via Curbed.com – New York City has always been a collection of diverse communities—and while many have since been paved over or transformed into new neighborhoods, in some places, visible remnants of the past remain. One such place is Staten Island’s Sandy Ground, which—along with Seneca Village, established in 1825 and located in Manhattan, and Weeksville, established in 1838 and located in present-day Crown Heights—was one of three prominent communities that free blacks called home in New York in the pre-Civil War era.
Located on the Staten Island’s south shore, Sandy Ground first appeared on records dating back to 1799, its name referring to the rich soil found throughout the area. Land ownership records show that the first African American residents purchased land in the area as early as 1828. The first documented owner, John Jackson, purchased 2.5 acres; he would later go ont to operate the Lewis Columbia, a ferry that provided service between Rossville and Manhattan—the only direct mode of transportation at that time.