Shipyards in Tottenville

I am restoring my tugboat in the metal shipyard side of Tottenville Marina in Staten Island, NY and I have been interested in learning more about the history here. I have heard that there has been a shipyard in this location for a very long time. I recently was loaned a great book by my friend, John Leary, a local Tottenville resident who stops by to check on my progress. The book is called “Tottenville: The Town The Oyster Built” and it was put out in 2008 by the Preservation League of Staten Island and the Tottenville Historical Society (ISBN 9780615264349). The book details the history of the town and its ties to maritime history and has some excellent old maps that help locate the various shipyards throughout time. So I thought I would do a little sleuthing to see what exactly the history of this land under my boat was.

Here is a bit of the map from 1853 showing the immediate area:
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Funny that there are two houses labeled “Fisher” right where my tugboat is now. Most of the houses are set back from the Kill, which was probably a good idea except for the one Fisher house that is right on the beach!

The first shipyard in Tottenville was founded by Jacob S. Ellis in 1857 to the east of Totten’s Dock. I bet this is why the street out front is now called Ellis Street! If you look at the Google map attached at the bottom here, this shipyard must have been located in what is now an abandoned wooded lot to the west of the current Port Atlantic Marina.

Below is the map from a few years later in 1859. The train tracks (now used by the Staten Island Railroad) have come through and you can clearly see the boundaries of both the Ellis and now the Journeay’s shipyard right next door to the east of the Totten’s Wharf.

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By 1912, there were three main shipyards in Tottenville – A.C. Brown and Sons, Cossey and J. S. Ellis and Son.

A.C. Brown’s shipyard is easy to put on a map as it was located on the north side of the foot of Amboy Road, which still exists. So that shipyard is off this localized google map to the southwest.

So that leaves Cossey’s to place on the map. Cossey’s shipyard existed from 1905-1926 and they mainly built drydocks and barges. Harry D. Cossey had bought “three contiguous lots along the Arthur Kill waterfront and the site ran 500 feet along the Staten Island railroad line and extended out 900 feet to the bulkhead”. There is no other landmark mentioned. I wonder where this was located exactly? Could it be where my tugboat is located now? In a Weekly Record of Marine Trades from October 5, 1918, I see an article on the building of a drydock for Todd Shipbuilding and it says that Cossey’s is located at the foot of Henry Street. Now only to find Henry Street on a map as it does not seem to exist anymore…

Here is a photo of Harry Cossey and a link to his bio:
HD Cosey

And here is his death notice in the New York Times from 1919.

So we haven’t settled on where Cossey’s was exactly located, but here is are some cool old photos I found online of the immediate area. From www.nycsubway.com, here is a picture from 1965 of the area around the shipyard. It looks like this was taken from the top of the passenger crossover at the Atlantic stop on the train. That elevated car overpass seen in the next two pictures no longer exists. Could that overpass be Henry Street? The Outerbridge Crossing (in the background) was finished in 1928.

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And here is a later undated (but later) shot of the same view from www.nycsubway.com:

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John Garner, the current owner of the property, bought it in 1977. He later expanded by buying the property nearby to start the metal boat repair yard where I am located at the anchor symbol below. I will try and take a shot from the same spot tomorrow from the overpass…


View New York Central No. 13 Locations in a larger map

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3 Comments

  1. Posted March 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Hello Eric! I stumbled on your posting and thought I’d answer some of your questions. Cossey’s Shipyard was located at the foot of today’s Girard St. (formerly Henry St.). If Girard went straight to the water, it would cut Cossey’s in half, leaving about 250 ft. to the east and to the west. Port Atlantic Marina sits on this site today. The photo of the elevated roadway was taken from the Tottenville train station looking north. It was called the Johnson Ave. “T” bridge and ran parallel with Ellis St. Johnson Ave. ran perpendicular. Would love to visit your tug sometime! Linda H., Director, Tottenville Historical Society

  2. Philip D
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Great web site. I think its great – your restoring it and you have looked up the history of the yard area. I was looking for info on NY Central tugboats built 1890-1900s by T.S. Marvel shipbuilding of Newburgh,NY that were used on the NY Central and Hudson river line. Mr. Marvel’s partner was my great grand father.

  3. Robert Cossey
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    My name is Robert Cossey and i live in ticonderoga N Y. Harry Cossey was my grandfathers brother — Henry Cossey who was harrys father built canal boats in ticonderoga — Harrys grandfather was joseph and came from france to canada in 1790 — Most all; of the Cossey boys of that time worked in the boat building business i Harry built boats in peekskill before moving too statin island

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