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Snug Harbor Cultural Center

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Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Sailors' Snug Harbor
"Temple Row"
Sailors' Snug Harbor
Location 914–1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York City, New York[1]
Coordinates

40°38′33″N 74°6′10″W / 40.64250°N 74.10278°W / 40.64250; -74.10278Coordinates: 40°38′33″N 74°6′10″W / 40.64250°N 74.10278°W / 40.64250; -74.10278

Built 1831, opened 1833
Architect Martin E. Thompson; Minard Lafever
Architectural style Greek Revival, Late Victorian
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 72000909
Significant dates
Added to NRHP March 16, 1972[2]
Designated NHLD December 8, 1976[3]



Sailors' Snug Harbor, also known as Sailors Snug Harbor or Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden or, informally, Snug Harbor, is a collection of architecturally significant 19th-century buildings set in a park along the Kill Van Kull on the north shore of Staten Island in New York City, United States. It was once a home for aged sailors and is now an 83-acre (34 ha) city park. Some of the buildings and the grounds are used by arts organizations under the umbrella of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden. Sailors' Snug Harbor includes 26 Greek Revival, Beaux Arts, Italianate and Victorian style buildings. The site is considered Staten Island's "crown jewel"[4] and "an incomparable remnant of New York's 19th-century seafaring past."[5] It is a National Historic Landmark District.

History

Snug Harbor was founded through the 1801 bequest of New York tycoon Captain Robert Richard Randall, namesake of the nearby neighborhood of Randall Manor. Randall left his country estate in Manhattan, bounded by Fifth Avenue and Broadway and Eighth and 10th Streets, to build an institution to care for "aged, decrepit and worn-out" seamen. Randall's disappointed heirs contested the will extensively, delaying the opening of the sailors' home for decades.

Sailors' Snug Harbor finally opened in 1833, the country's first home for retired merchant seamen. It began with a single building, now the centerpiece in the row of five Greek Revival temple-like buildings on the New Brighton waterfront.[6]

From 1867 to 1884, Captain Thomas Melville, a retired sea captain and brother of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville, was governor of Snug Harbor.[7]

In 1890, Captain Gustavus Trask, the governor of Snug Harbor, built a Renaissance Revival church, the Randall Memorial Chapel and, next to it, a music hall, both designed by Robert W. Gibson.[6]

At its peak in the late 19th century, about 1,000 retired sailors lived at Snug Harbor, then one of the wealthiest charities in New York. Its Washington Square area properties yielded a surplus exceeding the retirement home's costs by $100,000 a year.[6]

But by the mid-20th century, Snug Harbor was in financial difficulty. Once-grand structures fell into disrepair; the ornate white-marble Randall Memorial Church was demolished in 1952. With the arrival of the Social Security system in the 1930s, demand for accommodation for old sailors declined; by the mid-1950s, fewer than 200 residents remained. In the 1960s, the few retired sailors still living here were moved to Sea Level, North Carolina.

By the 1960s, the 83-acre site was coveted by land developers, leading to the formation of a local movement to preserve the property. The new New York City Landmarks Commission stepped forward to save the remaining buildings, designating them as New York City's first landmark structures, and listing them on the National Register of Historic Places. A series of legal battles ensued, but the validity of landmark designation was ultimately upheld and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.[3][8]

On September 12, 1976, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center was opened to the public.

In 2008, the Cultural Center and the Staten Island Botanical Garden merged to become the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.[9]

Randall's Trust no longer operates a retirement home, but the Trustees of the Sailors' Snug Harbor in the City of New York continues its work, using funds from the endowment to help mariners all over the country. Its office is at 40 Exchange Place, Suite 1701 NY, NY 10005.

The Sailors' Snug Harbor Archives are preserved at the Stephen B. Luce Library at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx.

Railroad station

A station on the now-defunct North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railway bore the name Sailors Snug Harbor, but sat almost a half mile to the east of the property's main entrance; the stop to the west of this — called Livingston — was actually the closest station to the center's front gate.

The S40 Richmond Terrace bus travels from the St. George Terminal to the Snug Harbor front gate.

Architecture

The five interlocking Greek Revival buildings at Snug Harbor are regarded as "the most ambitious moment of the classic revival in the United States" and the "most extraordinary" suite of Greek temple-style buildings in the country.[10] Built around the 1833 Building C, the buildings "form a symmetrical composition on Richmond Terrace, an eight-columned portico in the center and two six-columned porticoes on either end."[5]

Paul Goldberger wrote, "Snug Harbor has something of the feel of a campus, something of the feel of a small-town square. Indeed, these rows of classical temples, set side-by-side with tiny connecting structures recessed behind the grand facades, are initially perplexing because they fit into no pattern we recognize — they are lined up as if on a street, yet they are set in the landscape of a park. They seem at once to embrace the 19th-century tradition of picturesque design and, by virtue of their rigid linear order, to reject it."[11]

The 1833 administration building by Minard Lafever is a "magnificent" Greek Revival building with a monumental Ionic portico, and is the architect's oldest surviving work.[12] It was renovated in 1884 with "an eye-popping triple-height gallery with stained glass and ceiling murals," and restored in the 1990s.[6]


All five buildings are individually landmarked, as are: the 131-year-old chapel, which has been renovated as a recital and concert space; the Italinate Richmond Terrace gate house (1873), the mid-19th-century iron fence surrounding the property, and the interiors of Building C and the chapel.[5]

Grounds

The buildings are set in extensive, landscaped grounds, surrounded by an individually landmarked, 19th-century cast-iron fence. They include a "beautiful" 1893 zinc fountain featuring the god Neptune, now indoors with a replica in its place. According to the New York Times, "He sits in the middle, astride a shell held aloft by sea monsters, his trident raised. Jets of water spurt from the fountain's center and from bouquets of metal calla lilies to its sides. Visitors to Snug Harbor stop and watch, sitting on benches surrounding the scene, while workmen eat their lunches. It is quiet. Noisy New York and its busy harbor only 200 feet (61 m) away, beyond Richmond Terrace, might just as well be on Mars. Or at least at the other end of His Majesty's sea."[5]

Also on the grounds is a bronze statue of Robert Randall by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Staten Island Botanical Garden is a nonprofit, It is home to the Staten Island Children's Theater Association (SICTA) and the Staten Island Conservatory of Music.[15] Other components include:

Staten Island Botanical Garden

The Staten Island Botanical Garden maintains extensive gardens including The White Garden, inspired by Vita Sackville-West's famous garden at Sissinghurst; Connie Gretz's Secret Garden, complete with a castle, a maze and walled secret garden; and The New York Chinese Scholar's Garden, an authentic, walled, Chinese garden in the style of the famous gardens of Suzhou.

Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art

Established in 1977, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art exhibits the works of local and international artists. The center, which also provides artist-in-residence exhibitions, 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) gallery space.[16]

The Noble Maritime Collection

The Noble Maritime Collection is a museum with a particular emphasis on the work of artist/lithographer/sailor John A. Noble (1913–1983). The Washington Post called the exhibit of a houseboat that Noble converted into an artist's studio "compelling...It is a home on the water and an artist's lair all in one, complete with wooden surfaces, portholes, an engineer's bed, a drawing table, and printmaking and etching implements. Inside, it's easy to envision the boat moored in nearby waters while the son of painter John "Wichita Bill" Noble sketched maritime subjects from the 1930s until his death in 1983. The younger Noble made regular rowboat excursions to observe and document the working life of the waterfront. The Noble collection is a testament to a vibrant culture of ships, docks and laborers that has mostly disappeared from New York."[17]

The New York Sun called the Noble collection "an unsung gem among New York museums."[18]

The Staten Island Children's Museum

The Staten Island Children's Museum features a rotating collection of hands-on exhibits.

The Staten Island Museum

There are plans by the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences to open an art museum in a modern, fully climate controlled facility housed within the walls of one of the triple land-marked "front five" buildings at Snug Harbor. Founded in 1881 as The Natural Science Association of Staten Island, the institute currently operates a museum in nearby St. George that includes exhibits relating to natural history and the art and history of Staten Island.

Art Lab

Art Lab is a school of fine and applied art, founded in 1975 and offering art instruction and exhibitions.


Music Hall

An 686-seat Greek Revival auditorium,[11] the Music Hall hosts performing arts. It is the second-oldest music hall in New York City, having opened in July 1892 with a performance of a cantata, "The Rose Maiden." In attendance were some 600 residents of the home who sat on plain wooden seats, and 300 trustees and their guests who occupied the venue's upholstered balcony seats.[6][19][20]

In Literature, Film, and the Arts

In an 1898 article in Ainslee's Magazine, "When The Sails Are Furled: Sailor's Snug Harbor," the soon-to-be-famous novelist Theodore Dreiser provided an amusing nonfiction account of the obstreperous and frequently intoxicated residents of Snug Harbor.

In 2004, local performing arts company Sundog Theatre commissioned an original play by Damon DiMarco and Jeffrey Harper about the sailors' life at Snug Harbor. "My Mariners" performed at the Harbor's Veteran's Memorial Hall.

The 2009 illustrated novel Peter Pigeon of Snug Harbor, by Ed Weiss, is set almost entirely at Snug Harbor, from its days as an old sailors' home to its new incarnation as an arts center.[3]

The last scene of the movie Fur, which was supposed to recreate a nudist camp, was filmed there in July 2006.

Part of Lady Gaga's music video for her fifth single off Born This Way, Marry The Night, was filmed at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.[22]

The 2011 film by writer-director Whit Stillman, "Damsels in Distress" starring Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody, was filmed largely at Snug Harbor, which served as the campus of "Seven Oaks" in the film.

References

Notes
Further reading
  • Barnett Shepherd, Sailors' Snug Harbor: 1801-1976, Snug Harbor, 1979.
  • Gerald J. Barry, The Sailors' Snug Harbor, A History, 1801-2001, Fordham Press, 2000.
  • Frances Morrone, A Home for Ancient Mariners, June 28, 2007, New York Sun

External links

  • Snug Harbor Cultural Center
  • Noble Maritime Collection
  • Staten Island Children's Museum
  • Staten Island Museum
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor Archives at SUNY Maritime College
  • Art Lab
  • Photos of Snug Harbor
  • Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dormitory A, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 5 photos and supplemental materials at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dormitory B, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 5 photos and supplemental materials at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dormitory C & Administration Building, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 7 drawings, 7 photos and 8 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dormitory D, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 7 drawings, 2 photos and 5 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dormitory E, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 6 drawings and 5 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Dining Hall, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 photo, 5 data pages, and supplemental materials at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Chapel, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 6 drawings, 2 photos, and 5 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Residences, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 2 photos, 4 data pages, and supplemental materials at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, North Gatehouse, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 drawing, 1 photo, and 4 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, West Gatehouse, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 drawing, 1 photo, and 4 data pages at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, East Gatehouse, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 photo, 3 data pages, and supplemental materials at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Governor's House, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 6 drawings and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Captain's Cottage No. 2, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 6 drawings and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Recreation Building, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 5 drawings, 2 photos, and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Music Hall, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 5 drawings, 2 photos, and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Bandstand, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 photo and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey
  • Sailors' Snug Harbor, Bandstand, Richmond Terrace, New Brighton, Richmond, NY: 1 photo and 1 data page at Historic American Building Survey


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