Staten Island’s Snug Habor, a Historic Cultural Destination

March 18, 2022

Treasures of New York: Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden premieres March 30 at 7:30 p.m. on WLIW.

A beautiful cultural center and botanical garden on Staten Island traces its roots to a man’s vision to provide housing and care for “aged, decrepit, and worn-out sailors” in New York City. Their well-being was the concern of Captain Robert Richard Randall (1750 – 1801), an heir to a shipping fortune. In his will, Randall bequeathed a significant amount of his wealth to create a haven for retired sailors, whose dangerous work and life at sea did not often provide for financial security.

In 1833, “Sailors’ Snug Harbor” officially opened to retired seamen from across the globe. By the turn of the 20th century, “Sailors’ Snug Harbor” was reputedly the richest charitable institution in the United States. It was also a self-sustaining community that included dormitories, a farm, a power plant, a hospital, a music hall, and much more.

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Treasures of New York: Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden reveals the rich history of Snug Harbor, while also focusing on the role it serves today as an important cultural destination. Snug Harbor is an urban oasis on Staten Island where art, history, and nature converge. Attractions include the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, and the Music Hall (learn more on the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden site).

The program grants a close-up look at the expansive 83-acre campus, which includes elegant 19th-century architecture, 14 magnificent gardens, and innovative spaces for the arts to thrive. Treasures of New York: Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden explores how Snug Harbor serves Staten Island and the New York City community at large.

A Chinese rock sculpture and pagoda border a pond alongside lush green trees.

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

The Snug Harbor complex also hosts a campus community of independently operated cultural institutions, among them The Noble Maritime Collection, the Staten Island Museum, and the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

For a fascinating account of real estate history related to philanthropist Robert Richard Randall’s Greenwich Village holdings that funded Snug Harbor, see the nonprofit The Trustees of the Sailors’ Snug Harbor in the City of New York, and a Researching Greenwich Village History article by Kate Feighery.

Watch Treasures of New York episodes.