Sited along the northern shore of Staten Island with sweeping views of the Kill Van Kull Strait, this 83-acre park primarily comprises two major Staten Island institutions.
Established in 1833 as a retirement home for seamen, the 28 buildings of Sailors’ Snug Harbor are set within a classical landscape encircled by a Victorian cast-iron fence. They reflect nearly every architectural style common to the 19th century. After a period of decline and deterioration, preservation efforts led to the site’s reopening as the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in 1976.
Founded in 1960 and permanently sited at Snug Harbor in 1977, the Staten Island Botanical Gardens comprise over 20 thematic spaces distributed across 53 acres of wooded parkland. The master plan was developed in 1989 by Quennell Rothschild Associates. The Chinese Scholar’s Garden, designed by Zu Gwongwu in 1999, is a recreation of a Qing dynasty (18th century) retreat, featuring stones amassed to resemble mountains, a picturesque pond, and pavilions. The Tuscan Garden was modeled after the Villa Gamberaia near Florence, Italy, while the Secret Garden, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, is accessed through a castle with moat. The White Garden is a facsimile of Vita Sackville-West’s garden at Sissinghurst, in England. The gardens also include a boxwood maze, a pleached hornbeam allée, a rose garden and fragrance garden designed by Clarke and Rapuano, and 20 acres of wetlands. In 1972 Sailors’ Snug Harbor was listed in the National Register of Historic Places; in 1976 the entire property was designated a National Historic Landmark.