Places that Matter
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
Place Matters Profile
Robert Richard Randall in 1801 founded Snug Harbor as “Sailors’ Snug Harbor,” a home for retired sailors. From a small haven of three buildings, by the early 1900s, it had grown to a complex of 500 structures that housed 900 residents. According to the site, "Sailor's Snug Harbor was the richest charitable institution in the United States and a self-sustaining community composed of a working farm, dairy, bakery, chapel, sanatorium, hospital, music hall, and cemetery."
In the mid 1950s, with the advent of Social Security and Medicare, the population quickly declined. Whereas Snug Harbor had been sailors' only welfare option before this federal program, they now had more freedom. With a general shift from facility-based care to individual care, Snug Harbor began losing funding and facing financial difficulties. Buildings stopped being repaired, and after substantial damage and decay, demolition became the first choice.
In the 1960s, Snug Harbor’s dismal looking future was reversed, thanks to a series of landmarking and national recognition for the site's architectural value. Then, in the 1970s, local activists, artists, businessmen, and city officials formed a coalition to transform Snug Harbor into a cultural center, which opened on September 12, 1976.
Today, Snug Harbor is one of the largest ongoing adaptive reuse projects in the United States, encompassing 28 buildings and over three decades of restoration. It is a complex which houses a Botanical Garden, Music Hall, Art Lab, the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Noble Maritime Collection (see below), SHARP (Snug Harbor Artist Residency Program), Staten Island Children's Museum and the Staten Island Museum and Archives.
"History of Snug Harbor." Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.