods and long-time tour guide of Manhattan.

Ernie Busch: Well today we’re gonna go to Staten Island. And there are three places that I’d like to tell you about.

First is the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibeten Art, which is at 338 Lighthouse Avenue, Staten Island. It’s nestled into the side of Lighthouse Hill. The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibeten Art is a uniquely peaceful retreat. The museum presents the art and culture of Tibet, as well as the Himalayas, to the world. Established in 1945, it was founded by Jacques Marchais, an American collector of Tibetan art. Oddly, she never visited Tibet, but became interested in its art after she found a set of her mother’s dolls. The museum was established in 1945. The rustic fieldstone buildings were designed by Marchais to resemble a Tibeten monastery. These buildings represent the earliest example of Himalyan architecture in the United States. It was also the first museum in the world devoted solely to Tibetan art. The surrounding landscape design features a fish pond, meditation cells, as well as many native Himilayan plants named by Marchais. It is a truly peaceful place, especially for those who would like to learn about Tibetan art and culture.

Next we have the Conference House, or Billopp house, at the foot of Highland Boulevard on Staten Island. In 1680, Captain Billopp was awarded 1000 acres. By 1687, he had increased his land holdings to 1600 acres. And he enlarged a house in 1720. According to legend, Captain Billopp secured Staten Island for New York State by winning a bet between New York and New Jersey that he could sail all the way around the borough in one day. During the American Revolution, the owner of the manor was Captain Billopp’s great grandson, also named Christopher Billopp. A colonel in the British (or Tory) army, Billopp sometimes entertained his fellow soldiers in the house. On September 11, 1776, this house was the site of a conference between British Lord Admiral Richard Howe, and founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. The talks occurred just two months after the Declaration of Independence was signed. With the British controlling New York City, Long Island and Staten Island, the Americans seemed headed for defeat. Lord Howe offered to end the conflict peacefully if the colonies would return to British control. But the Americans refused to give up their struggle for independence. Franklin, Adams and Rutledge reported back to the continental congress in Philadelphia and the revolution continued for another seven years, until American independence was finally won. Located on Highland Boulevard, the house then served as a multifamily dwelling, a nineteenth century travellers’ inn, and as a rat poison manufacturing site, before being deeded to the City of New York in 1926. In 1929, the Conference House Association took over operation of the house and has maintained it since then, in cooperation with the City of New York Parks and Recreation [and the] Historic House Trust of New York City. Today, Conference House is a historic site portraying life in the colonial times, situated on a three and quarter-acre plot of Conference House Park.

The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is at 420 Tompkins Avenue on Staten Island. The museum is dedicated to the inventor Antonio Meucci and the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. It is a simple country residence built in about 1840. In about 1850, Meucci and his wife Esterre began renting it.

Shortly thereafter, when Garibaldi was forced to flee Italy, they invited him to take refuge there. They both worked together for several years at Meucci’s candle factory. In 1854, Garibaldi returned to Italy at the head of an army and won fame as the unifier of Italy. Garibaldi died in 1884, and a plaque was placed over the door of the house to commemorate his stay there. In 1907, the house was moved to its present location. In 1919, the house was turned over to the Order Sons of Italy. In 1956, the house was dedicated as the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum and opened to the public.

Irene Katzias: Well thanks for listening. And if you’d like to be notified of our next podcast coming up, make sure to subscribe on Spotify, as well as take a look at your virtual programming every morning coming from Evergreen Woods’ programming office. We hope you have a great rest of your day and we can’t wait to see you soon.