Haven Esplanade, located in the Staten Island neighborhood of New Brighton, honors Silas Nathaniel Havens (1827-1897), a prominent 19th-century New Brighton businessman. This long green mall is a stately addition to the community that Havens helped to expand and develop.
Silas N. Havens, born on March 2, 1827, was the eldest of twelve children born to Silas (1794-1858) and Mariett Griffin Havens (1809-1884), farmers in New London, Connecticut. After completing his education at the age of 17, Havens moved to Staten Island, where he was employed by Orlando E. Lee, an agent of the New Brighton Land Association. He worked with Lee for 10 years, then elected to continue his career as an independent contractor. Havens engaged in other businesses as well, including farming, lumber, real estate, and feed enterprises. A well-known public figure, he was a trustee and director of the Staten Island Savings Bank, a stockholder in the First National Bank at New Brighton, and president of the board of trustees of the Kingsley Methodist Church of Stapleton. In 1858, Havens married Arabella Smith of Connecticut, and the couple settled permanently in New Brighton.
New Brighton was first developed in the mid-1830s by a group of wealthy citizens who planned to create an attractive, accessible waterfront community. Thomas E. Davis, a Manhattan real estate developer, began the project, and subsequently became the president of the New Brighton Association. The developers named the new town after the well-known English seaside resort of Brighton.
New Brighton eventually became a popular seaside resort with frequent steam ferry service to Manhattan. Elegant hotels, in addition to the beautiful beaches, attracted many visitors and summer residents. New Brighton today is a busy neighborhood, one of the residential and commercial hubs of Staten Island’s north shore. The part of New Brighton where the esplanade runs is now known as Silver Lake.
The original Silver Lake in New Brighton was a spring-fed body of water formed at the end of the last ice age. It now makes up the south basin of the Silver Lake reservoir. It was once known as Fresh Pond; maps show that the name Silver Lake came into use by the middle of the 19th century. The two names were used interchangeably until about 1860.
Silver Lake has a long history of recreational and commercial use. During the 19th century, a casino and saloon existed on the lakeshore and several companies harvested Silver Lake ice. Staten Islanders used the lake for boating and ice-skating. In February of 1897, Silver Lake hosted the National Skating Amateur Championship races. In 1913, as modern refrigeration replaced ice harvesting, the lake was drained and converted to a working reservoir by the Board of Water Supply, ultimately serving as the endpoint for the city’s Catskill water supply. The Silver Lake reservoir and much of the surrounding land make up today’s Silver Lake Park.
The Haven Esplanade begins at Silver Lake Road, and continues down through three joined levels to face Castleton Avenue. Mature trees, including London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) and pin oaks (Quercus palustrus), frame the centralized stairway leading down from the first part of the mall. Another row of trees creates a path to the next set of stairs, which lead down to the last level. New plantings in the fall of 2000 include white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), upright yew (Taxus baccata), several varieties of euonymous, forsythia, and perennials such as black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), white and purple Echinacea, and New England asters (Aster novae-angliae).
Haven Esplanade is a part of Greenstreets, a joint project of Parks and the New York City Department of Transportation. The goal of Greenstreets, begun in 1986 and revived in 1994, is the conversion of street properties such as triangles and malls into green spaces. The assistance of volunteers keeps these areas green and their plantings healthy.