Saturday, July 30, 2016

Walking in the City - Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NY

In the eighteen years that I've been in New York I've been to Staten Island twice and both of those visits were many years ago. Having recently extended my exploration of New York City into Queens and Brooklyn, it only seemed fitting to venture out to Staten Island too, especially as the trip from Manhattan requires a delightful ferry ride across the harbor offering a fabulous view of the Statue of Liberty.  

Back in May, I joined a group of Shorewalkers on a trip which promised to show some interesting places on the island. The tour certainly lived up to its billing. 

On arrival in St. George,  we took a short bus ride to our first destination, an unusual art gallery called Lenny's Creations.  Lenny's amazing sculptures are all made out of salvaged metal and parts from used cars and are displayed in a gallery next to his muffler repair shop. 

this exhibit is a sign you've come to the right place

The sculptures include transformers:



a military helicopter:

And even a space shuttle:

Lenny's a really friendly guy who obviously enjoys showing people around his gallery. I asked him what inspired him to start making his art and he said 'boredom'. I'm guessing boredom hasn't been a problem for some time now! The intricate detail that goes into each piece is astounding, some of the exhibits have moving parts, and the transformers rival anything I've seen on screen. 

Link to article online
Well worth a visit. 

From the gallery we headed back on foot towards the ferry terminal via Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. Originally this was the site of Sailor's Snug Harbor, a home for old sailors established in the early 19th century, which ultimately became a self-sustaining haven for up to 900 residents at its peak. 

Staff housing
Five Greek Revival buildings were the center of the community but over the years a farm, hospital, chapel, homes for the staff  and various admin buildings were added in a wide range of architectural styles. The facility prospered until the middle of the 20th century when declining numbers and financial problems forced the closure of the facility (remaining residents were transferred to another facility in North Carolina in 1976).  

Many of the smaller buildings, including a white marble memorial church, were demolished over the years as they fell into disrepair, but the Greek Revival buildings became the first designated landmark structures in New York City.

In the mid 1970's the complex was turned into Snug Harbor Cultural Center offering art and historical exhibits, musical and theatrical performances. In 2008 it was combined with the Snug Harbor Botanical Gardens and now includes nine different gardens making it "one of the largest ongoing adaptive reuse projects in America."

One of the gardens is the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden. The entrance to the garden is via a path through a bamboo forest. Given the heat of the day, the shade was much appreciated.

You could be forgiven for thinking you'd left New York as you saunter the paths past goldfish-filled ponds, rock formations and beautiful pavilions. 

One of the eight pavilions in the garden
a 15ft Ghongshi scholar's rock in the central courtyard

this pavilion was being set up for a wedding reception

Given our schedule, our time in the Botanical Gardens was limited and as a result I didn't get to see all the gardens, so unfortunately missed Connie Gretz's Secret Garden which looks a lot of fun as it is set out as a maze. Other gardens include a Rose Garden, a White Garden and a Healing Garden, a memorial to the 267 islanders who lost their lives on 9/11.

It would be easy to spend a full day at Snug Harbor and still not have time to enjoy all it offers. I definitely plan on going back. 

Our day ended with a gentle stroll along the waterfront promenade to the ferry terminal and the pleasure of yet another ferry ride. 

All in all, a fascinating day out. 

While I enjoy exploring on my own, one of the benefits of going with a group such as Shorewalkers is that you will see places that you might never come across on your own. If you are in New York City for a visit and want to see some of the lesser known parts of the city, I highly recommend checking out what Shorewalkers have to offer during your visit. (You don't have to be a member, the non-member charge  is only $3.) 


  1. Great post, Mel. I just love taking these walks with you, even though they're virtual :)