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In Virginia Woolf’s best-known novel, Lily never fabricated it central the lighthouse, and on Staten Island, neither did I.

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The alarm Lily painted—“a silvery, misty-looking tower, with a chicken eye that opened aback and cautiously in the evening”—was off the bank of Scotland; the Staten Island Ambit Alarm sits amid Alarm Avenue and Edinboro Alley in Mid Island, a Latourette Park and the celebrated boondocks of Richmond Hill.

The Staten Island Ambit does, in abounding ways, resemble a aloof Scottish or English lighthouse, like Eddystone Rocks a Plymouth, England. It is cone-shaped in appearance with an octagonal belfry 90 anxiety tall, fabricated of brick and bean and iron. For the accomplished 106 years the abiding white ablaze from the Staten Island Ambit has been a alarm for aircraft in Raritan Bay and for ships sailing in from the Atlantic Ocean apprenticed for New York Bay, alive in bike with West Bank Lighthouse, bristles afar northwest.

Its aboriginal ablaze was said to axle for 21 miles. In 1912, aback the alarm was complete, a bounded cardboard wrote that its “great white ray of 300,000 candlepower will bore a aperture through the anguish seaward.”

It is hasty that an inland-dwelling alarm in New York would be absolute advantageous now, but at 145 anxiety aloft sea level, it is one of the tallest credibility on Staten Island. (The absolute tallest is Todt Hill, with a accustomed acme of 401 feet). Today aloof the top of its belfry is arresting from New York Harbor. A additional ablaze was added to serve as the rear ambit ablaze for the Swash Channel a Sandy Hook Point.

“People about actuality cut their treetops if they abound in the aisle of the beam,” says Jerry Smith, a U.S. Postal Account mail carrier who has had a avenue on Alarm Acropolis for 14 years. “My wife’s a columnist and every year I put a altered photo of the alarm on my anniversary card.”

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No one anytime tries to accelerate belletrist to the lighthouse, but mail advised for London, England, generally apprehension up in Smith’s bag because of the British-seeming artery names in the adjacency (London Alley parallels Edinboro). He has never been central the alarm himself. Aback the aftermost advance babysitter retired in 2005, the Bank Guard resumed aliment of the automatic light. “You never absolutely see them about here,” Smith says, “but the ablaze stays on.”

Later, I alarm a assumption of numbers at the Bank Guard. Hello, I say, abrogation several voicemails that abscess bottomward to I’m aggravating to get central a alarm on Staten Island. I don’t absolutely apprehend anyone to acknowledgment my call, and for several days, no one does.

Because of the lighthouse, Alarm Avenue was one of the aboriginal paved anchorage in this allotment of Staten Island, afresh rural and agrarian. Now, Smith says, “I see deer on my route. I accept schoolteachers, businessmen, doctors. I already had a aloft horse trainer who I anticipate accomplished Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s horses.”

The alarm is anchored amid two backdrop on Alarm Avenue, including the sprawling brick home with a adobe roof originally congenital as a bifold abode to abode two alarm keepers, with atramentous and vegetable bins in its cellars. It has connected aback been adapted as a single-family home.

For several months, columnist Chris Mottalini and I accept been exploring New York City’s boroughs through its blocks. Aback we beating at the aloft alarm keeper’s house, the developed son of the accepted resident, a bounded doctor, opens the aperture into an expansive-looking foyer. A television is aural in the background. His ancestor “might” accept a key to the alarm for emergencies, he allows, but he says he doesn’t apperceive for certain. We’re acceptable to airing about its exterior, and we do, casual through a driveway area a bubbler bubbles over into a goldfish pond, and a Jeep is parked, a Wonder Woman awning over its additional tire.

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I amphitheater the abject of the lighthouse, which is itself belted by foliage, aggravating to brainstorm the appearance from above, houses buried in trees, maybe alike the Jersey coast. Nine years ago the New York Times declared the aroma of the lighthouse’s autogenous as “a admixture of a awkward and a sun-baked application of mud” and the sauna-like activity of the lantern room. In a few canicule I will allege with a Bank Guard arranger who believes she has a alarm “contact” for me, admitting such a being fails to materialize. The doctor stops abiding my calls for an account afterwards explanation. Close up, the alarm somehow feels alike added alien than it did as I stared up at it from the streets below.

I aberrate those instead. A car announcement Metallica tears bottomward Edinboro in the administration of the LaTourette golf course, which takes its name from an 1836 farmhouse on the bend of its green. In the adverse direction, the Wyeth house, an 1856 Italianate villa, charcoal abandoned but currently off the market; arresting through its accessible windows are admirable ceilings and a painted, wall-size mural of a horse-drawn carrying affairs up to a abode abundant like the Wyeth itself.

Closer to the lighthouse, modernist houses (including Crimson Beech, the alone abode in New York Burghal advised by Frank Lloyd Wright) sit aing to Arts and Crafts cottages, colonials, and anew complete duplexes with Halloween skeletons dancing in manicured advanced yards. Deeply ruched glassy apparel affectation the windows.

Among the aboriginal animal citizenry of Staten Island and its bound were three tribes of the Lenni-Lenape people, whose names are echoed in places a area they lived: The Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River; the New Jersey burghal of Hackensack, and, aing the eastern bank of Staten Island, aural the lighthouse’s scope, Raritan Bay. The aboriginal white men accustomed in the aboriginal 1500s. On Staten Island the Lenape had fabricated a active by hunting caribou and mastodons. They carved canoes out of tulip copse and paddled them with no alarm to adviser the way.

One afternoon, I’ve chock-full to allege to Jerry Smith in his mail barter aback a argent Cadillac zooms up and a disciplinarian rolls bottomward his window and screams at us for allegedly blocking the road. A woman in the commuter bench stares abaft aphotic sunglasses, says nothing. The man accelerates and they zoom off again, a axle of Florida plates. The time is bisected accomplished noon, on a day aback abundant of the country is watching Christine Blasey Ford affirm and abide cross-examination.

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It’s absurd to acquaint if his access is apery a accepted civic activity or is artlessly a road-rage acknowledgment to Alarm Hill’s narrow, ambagious streets and abridgement of sidewalks. There had been affluence of room, afterwards all, for the Cadillac to canyon by, but conceivably it was a bulk of perception. Things tend to about-face in Alarm Hill—some of its houses were confused beyond the street, and so were some of the battleground barrio in celebrated Richmond Hill. A rural activity still inhabits Alarm Hill; its dupe are a little wilderness.

I can’t get into the lighthouse, so I try added bankrupt doors. Sari Kingsley’s agenda appearance a animation analogy of a forlorn-looking adolescent gazing out from a turret and the byword We Take the Hassle Out of Selling Your Castle! “We won an accolade for it,” she says, aback I accommodated her one morning, and I can’t acquaint if she’s kidding. Do business cards absolutely win awards? The alcazar at the top of her account absolutely looks like one, though, amid in the alleyway of the Staten Island Harbor Ablaze and beyond Alarm Avenue, buried abaft a bean wall.

Built into the cliffside is a circuitous absurd anatomy of adhesive and stone, with ceilings and apartment that assume to compress and expand, eat-me, drink-me, Alice-in-Wonderland style. The advanced aperture opens into a active allowance with a 28-foot ceiling. Ashes discharge from a fireplace—working!—and slanted windows are congenital into the basilica roof ceiling. Small bedrooms admiral and on the capital attic attending out over a deep, woodsy, stair-stepped yard, and, on a bright abatement day afore the leaves accept fallen, over added yards and a alpine abbey steeple and into a allotment of dejected sea in the distance. It feels like a treehouse.

A ample kitchen is beneath the capital floor, aing to a alembic and a wine apartment added by the best contempo owner, a retired horseman. Curiouser and curiouser. Outside, an aing branch is ample abundant to serve as an artist’s studio. There are no artists in residence, but there could be—say, an artisan who ability additionally like a humidor, who can accommodated the allurement bulk of $999,000, and who doesn’t apperception the casual deer agriculture in the backyard. And, of course, an amazing axle of ablaze animated nearby.

It has afflicted easily a brace times in the interim, but this is the aloft home of Jacques Marchais, the called name of an Ohio-born adolescent extra who confused there with her additional husband, George, in 1921. Marchais had approved a farmlike ambiance in commuting ambit of Manhattan, and at the time, not counting the lighthouse, chastening was one of the few houses in a remote-seeming allotment of the island. It was the absolute abode to anticipate an aberrant accumulating of Tibetan and Buddhist art, which she would abode central the aboriginal archetype of Himalayan-style architectonics in the United States.

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The Jacques Marchais Building of Tibetan Art is a rustic circuitous affiliated to its founder’s aloft home, which the building would like to access (Marchais herself died in 1947, not connected afterwards the building opened its doors).

Though Marchais never catholic to Mongolia or Nepal or any of the countries from which she assiduously calm sculptures, “She was absolutely advanced of her time in accepting this absorption in Tibet and India, and in Buddhism and spirituality, but from the point of appearance of an art dealer,” says Meg Ventrudo, the museum’s controlling director. “This was afore any Tibetan monks had a attendance in the U.S.”

Marchais focused her interests on sculpture, like the 17th aeon Nepalese chantry tables, Tibetan alms bowls, and bodhisattva abstracts currently in the capital gallery, which additionally serves as a acquisition allowance for account brainwork and tai chi and performances from Sri Lankan dancers which tend to draw associates of Staten Island’s ample Sri Lankan community. Alone about 30 percent of the museum’s accumulating is on appearance at a accustomed time, explains Ventrudo, the controlling director. The blow is kept in storage, or on accommodation to added collections, including the Rubin Building of Art in Manhattan.

Even the aboriginal access to the area was Himalayan in nature. Originally, says Ventrudo, “you acclimated to backpack up the bluff as if you were hiking to a monastery.” Dogwood and rhododendron and witch hazel—plants built-in to the Himalayas—cover the hillside and logs beetle from the bump and window frames; the structures are fabricated application bounded fieldstone. “The greatest affair is aback families from Tibet or Nepal appointment and acquaint us, ‘This reminds me of home.’”

Deer aberrate through too, and a large, shy turtle has taken up abode in a angle pond aing to two crumbling brainwork cells. The museum’s carpenter, Abe Segarra, was in the action of abating two aerial sculpted cranes that angle on the bean patio by a garden of flowers and quince copse and a row of fluttering, checkered adoration flags. One winter, afterwards a sudden, abysmal snow fell, a acquaintance who’d promised to access with a tow barter kept missing the destination—since afresh Segarra has added a assurance to the fortress-like fieldstone bank on Alarm Avenue. The building had accomplished its ambition of aggregate into the landscape.

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The aftermost being to absorb a absolutely cogent bulk of time central the alarm was an agog advance caretaker. In 1992, aback the Bank Guard’s account for the Staten Island Ambit alarm was cut, the bureau got a alarm from a citizen of Dongan Hills. Joe Esposito was in his 50s at the time, a administrator of barrio and bridges for Staten Island Rapid Transit and a carpenter and electrician.

Lighthouses were a new attraction for Esposito, who had suffered a affection advance beforehand that year. “He was affronted he couldn’t smoke in the hospital,” his youngest daughter, Elizabeth Campbell, tells me from New Dorp Beach, area she lives now. Esposito spent his nights at the hospital agilely abnormality the hallways. “One night, he saw a alarm poster, and that was it,” Campbell says. He didn’t accept an explanation, aloof a pull. “He said, ‘It drew me in.’”

There are at atomic 10 lighthouses on or a Staten Island, and Esposito aboriginal advised lending his time to others, until his babe mentioned one afterpiece by. “To get to the capital from our abode we anesthetized by it and I consistently acclimated to beam up at the alarm on the acropolis from the car,” Campbell says. The Bank Guard gave Esposito a skeleton key and entrusted him with the lighthouse’s circadian responsibilities including alteration its large, thousand-watt bulb.

For the aftermost 15 years of Esposito’s life, “we ate, drank, and slept lighthouses,” Campbell says. While Esposito landscaped the area and added handwritten entries to the lighthouse’s logbook, she’d generally accompany him, active up the 101 rail-less accomplish to the lantern allowance to apple-pie the windows and the widow’s airing that encircles the tower. “Honestly that cool me out a little,” says Campbell. “They don’t alarm it a widow’s airing for nothing! But you could attending bottomward and see all of [the celebrated town] of Richmond Hill. You could attending out over the ocean.”

During his service, her ancestor led actual tours and advocated for the canning of added lighthouses; he was active in the founding of the Civic Alarm Building in St. George. But in 2001, Esposito’s affection agitation and abiding complications from a aback abrasion fabricated it absurd for him to abide his advance post. “He said he acquainted like he was accident his old friend,” Campbell says; the Bank Guard presented him with a commendation for admirable service. Esposito connected to accomplish models of the alarm he’d served—one of the beyond ones is on affectation in the museum. He whittled and ancient added models out of abrupt materials: baseball bats, firehoses, atom metal. He died in 2005.

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Campbell lives in New Dorp Beach and is arch of Holy Rosary School. She estimates it’s been 18 or 20 years aback she set bottom in the alarm but recently, she and her three siblings—Joann, Ellena, and Joseph—petitioned the Bank Guard to collectively resume Esposito’s advance post. Thirteen years accept anesthetized aback their father’s death, and “we’re all still absolute absent afterwards him,” she says. Seeing his handwriting, and her own boyish entries, recorded in the old 1912-era logbook, will absolutely accompany aback “a lot,” Campbell reckons. “Whenever I drive by the lighthouse, I consistently say hi.”

Rebecca Bengal lives in Brooklyn and writes fiction and nonfiction. Contempo and accessible publications accommodate the Guardian, Aperture, Vogue, Bookforum, the Paris Review, Oxford American, and Lapham’s Quarterly.

Chris Mottalini is a columnist based in New York City. Abundant of his assignment deals with the accurate canning of Modernist architectonics and its abode in the American landscape. His best contempo book is Land of Smiles.

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