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Snug Harbor Cultural Center, A Place That Matters

snug harbor cultural center staten island front

Snug Harbor Cultural Center at 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, nominated by Carolyn Clark.

In an insane world, there is a Snug Harbor. Visit the lovely grounds on a summer afternoon, eat at the outside café, walk through the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, and tour the well-curated exhibits in magnificent “Building C,” to see for yourself.

snug harbor historic illustration staten island

It all began with Sailors’ Snug Harbor–one of the city’s great charity stories. An 18th-century New Yorker, Robert Randall, bequeathed farmland he owned in Manhattan (located northeast of the future Washington Sq.) for a “Sailor’s Snug Harbor”–a hospital and rest home for aged sailors. By the time the 1801 bequest could be used, the city had expanded northward, and Randall’s land was so valuable that the trustees opted to use it for income and to locate the sailors’ home elsewhere. They chose 130 acres in Staten Island and the first “aged, decrepit & worn out sailors” moved there in 1833.

Skip forward about 130 years and Sailor’s Snug Harbor became the site of a fascinating preservation story, starring the new Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Municipal Art Society, and many others. In the end, several building exteriors were designated as landmarks in 1965 (interior designations came later), and the Harbor sold 13 acres and the principal buildings to the City of New York. The last sailors left in 1976.

It’s easy to reach Sung Harbor Cultural Center by public transit. Take the Staten Island Ferry, follow the crowd upon exit to the well-signed bus terminal. The “S40” bus will drive you down Richmond Terrace about 10-15 min. to the front entrance. Look for the black metal fence on the left side of the road and the sudden appearance of open space, and you’re there.