(Above image) Olmsted-Beil House, Eltingville, Staten Island, New York c. 1680. Light snow only enhances the charm of the house and was most likely taken in the 1940’s by the Cullen family – owners at that time. The ancient farm house had a fanciful Victorian porch added to it in the 1890’s that further added to its allure. Standing guard for a century and a half are the Cedar of Lebanon trees that were planted by Frederick Law Olmsted himself. They continue to thrive today.
Friends of Olmsted-Beil House formed in 2018 in order to protect, preserve, and present the historic site known as Olmsted-Beil House. The site has been home to fifteen families since 1685 including landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and naturalist Carlton Beil. In 2006, a portion of the site was purchased by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. As of 2018, they are in the process of acquiring an additional portion of the historic site known as The Edward and Christine Kaasmann House.
The Olmsted-Beil House
Domine Petrus Tesschenmaker, a preacher from upstate New York, received a land grant from Governor Dongan in 1685. He built for himself a one room stone shelter approximately 16’X16′, which constitutes one-half of the basement of the present house. The next owner was Jacques Poillion who in 1696 extended the basement to 30′ and erected a typical stone Flemish-styled farmhouse about 48′ long and a story and a half high with a sloping roof. A portion of the house was built on unexcavated land. The roof rafters projected through the thick stone walls extending over a porch which ran the full length of the house on the easterly side. Though the stone base remains, it was expanded by Dr. Samuel Akerly around 1840 to include a wooden second floor, attic, and kitchen kitchen wing. The house is a designated New York City landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Frederick Law Olmsted
With his partner Calvert Vaux, Olmsted designed Manhattan’s Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the park system in Buffalo, New York, and Niagra Falls. In his own practice, he would design several more significant properties including the college campus at Stanford University, the grounds of the 1893 World’s Fair which are now known as Jackson Park, the Emerald Necklace in Boston, and the ground of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
In 1848, Olmsted would move to Staten Island to open Tosomock Farms which was then 125 acres. He would transform the one-time wheat farm into a canvas where he would not only grow fruits and vegetables but experiment with landscaping techniques, a hobby of his that would eventually become a vocation. The site would grow cabbages, lima beans, turnips, corn, peaches, and pear trees. He would also plant several trees that would go on to be staples in his Northeastern landscapes including osage orange, black walnut, gingko, and most notably Cedars of Lebanon which are notoriously difficult to grow in North America.
During his time at the house, Olmsted formed friendships that would significantly affect not only his future but America’s including William Cullen Bryan, George Putnam, and the Vanderbilt family.
- Domine Petrus Tesschenmaker (1685 – 1696)
- Jacques Poillon (1696 – 1720)
- John Poillon (1720 – 1733)
- John Poillon Jr. (1733 – 1802)
- John and Patience Journeay (c. 1802 – 1812)
- John and Martha Garretson (1812 – 1839)
- Samuel Akerly (1839 – 1848)
- Frederick Law Olmsted (1848 – 1855)
- John H. Olmsted (1855 – 1866)
- William Anderson (1866 – 1883) – property divided
- Erastus Wiman, Eleanor Anne Wiman / Matthias B Smith (1883 – c. 1907) divided
- Eleanor Anne Wiman / Matthias B Smith (1883 – c. 1907) divided
- Nelson P. Lewis (early twentieth century) divided
- Seaside Estates Co, John Hale, (1903 – 1946)
- John E and Margaret B Cullen (1946 – 1955)
- Louis C. Sirkus (1955 – 1961) divided
- Carlton and Louise Beil (1961 – 2006)