Tuesday, January 26, 2010
If I asked if you thought this was colonial New England or the South, of course you would know it was a trick question - this is a website that features New York City exclusively. Nonetheless, it is a shocking set of images to imagine within the five boroughs of New York City, and I hope that, like me, you are scratching your head in amazement and wondering where this could be.
For daily readers of this site, you guess that we are in Staten Island - we just crossed the Verrazano Bridge yesterday. And you are correct.
My real mission here involved a number of destinations, but Historic Richmond Town was unknown to me and a complete surprise, suggested by a native when I asked if there were any historic areas. I expected to find a nice home or two - some small pocket or enclave.
I had no idea that Historic Richmond Town (established in 1958) is one of America's living history museums, like those found in Colonial Williamsburg or Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, where my family visited when I was young. Richmond Town was the former county seat and commercial center of Richmond County (Staten Island).
The concept of a living history museum goes back to open air museums that appeared in Scandinavia in the late 19th century. The first was King Oscar II's collection near Oslo in Norway, opened in 1881. The American style focuses more on lifestyle and generally depicts various trades and activities of the period recreated.
Historic Richmond Town dates back over 300 years to the 1600s, very old by USA standards. There are 27 buildings in the 25-acre village on a 100-acre site. Some structures are original to the village, others have been moved from other locations on the island. There are many styles of buildings here, including outstanding examples of Dutch Colonial and Greek revival architecture.
There are many exhibits that can be seen in Historic Richmond Town - blacksmithing, tinsmithing, basketmaking, coopering, weaving, candlemaking, spinning, etc. There is the oldest standing elementary school in the United States. Here you will find a Dutch Colonial farmhouse, established in 1740, and the Print Shop, established in 1821. Historic Richmond Town houses one of the oldest operating printing presses in America. See their website here.
When I visited, none of the buildings were open or exhibits operational. When the weather gets warmer and the growth greener, I plan to do a more thorough visit. I've always loved Time Travel :)