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Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

About this listing

Cultural center located in former seamen's retirement complex

Place Details

Borough : Staten Island
Neighborhood : Livingston
Institution, Featured Place, Arts and Entertainment, Education

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...

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History of Snug Harbor." Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

On The Web

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
The Noble Maritime Collection


Judith Calamandrei

Important because of the unusual history of its creation--established in 1833 as America's first charitable institution for the care of retired seamen--and for the diversity of interesting architecture.

Carolyn Clark

It was unique in the U.S. and probably in the world as a home for aged seamen. It opened in the 1830s, and closed in 1976, when the last of the seamen moved to North Carolina. The city bought the property, and it is now called a "cultural center." Anyone who has lived on Staten Island for very long has stories to tell about Snug Harbor.

DB Lampman

The Noble Maritime Collection is a museum and study center focusing on the work of the artist John A. Noble and the maritime heritage of Staten Island and New York Harbor. Founded in 1987, it was originally housed in Noble's home on Staten Island, and in 1992, it moved to Building D, a former mariner's dormitory at Snug Harbor. Built in 1801 by Robert Richard Randall, it is a stately Greek Revival building that was once a home for sailors. The derelict and nearly abandoned building was restored by a crew of volunteer citizens. The Noble Crew, a coalition of volunteers and businesses, contributed $1 million worth of labor and materials to rehabilitate the building, and in response, the City allocated $2.4 million to the project. In 2005 a representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation commented, "the Noble is a particularly moving demonstration of citizen volunteers taking on a daunting preservation project and completing it with great style. It may be one of the nation's best examples of a volunteer restoration project." (Dec. 2008)

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