Sailors' Snug Habor (main buildings 1831-1881)
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976
914-1000 Richmond Terrace
Staten Island, New York 10310
Sailors' Snug Harbor was a retirement home for "aged, decrepit and worn out sailors," as described by its founder and donor Robert Richard Randall. Randall, whose father Thomas Randall made his fortune as a privateer in the French and Indian Wars, bequethed all his money and properties to the creation of the home in 1801. Legal squabbles over the will prevented any construction until 1831 when Minard Lafever was paid $50 to design the first building in the complex. This grecian revival masterpiece is his oldest known building. Further neo-classical structures were added by Lafever and Richard P. Smyth between 1839 and 1881 to form the "Front Five," which are now considered by some as the most extraordinary collection of Greek-style temple buildings in the United States. The interior of Lafever's original building was redone in 1884 in a highly ornate Victorian style and includes cieling paintings and stained glass with a nautical theme.
Randall's bequest included a farm in the area that is now Washington Square Park and rents from the property made Sailors' Snug Harbor one of the wealthiest charities in the country. At its peak, the complex included 50 structures and housed over 900 sailors from all over the world. The entirety of the remaining property is a National Landmark, but several of the buildings and structures are individually landmarked as well by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, including the interior of the main hall.
The charity that owned Snug Harbor tried to redevelop the complex in the mid-20th century but was forestalled when the newly created Landmarks Commission designated it New York City's first landmark in 1965. Since then it has been converted into the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden and now houses several cultural institutions including: the Noble Maritime Museum, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Staten Island Children's Museum, and the Chinese Scholar's Garden. It will also be the future home of the Staten Island Museum.
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