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Today's Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, New York began with the will of a sea captain. The 1801 will of Captain Robert Richard Randall established an 83-acre estate holding one of the finest groupings of Greek Revival architecture in the country, the first Chinese Scholar's Garden in the United States, art galleries and studios, several small museums, a music hall and a theater, rolling meadows, reflecting ponds and duck ponds. Not to mention a two-acre front lawn with a statue by Saint-Gaudens and another of Neptune, the god of the sea, all encircled by a half-mile long wrought iron fence by Frederick Draper, and overlooking the glory that is New York Harbor.

The bequest directed the trustees of the estate, "to erect and build an asylum or Marine Hospital to be called 'The Sailor's Snug Harbor' for the purpose of maintaining and supporting aged, decrepit, and worn out sailors." On May 14, 1831, the trustees purchased the 130-acre Housman farm on Staten Island's north shore for $10,000 as the site of the first maritime hospital and home for retired sailors in the United States.

Captain Randall died in New York on June 5, 1801. He was never married and left no known children. His heirs were the residents of Sailors' Snug Harbor, counting in the thousands over 164 years. The Captain's intended heirs were known locally, one and all, as "Snugs." The old salts could be seen into the 1970s, sitting on benches above the Kill Van Kull, watching the river traffic, and looking out to New York Harbor. In 1976, only 112 retired seamen remained when they were moved to Sea Level, North Carolina.

The Captain's unintended heirs are the citizens of New York who enjoy the splendors of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center today. Visitors to New York who do not make it across the Bay, and this is the vast majority, are missing something very special indeed.

Next time you are visiting New York City, and, as fabulous as it is, the crowds get you down, the noise hurts your eardrums, the carbon monoxide chokes you, and you have just got to get out of there, even if it's for one day, take the free ferry ride to Staten Island. Get off the S40 bus at Snug Harbor, cross the street, enter the Italianate North Gatehouse and step through its arched tunnel straight into the 19th century. Stroll the acreage beneath the tall trees, sit by the duck pond, meditate a while in the Scholar's Garden, look at the art, hear some music, watch some dance, see the buildings of Snug Harbor. Think of the men, from the age of sail to the age of steam, who lived out the ends of their lives here.

In 1834, Robert Richard Randall's remains were removed from Manhattan to Sailors' Snug Harbor. In 1884, a statue of the Captain by Augustus Saint-Gaudens was unveiled before the Front Face, memorializing the poignant words of his will: a home for "aged, decrepit, and worn out sailors."


Snug Harbor Cultural Center
1000 Richmond Terrace
Livingston, Staten Island NY
(718) 448-2500

John A. Noble Collection: A museum and maritime study center housing the works of maritime artist John A. Noble (1913-1983). The Noble Collection includes lithographs, paintings, his "rowboat drawings," over 6,000 marine photos and his houseboat studio, which used to be tied up in the Kill Van Kull. A maritime library, the "Haunting Building D" oral history project, and printmaking studio are resources for scholars and artists.

Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art: The NCCA houses working artist studios and conducts arts education workshops, as well as exhibitions.

Performing Arts Programs: Snug Harbor offers a year-round concert schedule. Performances are regularly scheduled throughout the site, in the Veterans Memorial Hall, on the South Meadow, and in the 1892 Music Hall. Outdoor classical, jazz, ragtime and rock concerts take place in the meadow.

Staten Island Botanical Gardens: Founded in 1977, the Staten Island Botanical Garden is an ever-evolving group of garden types and a center for horticultural study. Its most recent addition is the highly acclaimed New York Chinese Scholar's Garden, the first of its kind in the country.

Staten Island Children's Museum: The Children's Museum's Walk In! Workshop offers a terrific place for children to be while adults view the rest of the cultural center. Kids can either come up with an individual creative project to work on while visiting, or join in ongoing projects.

Lunch: Indoor and outdoor areas for bagged lunches; a nice place for a picnic. There is also the Café Melville, (in its pre-cultural center incarnation, "The Bumboat") and okay for tea and snacks. But for a real lunch, cross Richmond Terrace to Tug's and watch the steamships pass by on the river.

Directions:

Driving from New York: Verazzano-Narrows Bridge. Take Bay Street exit just off the bridge. Follow Bay Street to Richmond Terrace junction at ferry. Bear left and continue on Richmond Terrace about two miles to Snug Harbor.

From the Staten Island Ferry: Take the S40 bus and tell the driver you want to get off at Snug Harbor.

Ferry and Walking: On a nice day, it is a pleasant walk along the waterside. Turn right leaving the ferry terminal and stop to admire the Carrere & Hastings designed Borough Hall across the way.