The Samuel R. Smith Infirmary, the former Staten Island hospital has been vacant for more than twenty years. The Castle, specifically named the Frost Memorial Tower is a neo-medieval style building, a rare survivor from the 1890s. The Castle was named after George Frost, who donated the six acres to which Smith’s Infirmary was built at Castleton and Cebra Avenues. Previously, Dr. Smith’s residence on Hannah street, Tompkinsville treated the poor and sick. Many notable families, such as the Vanderbilts, Townsends, Phelps and Dreyfus were early benefactors of Smith’s Infirmary.
In 1979, the Staten Island Hospital decided to relocate to its current location on 475 Seaview Avenue, the property was sold to a developer with plans for condominiums. The condo development failed and by the early 1990s it was abandoned and tax liens began to accumulate. In 1983 and 1991 there were community efforts to landmark Smith’s Infirmary with no success.
Due to renewed concern for the property and news that it is being considered for affordable housing, a group of concerned Staten Islanders have formed ‘the Coalition to Save the Castle’. The Coalition believes that most Staten Islanders consider this building a ‘community’ landmark and demand the Castle be protected and included in any plans to redevelop the site. The building has been nominated for NYC landmark status and is under consideration.Without landmarking of this building, it could be demolished and not part of the redevelopment plans. Members of the community would have less community input on the redevelopment of the site and lose a rare building.
The Coalition also believes that landmarking reduces waste and all the buildings on the six acre site should be studied for renovation, rather than demolition. Less debris in the landfills benefits all of us. Staten Island had the largest garbage dump for 30 years, we should be concerned with green building practices. It benefits our community and future generations.
The Coalition is requesting community support for the landmarking of the Frost Memorial Tower and gathering any personal stories associated with working or visiting the former Staten Island Hospital. It is part of our local history and every memory tells a story. Share you stories and show your support for landmarking by posting on the discussion board.
For more on the history of the SI Hospital visit SI Hospital history