April 17, 2010 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Home to several lesser known urban gardens that are wonderful destinations for some quiet respite from the concrete jungle, Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs, was mostly farmland until the 1960s when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built.
Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
One of these blissful spots of calm and solitude can be found at Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Nestled into the side of Lighthouse Hill, the museum features terraced meditation gardens and a lotus and fish pond gracing the grounds of Tibetan-style fieldstone buildings resembling a Himalayan monastery.
Jacques Marchais (1887-1948), created the center to share with the world the artistic and cultural traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas. Starting in the 1920s, Marchais, an American woman, followed her passions and amassed one the nation’s earliest and most extensive collections of high-quality Tibetan art. Museum programs include lectures and workshops, film screenings, musical performances, art exhibitions, and classes in tai-chi, yoga, and meditation.
Chinese Scholars Garden, Snug Harbor, Staten Island Botanical Gardens
Originally a housing residence for retired seaman, Snug Harbor is an 83-acre National Historic Landmark District whose grand 19th century buildings house Snug Harbor Cultural Center, a blend of museums such as The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, theaters, and gardens including the Staten Island Botanical Gardens, Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Tuscan Garden, the Connie Gretz Secret Garden.
The largest ongoing adaptive reuse project in America and, with its 19th Century grounds are woven with woods and streams, colorful gardens and tree lined pathways, Snug Harbor is considered one of New York City’s unique architectural complexes and historic landscapes.
Within the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, The Botanical Garden is a 53 acre natural woodland with over 20 specimen gardens. Among the gardens are those which are representations from particular periods along with others in contemporary styles.
Highlights include the Garden of Healing which features the World Trade Center Educational Tribute, the Italian Garden modeled after Florence Italy’s Villa Gamberaia, the White Garden inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s famous garden in Sissinghurst, England, The Chinese Scholars Garden, and the Connie Gretz Secret Garden modeled after Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic complete with a child-sized castle and a maze.
The Tuscan Garden
Connie Gretz Secret Garden maze
Walkway connecting the gardens
Corners of the gardens reveal beautiful details like these tiles
A Smithsonian Affiliate, Snug Harbor is a place where history, architecture, the visual and performing arts, and environmental science all come together.