S is for Snug

Located at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301
Website:  https://snug-harbor.org/

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

Located on the north shore of Staten Island, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden consists of extensive parkland grounds and gardens with meandering idyllic walks.

The architecturally classic buildings located in the park house various institutions like the Staten Island Museum, Noble Maritime Collection, and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art.

A Smithsonian affiliate, Snug Harbor presents seasonal arts and crafts exhibitions and performances, all year round.

Snug Harbor has an interesting history. It was originally built as a home for retired sailors, with the name Sailors’ Snug Harbor.

In 1801 Captain Robert Richard Randall had bequeathed his Manhattan estate, in his will, for the purpose of starting a marine hospital for aged, decrepit and worn-out seamen. However, by the time arrangements could be made to build the home, the Manhattan location was not suitable and the trustees opted for Staten Island as the best choice. And the Sailors’ Snug Harbor, a name suggested by Randall himself, was founded in 1831.

The first building opening in 1833, with 37 occupants. As the number of people seeking refuge grew, more buildings were added, including a chapel, music hall, and more dormitories.

Over the next century, Sailors’ Snug Harbor expanded from its original three buildings to 50 structures and 900 residents from every corner of the world. By the turn of the 20th century, Sailors’ Snug Harbor was reputedly the richest charitable institution in the United States and a self-sustaining community with farms, a dairy, a bakery, workshops, a power plant, a chapel, a sanatorium, a hospital, a concert hall, dormitories, recreation areas, gardens, and a cemetery.

In the mid-20th century, the Randall endowment started to run out. Also, the number of residents also was going down as programs like Social Security and Medicare provided a financial safety for retired sailors. Several buildings at Snug Harbor were demolished in the early 1950’s as they were in disrepair.

In the 1960s, steps were taken to save the main buildings from demolition. The five main buildings, built in the Greek Revival style, were designated as New York City’s first landmark structures. They are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the early 1970s the dilapidated Snug Harbor had become economically nonviable, and the Trustees decided to move the home to North Carolina. Major parts of the land, including the area of the landmarked buildings, were sold to the City of New York.

Following the recommendation of the committee, appointed a committee to investigate uses and develop a strategy for the site, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center was set up in 1975. It was opened to the public on September 12, 1976. The first art exhibit at the site opened in November, 1977.

Today Snug Harbor consists of 28 buildings, fourteen distinctive botanical gardens, a two acre urban farm, wetlands and park land on a unique, free, open campus.

It is home to the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Staten Island Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum, Noble Maritime Collection, Art Lab, Children’s Harbor Montessori School, and Staten Island Conservatory of Music, entries to some of which are ticketed.

The different gardens, Rose Garden, Pond Garden, Perennial Garden, Herb Garden, Healing Garden, Potager Garden, Shade Garden, etc., are main attractions of the place, along with the several beautiful walks.

The Music Hall, built in 1892, hosts year-round concerts, dance and dramatic performances, film and video series, and poetry and fiction readings. 

The Newhouse Galleries exhibit contemporary art, and the Botanical Garden is one of the largest in the New York area, complementing the Connie Gretz Secret Garden and the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden.

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is one of two authentic classical outdoor Chinese gardens in the United States.

Based on Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) gardens, it is a compilation of different gardens in China. All the architectural components of the garden were fabricated in Suzhou, China, including roof and floor tiles, columns and beams, doors and windows, bridges and paving materials.

Snug Harbor’s Heritage Farm was established in October of 2011 to help the local community.

A 2.5-acre production farm, it uses sustainable, low-till farming practices that focus on building soil health through the use of compost, crop rotation, intercropping, and cover cropping. In 2021, the Heritage Farm grew over 22,000 pounds of produce, donating around 4,000 lbs of produce to local community.

Over 250,000 people a year visit Snug Harbor, enjoying its many amenities. 

Snug Harbor’s educational programs complement and add diversity to conventional classroom curriculum.


Funny story… The mosaic on the upper pavilion incorporates broken pieces of rice bowls, representing China, and broken beer bottles, representing America. The craftspeople wanted to incorporate both materials as a symbol of harmony and unity between the two nations.

Comment (1)

  1. Deborah Weber

    What a fascinating history – one I knew absolutely nothing about. I’m definitely putting this on my bucket list of places to visit.


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