Harris Brothers Park

Harris Brothers Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

What was here before?

This area of Staten Island was named Little Farms in the 1900s by the real estate company of Wood, Harmon & Co. With new streets laid out from the Staten Island Railway to Woodrow Road along Rossville Avenue, the developers hoped to lure urban transplants from the rest of the metropolitan area. Low-cost bungalows and the promise of a more peaceful existence appealed to many during this period. In a short time, the company managed to transform the area from sprawling farmland and wilderness into a small residential community.

This property was occupied by P.S. 47, a short-lived school building erected in 1928 and closed in 1939, when the Board of Education surrendered the property.

How did this site become a park?

In 1940, the Board of Estimate (a now defunct municipal body) assigned the field to the Staten Island Parks Department, which laid new sod and used it as a playing field. The park was named Carlton Park in 1985, taking its name from adjoining Carlton Avenue.

In 1993-1994, the City Parks Foundation sponsored the conversion of the open field into an active playground. The renovated park featured a mini soccer field, basketball court, and play area with modular structures, a slide, and monkey bars. The new facilities of Carlton Park were a much-needed addition to the recreational space of Staten Island’s South Shore, heavily used by children and youth sports leagues. Much of the park remains open grass with scattered trees and a small woodland area.

The park was reconstructed in 2019 to include new play equipment and updated basketball courts.

Who is this park named for?

In 2021, as part of an NYC Parks initiative to expand the representation of African Americans honored in parks, the park was renamed in honor of Moses and Silas Harris, founders of the Harrisville community, a free Black settlement on the south side of Staten Island.

Silas Harris was born in New York around 1810 and Moses Harris was born in New Jersey around 1820. Their earliest recorded residence in Staten Island was found in the 1850’s Federal Census. Silas is listed as a boot polisher and farmer and Moses as a gardener and a clergyman. The Harris brothers found success in farming strawberries, and within twenty-five years, this area was known as Harrisville. Silas lived until the age of 106 and descendants of both families still reside in what was once called Sandy Ground.

The name Sandy Ground first appears on records dating back to 1779 describing the type of soil in the area, conducive for cultivating strawberries and asparagus. The growing community had no precise boundaries and many names such as, Sandy Ground, Little Africa, Woodrow and Harrisville. The community encompassed parts of Rossville, Woodrow, Pleasant Plains, and Charleston. Evidence suggests that it might have been a station on the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War where freedom seekers would stop on their way to Canada.

Park Information

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