Caleb T. Ward Mansion
Caleb Tompkins Ward built this mansion in 1835 on land he purchased from the estate of his uncle, the former Governor of New York, Daniel D. Tompkins. The stucco and brick house was constructed in a Greek Revival style on what once was a 250-acre tract. The two story portico and a large rectangular cupola atop the building are some of its major features. The house is said to be the oldest privately-owned Greek Revival style home on the East Coast. The house was listed as a New York City landmark in 1978 and in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The private residence is not open to the public; the private gated entrance between modern houses is all that is visible from the road. Check out a link below for many recent photos, though, for a virtual peek.
Backstory and Context
Caleb Tompkins Ward (1789-1850) built the Caleb t. Ward Mansion in 1835 on land he inherited from his uncle, the former Governor of New York, Daniel D. Tompkins. The stucco and brick house was constructed in a Greek Revival style on what once was a 250-acre tract. The two story portico and a large rectangular cupola atop the building are some of its major features. The rear facade has a one-story covered piazza supported by six piers. The builder seems to have been influenced by the architectural books of the era by New Jersey native Minard Lafever but the Greek Revival architectural details were adapted to a traditional five-bays-wide structure more common in Georgian and Federal style houses.
After Caleb T. Ward died in 1850, the mansion passed to his son, Albert, the first judge of the Richmond County Court of Common Pleas in the 1840's. The Caleb T. Ward House is labeled "Ward" on the 1872 Dripps map of Staten Island North, between Ward Avenue to the west and Cebra Avenue to the south. Development had begun along the road to the east of the house, near the base of the hill (Richmond Road in 1872, St. Pauls Avenue now). Albert Ward had a home nearby on St. Pauls Avenue and died in 1878.
By 1887, the Caleb T. Ward Mansion was owned by Ward heirs on a 12-acre lot. Albert's estate owned the home until 1904 when it was purchased by Sally Lewis Wood Nixon. Her husband, Lewis Nixon (1861-1940), was a prominent naval architect who graduated first in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1882. Mr. Nixon was involved in a number of businesses and served in Richmond County and New York City government positions.
In the 1920's the home on Ward's Hill was carved up into 6 apartments after Mrs. Nixon sold the property to the Ward Hill Realty Corporation. Before the modifications needed to the interior and exterior, the front portico supported a pediment and the columns were fluted. By the time new owners, the Wisniewskis, bought the home in 1978, the house was in poor condition. The couple and their sons restored the house into a grand, single-family home once more, with its sweeping views of the New York harbor. A child of theirs still owns the home and restored the house once again in the early 2000's. Plaster ceiling medallions still grace some of the interior rooms. A winding staircase leads through the home up to the roof where incredible views of the city can be had. The private home currently has three stories, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and a full basement, plus a seven-car garage. A cast iron antique boiler sits in the basement, not in use. Envelopes and letters addressed to the original owner have been preserved and framed for display in the home.
The house was listed as a New York City landmark in 1978 and in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The private residence is not open to the public, and is surrounded by modern homes, but check out a link below for dozens of photos from a recent private tour of the inside and outside!
Beers, J. B. Atlas of Staten Island, Richmond County, New York, David Rumsey Map Collection. January 1st 1887. Accessed December 23rd 2019. https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/912bpf.
Dripps, Matthew. Map of Staten Island (Richmond Co.) NY, David Rumsey Map Collection. January 1st 1872. Accessed December 23rd 2019. https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/ffk173.
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Caleb T. Ward Mansion, New York City Government. August 22nd 1978. Accessed December 27th 2019. http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/1002.pdf.
Somma-Hammel, Jan. Cool Spaces: Tour the Caleb T. Ward Mansion, silive.com. January 30th 2019. Accessed December 21st 2019. https://www.silive.com/seen/2018/03/cool_spaces_the_caleb_t_ward_m.html.
Dripps 1872 (David Rumsey Map Collection)
Beers 1872 (David Rumsay Map Collection)