For better or worse, many New Yorkers don't generally think of Staten Island as an architectural destination. But the borough is actually home to a rich variety of fascinating buildings, from stately Greek Revival edifices to a haunted Victorian mansion to a Frank Lloyd Wright original. Here, we’ve collected some of the island’s architectural gems—if we’ve left out one of your favorites, drop it in the comments.Read More
Staten Island's finest architectural gems, mapped
From Art Deco apartments to a Frank Lloyd Wright original, these are the borough’s most fascinating buildings
The Ambassador Arms
On Daniel Low Terrace in St. George, you'll find the striking Art Deco facade of the Ambassador Arms apartment building. Designed by architect Lucien Pisciotta, the outside and lobby of the building have remained largely unchanged since the 1930s and feature lavish designs in gold and blue terra cotta. The Ambassador Arms has also seen its share of glitz: Paul Newman and Martin Sheen both lived here, and Sheen's son Emilio Estevez was born in the building, according to SILive. Not too shabby.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
Built: from 1833 onward
Classical Revival enthusiasts should consider making a pilgrimage to this park on the northern edge of Staten Island. Originally a home for retired merchant sailors, Snug Harbor's crown jewel is Temple Row, a collection of 19th-century Greek Revival buildings that now house a cultural center and museums. On the opposite side of the architectural spectrum, Snug Harbor is also home to the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden, an walled garden created by a team of Chinese artists and volunteers in 1999.
Staten Island Borough Hall
Architects Carrère and Hastings, known for designing the New York Public Library’s main branch, were behind this building, which was erected after Staten Island was consolidated with NYC’s other four boroughs. It was designed, as the AIA Guide to New York City notes, “in the style of a French hôtel de ville,” with a brick and limestone exterior and lovely ornamentation. (Carrère may have had a vested interest in making this building beautiful: he lived on the island.)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto
Not one but many architects are responsible for this Catholic folk art monument. This literal labor of love was conceived by Italian immigrant Vito Louis Russo in the wake of the death of his son. It was built by the members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society, a mutual aid society comprised of Italian-American workers. Built in their spare time out of materials ranging from fieldstone to seashells and blown glass, the sprawling structure hides behind the Church of St. Joseph's and bristles with Catholic iconography and statuary. The ever-evolving shrine is open to the public.
One of the last major projects of planner Robert Moses, this suspension bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn is the longest in the United States. It was designed by Othmar Ammann, who was also the brains behind the George Washington Bridge and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, among many others. The construction of the Verrazano, which took five years and claimed three lives, was famously chronicled by Gay Talese in his book The Bridge. Today, the bridge is also known as the the starting point of the New York City Marathon.
The Ernest Flagg Estate
Built: 1898 onwards
Architect Ernest Flagg is best known for projects like Manhattan's now-demolished Singer Building and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. But one of his most ambitious projects was his estate and surrounding land on Todt Hill, the highest elevation point on the Eastern Seaboard. The development centered around Stone Court, a Dutch Colonial Revival mansion that also includes a gatehouse and an imposing fieldstone water tower. The property is now owned by the St. Charles Seminary. Flagg also designed many smaller stone houses on Todt Hill, with both affordability and beauty in mind in their construction.
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
This museum in Lighthouse Hill houses one of the largest collections of Tibetan and Himalayan artifacts in the U.S. It was the passion project of Jacques Marchais, an American collector of Tibetan art. Designed by Marchais, the institution is built to resemble a Himalayan monastery — the first of its kind in America. The complex includes a fish pond, gardens and Buddhist meditation cells. Much of her extensive collection of art and religious objects is on permanent display, in addition to rotating exhibits around various aspects of Tibetan culture.
The Gustav Mayer House
You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled upon an arty horror movie set at this crumbling Italianate New Dorp mansion. The gorgeously creepy property was originally owned by Gustave A. Mayer, the creator of the Nabisco sugar wafer. His daughters Paula and Emilie never married and lived in the house well into their old age, painting frescoes on the walls and living a Grey Gardens–style existence. A photographer bought a house in the ’90s, leaving much of it untouched; it's become a favorite spot for celebrity fashion shoots thanks to its state of elegant decay.
The Crimson Beech
Frank Lloyd Wright famously loathed New York architecture, and he only has two buildings repping him in the city today: The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, and this prefab dwelling in Lighthouse Hill. It was one of 11 of its kind that Wright designed for builder Marshall Erdman, created as a kit in Madison, Wisconsin, and transported to Staten Island for owners William and Catherine Cass. The L-shaped house is low and long, with a sunken living room and cathedral ceiling. Unfortunately, you won't be able to see the inside: It's currently a private residence.
The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability (P.S. 62)
Those interested in the future of public school design need look no further than P.S. 62 in Rossville, the first net-zero-energy school in the city—and one of the few in the world. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 68,000-square-foot edifice harvests as much energy as it expends. The city's most futuristic elementary school combines tech like energy recovery vents and a solar water-heating system with architecture that uses as much natural light as possible, plus an onsite greenhouse. There are even dashboards within the school that show the school's energy data in real time.
The Kreischer Mansion
Of all the old mansions on Staten Island, this one has by far the bloodiest history; local lore even holds that it's haunted. Originally there were two Victorian-style mansions here—one each occupied by brothers Edward and Charles Kreischer, but one burned down and now only Edward's house remains. Edward himself didn't last long: He committed suicide by gunshot in the house in 1894. The second mansion burned down in the 1930s, and the property was plagued by tales of haunting throughout the 20th century. Things got even more grisly in 2005, when the property's caretaker, who also happened to be a hitman for the mob, murdered Mafioso Robert McKelvey in the mansion and burned his body in the basement. Fittingly, scenes from HBO's Boardwalk Empire have also been filmed on the property.