Veterans Park is Staten Island’s oldest park. It was laid out in 1836 when Port Richmond’s village streets were mapped and was reported to be the village green or common. Thirty years later, the town was incorporated as Port Richmond, and in 1898, the year of City’s consolidation, this park was named Port Richmond Park.
Port Richmond, which had also been known as Ryer's Landing, Mersereau's Landing, and Decker's Landing, was a well-populated port town in the mid-19th century. Lumber and coal yards clustered around the waterfront, and freight and passenger boats originating in New Brunswick stopped off in Port Richmond on the way to New York City. Port Richmond also provided a departure point for the ferry route to Bergen Point, now know as Bayonne, New Jersey. The ferry service was discontinued when the Bayonne Bridge, which is visible from the park, opened in 1931.
In the 1920s, a police booth with a storage area was built in the park as a joint effort between the Police Department and Parks. This park was renamed by local law in 1949, as a tribute to American veterans. Although Veteran’s Park was at one time enclosed by an iron fence, it is now an open green square, with a flag pole in the center, providing breathing space for the community.
Bounded by Heberton, Vreeland, Bennett and Park Streets, Veterans Park is surrounded by P.S. 20, the Park Baptist Church (est. 1841), the St. Phillips Baptist Church (est. 1871), the Parkside Senior Apartments, Victorian-style homes, and the Port Richmond Library (1905), built by Andrew Carnegie. On the corner of Vreeland and Heberton Streets is the original P.S. 20 (1891) which is a City landmark now housing the Parkside Senior Apartments.
At that corner one can also find the Putnam Memorial, a large decorative drinking fountain with an engraved dedication to Eugene G. Putnam (1865-1913), who served as the principal of P.S. 20 for 17 years. It was presented by his friends in the school and community as a gift to the City in 1915. On the Park Street side of Veterans Park, a stone monument with a plaque commemorates Sullivan’s Attack of August 22, 1777, when American Revolutionary War officer and political leader John Sullivan led an unsuccessful night attack on Staten Island. The monument was erected in 1930 and rededicated in 1998 by the Staten Island Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In November 1996, the park’s sidewalks and paths were renovated with $470,474 provided by Mayor Giuliani. That same year, Borough President Guy V. Molinari provided $65,000 for new plantings. A paved path lined with benches provides easy access across the park. There are nearly two dozen trees, including Pin oaks (Quercus palustris), London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia), pines (Pinus spp.) and sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua).