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History on Bay: Westerleigh, Prohibition, and SI’s Temperance Movement

Map of Prohibition Park, Staten Island
Map of Prohibition Park, Staten Island

Believe it or not we had our very own “Temperance Movement” right here in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island. Picture frolicking through meadows, attending lectures, live poetry readings, ball and tennis playing, and even horseback riding all along the closely knit community known as Westerleigh. It was then a bucolic setting that housed visitors from all over the east coast. The park’s transportation was a Trolley Line running from Port Richmond at the time.

The park consisted of campground, a picnic grove, tennis courts, ball fields, horse stables and other recreational facilities. Visitors would stay in tents anchored to wooden platforms. Any open lots not used for campsites were used for development, giving way to permanent buildings including a bowling alley, a large hotel called the Park Hotel, and several small hotels. Events at the park included temperance rallies, religious and temperance meetings, educational lectures, and Chautauqua entertainment.

So much history took place in our small and fascinating borough, which was used as a vacation spot for so many city dwellers and other folks that resided on the East Coast.

One of the last standing enclaves that is still there is the  “Westerleigh Tennis Club“, a Staten Island staple where some of the world’s most famous Tennis Matches have been played. The club still has a certain level of exclusivity in which you must be approved by a standing member to be accepted.

In the late 1800’s  and early 1900’s the close knit community of Westerleigh also housed the Westerleigh Collegiate Institute, being one of the first institutions to provide kindergarten through college education. Another attraction of Prohibition Park was University Temple, a 4,000 seat auditorium. Unfortunately both of these institutions burned down simultaneously and much of Prohibition Park went with them, however, Westerleigh’s residents and the Park Department still honor Westerleigh’s close knit community and charm. The area is quiet, well kept and community based. Some things don’t change. Check out some of the websites below to read more about Prohibition Park.

To read more about Staten Island’s Prohibition Park, check out this website.

Take a look at a map of Prohibition Park from the Library of Congress archives.

Learn more about Westerleigh’s history on Forgotten NY, here

Kristin Pitanza
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