The neighborhood referred to today as Dongan Hills was first acknowledged by Pierre Billiou, the leader of the group of settlers whom decided to build a home for himself and his family further south of the settlement. The home Pierre Billiou built has been persevered as a landmark, in fact, it is the oldest home in the borough of Staten Island, having originally been built by around 1662. 1476 Richmond Road, the address of the home in which we speak, was designated as a New York City Landmark on February 28, 1967. It is now known as the Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House.
The Billiou-Stillwell-Perine House is not the only significant element of Dongan Hills but since the early part of the nineteenth century, county fairs were held on Staten Island. During the latter part of that century, the fairs were held on the grounds of the Richmond County Agricultural Society, which was located at the present site of Miller Field. By the 1890s, they were held in West Brighton, on the Staten Island Athletic Club’s field. By the time 1905 came around, the Dongan Hills Fair Ground was established. The site had been so popular that dog races began to be held there by 1928.
Dongan Hills was one of the first Staten Island neighborhoods to witness an upsurge in home construction after World War II, as many small, one-family homes were built there during the 1950s, and the city also built a public housing project in the community; known as the General Berry Houses, it is the southernmost public housing project on Staten Island. Also in the neighborhood of Dongan Hills is surrounded by Buel Avenue, Dongan Hills Avenue and Mason Avenue, which has been assigned to the Parks Department. In 1968, the area opened to the public as a park. Since then, it has gone by three different names: P.S. 52 Playground, as it is next to the school; Mason Playground, as Mason Avenue borders it on one side; and the current Dongan Playground, for late seventeenth-century Governor Thomas Dongan, and for whom the neighborhood is also named. Within the park, you will find basketball and handball courts, football and soccer fields, and a playground.
Population growth accelerated in the area when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge linking Staten Island with Brooklyn was opened in November 1964. Indeed, recent arrivals from Brooklyn have overwhelmed the descendants of the original residents, and now form a majority of the neighborhood’s population.
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