Louis Stirn was born in 1853 to a prominent Lutheran clergyman. At the age of 14, he left Germany for New York, where he found work in the silk industry. Stirn became a partner in a firm that acted as a commission merchant for a German manufacturer of velvets and woolens and he established his own firm in 1894. The firm was an import house dealing in ribbons, silks, velvets and chiffons, distributing to leading retailers like Marshall Field and Co.
Stirn moved to Staten Island in 1882, marrying Laura Natalie Methfessel six years later. Laura was the daughter of Professor Anton Gotlieb Methfessel, considered to be one of the most prominent educators on the Island. In 1862 he founded the Methfessel School which would go on to become The Staten Island Academy and Latin School, which to this day is still the island's most prestigious private primary and secondary school.
The Stirns took an active part in the community life of Staten Island. Louis Stirn was a member of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island Civic League, and the Richmond County Country Club, in addition to being a member of the Manhattan Club. Laura Roebling-Methfessel-Stirn was a founder of the St. Cecilia Society of Staten Island and was a member of the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences, the Staten Island Bird Club, and the Garden Club of Staten Island. She was also active in several charitable organizations, including the Stapleton Day Nursery and the Staten Island Hospital
The Belvedere Club at Casa Belvedere was introduced to further the Foundation's Arts and Cultural mission, by helping preserve this landmark mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built by Louis A. Stirn and Laura Roebling-Stirn in 1908, the house is historically significant and part of America's story. The Stirn Mansion is both a New York City Landmark and on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. It's transformation journey from a private home to a public institution began in 2010, when the not-for-profit acquired the home.
The "Stirn Mansion" was and still remains a true architectural gem, with an Italiante-style, neo-Renaissance exterior, and an arts & crafts style interior. Also, important to note is that the Stirn Mansion is one of the rare surviving examples of early 20th-century country house designs on Staten Island and is one of the few houses of its size and type within New York City.
In 2009, “The Stirn Mansion” was renamed “Casa Belvedere” to reflect its’ breathtaking view (House with a Beautiful View). In 2010, the mansion portion of the estate, aka Casa Belvedere, was donated to the Italian Cultural Foundation, a newly formed not-for-profit, arts and cultural organization. And so this historically significant, privately owned home began its transformation journey to a public institution.
Almost immediately upon acquiring its gifted headquarters, the foundation began offering a myriad of exceptional educational programs in the building: Language and cooking classes; Art and Photo exhibits; musical and theatrical performances; car shows & fashion shows; book signings, lectures, presentations and more. However, it was quite a challenge to run a cultural center in an over 100-year-old building that had fallen into major disrepair and was in desperate need of rehabilitation. That said, an integral part of the foundation’s mission quickly became to preserve and restore “Casa Belvedere”.
This is a multi-million-dollar, multi-phased restoration project that continues through today. But if you stop out front to gaze at this beautiful survivor of a by-gone era, or if you sit on the back terrace mesmerized by that spectacular view, you understand why this incredible home and its history is worth saving.
*This information was taken, in part, from the Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation report dated January 30, 2001.