Staten Island: A Borough With More History Than You Think

Caitlin Horsfield Caitlin Horsfield

Staten Island: A Borough With More History Than You Think
Staten Island is often thought of as the forgotten borough. Not because it’s not great, but maybe because people just don’t know much about it.

As compared to the rest of the city, I think it’s safe to say that (aside from the Ferry?) Staten Island doesn’t have many attractions that bring in the tourists. Not to mention, it’s really one of the more residential boroughs. That said, it definitely has an interesting history, especially in regard to how it got its name.

The first European who had contact with the island was none other than Giovanni de Verrazzano (sound familiar?) who anchored there for one night. In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed over for the Dutch Republic and the island was dubbed, Staaten Eylandt, which means “States
Island.” Why? Because the Dutch parliament at the time was known as the Staaten General, and consequently, it was named in its honor.

Despite the stake and the name, there was no settlement there for many years. It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Settlement on the island was attempted three times but each time, it was destroyed by local Native Americans tribes. And not without reason.

It wasn’t until the English took over in 1667 that the name was anglicized to Staten Island, as we know it today. The borough played an important role in the American Revolution as a strategic location for British troops and it even hosted its own battle, The Battle of Staten Island, in 1777.

Some time after the war, around the 1898, the towns of Staten Island were dissolved with the consolidation of the City of Greater New York, and Staten Island’s Richmond County officially became one of the five boroughs.

Today, due to a huge influx of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, the borough has the highest proportion of Italian Americans of any county in the United States, as well as a large Russian community. In general, high levels of immigration to the area from all over the world has created a unique mix of people and culture, making Staten Island and interesting place to explore-even if it’s not mentioned as the hot spot in the city tour books.

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