Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
Snug Harbor’s grounds remain an urban oasis for the health and wellness of our community. We have heard from so many of you that Snug Harbor has been your solace during this time. Your support is keeping our entire hard-working staff inspired. Thank you for practicing social distancing while enjoying Snug Harbor. Snug Harbor was founded with the execution of the will of Robert Richard Randall, heir to a shipping fortune, who died in 1801. The will required the family fortune and estate be used to build and operate a haven for “aged, decrepit, and worn-out sailors.” 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.
Snug Harbor’s major buildings are representative of the changing architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first buildings were built in the Greek Revival style. As the complex expanded, new buildings were erected in the Beaux Arts, Renaissance Revival, Second Empire and Italianate styles. High Victorian decorative components were also added throughout the site. In the mid-20th century, the number of residents dwindled as programs like Social Security and Medicare provided a financial safety net for retired sailors while the Randall endowment started to run out. The historic buildings of Sailors’ Snug Harbor began to deteriorate, and several were demolished in the early 1950’s, including the Randall Memorial Church, the hospital, sanatorium, and several ancillary service buildings. Fortunately in the 1960s, the newly formed New York City Landmarks Commission stepped forward to save the five Greek Revival front buildings and the chapel by designating them as New York City’s first landmark structures. They are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.