BAYMEN’S COTTAGES / REV. ISAAC COLEMAN & REBECCA GRAY COLEMAN HOUSE / ROSSVILLE AME ZION CHURCH / ROSSVILLE AME ZION CHURCH CEMETERY
565 & 569 Bloomingdale Road
1482 Woodrow Road
584 Bloomingdale Road
1897, Andrew Abrams
In the 1830s, Staten Island’s south shore, known as Sandy Ground, became home to a thriving community of free black oyster traders who moved from Maryland after that state passed a series of laws limiting free blacks’ freedoms. The community prospered from Staten Island’s rich oyster beds, and boosted the local economy, but the rise of industrial pollution and overfishing led to the closure of the beds in 1916 and Sandy Ground’s heyday came to an end. Calamitous fires in 1930 and 1963 destroyed many of its buildings, but there are several architectural remnants, including four Individual Landmarks: the Baymen’s Cottages, housing constructed for oyster traders and their families; the Rossville AME Zion Church, the Coleman-Gray House, home to the Rossville AME Zion Church’s sixth pastor; and the Rossville AME Zion Church Cemetery. The church and cemetery are perhaps the most important survivors, as they provide spiritual connections to this community that was defined by its people more than its geography. Founded in 1850, the church was the center of Sandy Ground’s spiritual and cultural life, and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. While the original church no longer stands, its adjacent cemetery contains graves of some of Sandy Ground’s original residents, and the new church, constructed in 1897, remains active today. Sandy Ground’s history is displayed, interpreted and celebrated by the Sandy Ground Historical Museum, located just around the corner from the church on Woodrow Road. Photos by Peter Greenberg.