Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Historic Richmondtown

About a month ago, I told my friend T that I really wanted to go to Historic Richmondtown. Historic Richmondtown is on Staten Island and it is sort of the poor man's version of Williamsburg (or Skansen, for those who have visited or live in Stockholm). Richmondtown was one of the first towns on Staten Island and used to be along New York harbor (before large chunks of the harbor were filled). The historical society has preserved a lot of the colonial buildings in the area and made it a living museum to the time period. My friend T is really into the history of New York City, and has also always wanted to check it out - though found it difficult to find someone else suitably dorky enough to go along with it. I figured I would check the schedule and see if anything really fantastic was going on, and that is when I found it.

Revolutionary War Re-enactment Weekend.

Clearly, we had to go for that. There is so much delicious kitsch there that we absolutely could not miss it.

Thus, T, FR, S and I gathered at 11:30am on Sunday morning to make the two hour trek to Staten Island. In order to get to Historic Richmondtown, we had to take the subway, to a boat (the S.I. Ferry), to a bus. This was actually my very first time on Staten Island (not counting the times when I have taken the ferry across and back to give visitors a view of the Statue of Liberty). All of the clocks were still an hour off, leading us to believe that by leaving Manhattan, we had actually entered a different time zone. (Okay, not really.)

When we showed up to Historic Richmondtown, the revolutionary war extravaganza was well on its way. The Continental Army was recruiting small children by arming them with bayonets while delighted parents snapped photos of their children mock-killing people. Good times for all. We visited all of the old houses and learned many interesting factoids. For instance, did you know:

- The term "sleep tight" refers back to the time when bed springs were made out of rope. It was necessary to tighten them periodically, as they tended to stretch out over time.

- the term "straighten up your room" comes from moving all of the chairs into more formal positions across the walls for entertaining

- the term "bar" replaced "pub" or "tavern". The term "bar" comes from a series of bars that would come down around the barkeeper, the liquor and the money in case of a fight or robbery

At one of the houses, there was an exceedingly irritating re-enactor who seemed a little drunk and was not very imformative. He leeringly asked us to sign a loyalist petition and pledge our allegiance to the King. We told him that since we were women, we were clearly not allowed to read or write so he'd have to ask our fathers and our husbands.

The actual skirmish in the town was not as exciting as I hoped it would be. Actual revolutionary war re-enactors came in from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and were really excited to be able to skirmish in an actual town instead of on an open battle field. However, this led to a production that was really more for them than for us. We were pretty excited with the rebels (that's us amurricans) finally began to die. There was much booing of the loyalists and "huzzahing!" of the rebels. One of the re-enactors children was among the spectators. He was carrying a bayonet larger than he was. This was the conversation that ensued:

T: That kid is going to get hurt.
S: Nah, he's more likely to bump into someone else.
T: Exactly. He's going to hit me with it and I'm going to kick him.

The last activity of the day was a reading of the Declaration of Independence in the Tavern. We were all excited for the prospect of beer and liberty until we got to the tavern and THERE WAS NO BEER. There were cups! But they were empty. There were toasts! But no beer to toast to. Regardless, the reading was kind of fun. The tavern keeper read the preamble and then different people around the room were asked to read the different complaints. The tavern owner was smart enough to pick educated looking adults, so it was pretty nice. However, one women read redress as "Red-ress" as opposed to "Re-dress" and another man kept talking about the "Tye-ranny" of George the III as opposed to the "tier-anny" of George the III.

The lack of beer was a bummer, but luckily the Staten Island Ferry has its very own bar! So we toasted Staten Island and Richmondtown with our Michelob Ultra as we sailed away from one time zone and went back to our own.

1 comment:

  1. Historic Richmondtown is a very good place to visit. And the information you are provided is also good for visiting a Historic Richmondtown....