Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

Roots Revisited: The Britton Cottage, Then and Now

Posted in Nuggets from the Archives on March 27, 2015 by Stevenson Swanson

Stevenson Swanson is the Garden’s Science Media Manager.


Nathaniel Lord Britton Cottage Historic Richmond Town Staten island
The Britton Cottage as it looks today at Historic Richmond Town

A recent Science Talk post told the story of the Staten Island origins of our founder, Nathaniel Lord Britton, who came from a long line of Staten Islanders. Remarkably, the Britton house, which was built in about 1670 and expanded twice in the 18th century, is still standing.

Known as the Britton Cottage, the fieldstone and frame dwelling is “an important reminder of the colonial heritage of Staten Island,” according to a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission report.

Nathaniel Lord Britton Cottage Historic Richmond Town Staten Island Historical Society
The Britton Cottage as it appeared in the early years of the 20th century. Nathaniel and Elizabeth Britton owned it until 1915.

Given the cottage’s historic importance, I wondered if there were any photographs of it from the period when Nathaniel and his wife, Elizabeth, might have lived there. Yes, indeed. These two views—front and back—show the Britton Cottage when it stood at its original location in the New Dorp section of Staten Island. It was moved in the 1960s to Historic Richmond Town, a town and farm museum, whose staff kindly supplied these contemporary and archive photos.

Considering that both Brittons were botanists, it seems fitting that in the vintage photos the cottage is covered in vines.

Nathaniel Lord Britton Cottage Historic Richmond Town Staten Island Historical Society
The fieldstone section in the center of the cottage was built in about 1670. The two additions date from 1700 and 1750.

All photos courtesy of the Staten Island Historical Society/Historic Richmond Town

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