Situated on a triangular city block, this 0.4-acre garden has been under the care of community volunteers since its inception in 1974. It sits adjacent to the Jefferson Market Library, originally designed as the Third Judicial District Courthouse in a polychromatic, High Victorian Gothic style by Frederick Clarke Withers of the architectural firm Vaux and Withers and constructed from 1874 to 1877. The garden is on the site of the former Jefferson Market, which was razed in 1873 to make way for the courthouse. From 1931 to 1973 the Women’s House of Detention sat adjacent to the courthouse, on the site of the current garden. Upon the demolition of the prison, the site was transferred to the New York City Department of Parks in 1974, and was entrusted to the Jefferson Market Garden Committee Inc., a group of neighbors who continue to raise money and care for the site. The initial plan by garden designer Pamela Berdan drew inspiration from Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s work. Berdan is credited with designing a number of gardens in Greenwich Village during the 1970s and 1980s, including the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden and the garden at St. John’s in the Village Episcopal Church.
Berdan’s plan was ornately planted, and contained star and saucer magnolia trees, Yoshino cherry trees, American yellowwoods, thornless honeylocusts, crabapple trees, fairy hedge roses, pycarantha, and holly bushes clustered around a central lawn and koi pond, punctuated by numerous benches. Volunteers have since introduced tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and dahlia. In 1998 a wrought-iron fence was constructed to match the one surrounding the library, based on the original nineteenth-century fence. The library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.