Mt. Loretto Conservation Area
Richard Avenue, Staten Island, NY
194 acres


Take Hylan Boulevard exit south from the Verrazano Bridge plaza about 11 miles to Richard Avenue. By public transportation: take the 8:30 a.m. Staten Island Ferry from South Ferry, Manhattan, then the 9:00 a.m. S78 bus from Staten Island Ferry terminal in St. George. It travels the length of Hylan Boulevard so tell the driver your bus stop.


The Mount Loretto property includes the only natural red clay cliff bluffs in New York City. There is a 75 foot high terminal moraine bluff with a fantastic view of NY's lower bay and Sandy Hook, as well as the mile long beach below the bluff.  The bluffs are the terminal moraine of the glacier at it southernmost point before retreating 15,000 years ago.


source: Michael Scholl, Staten Island Advance Newspaper;  Girls' orphanage at Mount Loretto gutted by fire.

1883  --  Mount Loretto founded as a boys orphanage on the site of the old Bennett farm by the Rev. John Christopher Drumgoole, an Irish immigrant who was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest at the age of 53. The children would help tend the field and herd. 

1888  --  Father Drumgoole's successor, the Rev. James Dougherty, established a girls orphanage in a temporary location in an abandoned fishermen's hotel. That same year, Father Dougherty began construction of the St. Elizabeth's Building girl's orphanage on the waterfront overlooking Raritan Bay.

January 2000  --  NY State acquired 71.6 acres of the 194-acre Mt. Loretto property and expected to acquire the remainder in two installments from the Trust for Public Land by the end of 2001.

March 6, 2000  --  The St. Elizabeth's Building, an historic Pleasant Plains building, once the home for thousands of orphaned girls, destroyed by fire. The orphange was operated by the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, Mount Loretto.

It was a vacant, six-story Georgian-style structure. The building sits on land recently purchased by the State of New York as parkland. Discussion currently was under way whether to try and save the building as part of the park, or demolish it.  

The Archdiocese of New York recently sold the St. Elizabeth's Building to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), along with 194 acres of surrounding property. The DEC plans to establish a park on the acquired land, which is located on the waterfront side of Hylan Boulevard.


grassland, coastal woodland, freshwater and tidal wetlands, coastal bluffs and shoreline, and beach, open water and bay bottom (Raritan Bay).


Head down the old road (extension of Cunningham Road) past Brown's Pond on the left.  The road goes past the site of the former St. Elizabeth Girls School on the left and reaches a shrine covered wilth English ivy and trumpet creeper.  One can follow the old road to Hylan Boulevard across from Kenny Road and then back to the entrance.  Or one can walk farther east toward the top of the bluffs and then down and around the park residence to come down to the beach.  From here one can walk to the Dorothy Fitzpatrick Fishing Pier and then back to Hyland Boulevard. A left turn and walk along Hyland Boulevard brings one back to the park entrance.   

Dick Buegler and TBS and Protector of Pine Oak Woods

Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Catalpa sp.? (catalpa)?
Celtis occidentalis (hackberry)
Crataegus sp. (hawthorn)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juglans nigra (black walnut) along city street
Liriodendron tulipifera (sweetgum)
Maclura pomifera (osage orange)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus calleryana (Bradford pear)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Taxus sp. (yew)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Ulmus pumila? (Siberian elm)?

Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo)
Aronia sp. (chokeberry)
Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel bush)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells)
Hibiscus syriacus? (rose of Sharon)?
Iva frutescens (marsh elder)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Myrica pensylvanica (bayberry)
Rhus copallina (winged sumac)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Rosa eglanteria? (sweetbrier rose)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rosa rugosa (wrinkled rose)
Rubus laciniatus (cut-leaf black berry)
Rubus sp. (black berry)
Salix sp. (willow)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Syringa vulgaris (lilac)
Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum)

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelainberry)
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)
Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade)
Strophostyles helvula (trailing wild bean)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape)

Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf)
Acalypha sp. (three-seeded mercury)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Amaranthus sp. (retroflexus?) (green amaranth)?
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Ambrosia trifida (giant ragweed)
Apocynum sp. (Indian hemp)
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Aster novae-angliae (New England aster) in here somewhere
Aster laevis (smooth aster) *
Chenopodium album (pigweed)
Cichorium intybus (chicory) *
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) *
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower)
Conyza canadensis (horseweed)
Cycloloma atriplicifolium (winged pigweed)
Datura stramonium (jimsonweed)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne)
Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink)
Eupatorium fistulosum (trumpetweed)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod)
Gnaphalium obtusifolium (sweet everlasting) *
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily)
Hieracium canadense (Canada hawkweed) *
Lemna sp. (duckweed)
Lepidium virginicum (poor man's pepper)
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs) *
Malva moschata (musk mallow) *
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover) *
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed) *
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed) *
Polygonum sp. (aviculare or arenastrum) (smartweed)
Potentilla canadensis (dwarf cinquefoil)
Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima (black-eyed Susan) *
Rumex obtusifolius (curled dock)
Saponaria officinalis (bouncing bet)
Silene sp. (campion)
Solanum carolinense (horse nettle)
Solanum nigrum (black nightshade)
Solidago rugosa (rough-leaved goldenrod)
Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) *
Tragopogon pratensis (goatsbeard)
Trifolium hybridum (alslike clover) *
Trifolium pratense (red clover) *
Trifolium repens (white clover) *
Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Vernonia noveboracensis (New York iron weed)
Wolffia sp.? (water meal)

Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Cyperus strigosus (umbrella sedge)
Scirpus sp. (flatsedge)
Carex lurida (sallow sedge)

Ammophila breviligulata (beach grass)
Bromus inermis (smooth brome grass)
Cenchrus sp. (sandbur) woolly
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Digitaria sp. (crab grass)
Distichlis spicata (spike grass) in here
Eleusine indica (zipper grass)
Eragrostis spectabilis (purple love grass)
Lolium perenne (wild rye grass)
Millium sp. (millet)?
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Panicum dichotomiflorum (fall panic grass)
Panicum virgatum (switch grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reedgrass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem grass)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Setaria sp. (green or yellow foxtail grass)
Spartina alterniflora (saltmarsh cordgrass) in here
Spartina patens (salt meadow cordgrass) in here
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)


On a windy, cloudy, cold day a group of field participants from the Torrey Botanical Society along with a group from the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods met to tour the new parks of the Mt. Loretto conservation area and Long Pond Park. There are a lot of fields at Mt. Loretto. The most blooms came from Aster laevis (smooth aster). A bloom that caught the interest of the group was Malva moschata (musk mallow). Other plants in bloom included Cichorium intybus (chicory), Cirsium vulgare, Linaria vulgaris (butter-and-eggs), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), and Trifolium hybridum (pink clover) and T. pratense (red clover).

From the top of the hill we had a great view across Hylan Boulevard of Mt. Loretto and St. Joseph church (where they filmed the christening scene for the "Godfather" film). From here we proceeded down to the beach area making our way to the Dorothy Fitzpatrick Fishing Pier. Here were the shrubs Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo), Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel bush), Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive), Iva frutescens (marsh elder), and Rosa rugosa (wrinkled rose), along with the vine Strophostyles helvula (trailing wild bean). Some of the interesting herbaceous plants were Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf), Cycloloma atriplicifolium (winged pigweed), Datura stramonium (jimsonweed) and Xanthium strumarium (clotbur). Here also was the planted Maclura pomifera (osage orange).

From the fishing pier we walked back along Hylan Boulevard to the entrance for Mt. Loretto where we ate our lunch. After lunch we toured Long Pond Park to the west and in back of the church complex at Mt. Loretto.

At Long Pond Park we took the red-blazed trail to Pam's Pond and then continued north to an asphalt road leading east to Cunningham Road and the Mt. Loretto church complex. From here we explored a beech forest area. Among the trees here were Albizia julibrissin (silk tree), Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum), and Populus grandidentata (big-tooth aspen). In some areas there were great number of Wisteria sp. (wisteria) plants. Another vine in the area was Smilax glauca (sawbrier). We did not see any ferns in the Mt. Loretto conservation area, but here we found three ferns: Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern), Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern), and Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern).

Total attendance was 16. Some of the participants were Lauren Christie, Patrick and Rosemary Cooney, Judith Fitzgerald, Angela Fumando, Joyce Hyon, Ann Lazarus, Grace Long, Sarah-David Rosenbaum, and Robert Silverman. The trip leader was Dick Buegler.