Did you know the ‘finest Persian Garden in the Western Hemisphere’ is right outside Manhattan?

Posted On Wed, August 2, 2017 By

Posted On Wed, August 2, 2017 By In Events, Features, History, Landscape Architecture, Top Stories, Upstate

Photo via Jessica Norman for the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

Spend just over an hour on Metro North’s Hudson line and reach the renowned Untermyer Gardens, a 43-acre historic park in Yonkers that features a Persian Paradise garden, a small amphitheater, a classical pavilion, the “Temple of Love,” and a “Vista” staircase. The park was first developed in the early 20th century by philanthropist, Samuel Untermyer, who purchased the estate in 1899. For 40 years until his death, Untermyer transformed the sprawling greenery into the some of the most acclaimed gardens in the United States, known today as “America’s Greatest Forgotten Garden.”

untermyer garden, yonkers, untermyer park
Photo via Jessica Norman for the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

The park was originally part of a larger 150-acre estate called “Greystone,” first set up by a hat manufacturer, John Waring, in 1864. Following his death, Waring sold the estate to Samuel Tilden, the governor of New York from 1875-1876 and failed Democratic presidential candidate. Tilden died at Greystone in 1886 and the property was later purchased by lawyer and civic leader Samuel Untermyer. According to the New York Times, Untermyer earned his fortune first as a mergers specialist, then later fought against corporate trusts, subway fare increases, and anti-Semitism.

In 1916, he hired Beaux Arts architect Welles Bosworth to design the elaborate, 150-acre gardens, which overlooked the Hudson River and required 60 gardeners to maintain. During the 1920s and 1930s, they were open to the public once a week for special events, like exhibits featuring Untermyer’s famous chrysanthemums and tulips. According to the Conservancy, 30,000 people once visited in 1939 for a flower show.

untermyer garden, yonkers, untermyer park
Photo via Jessica Norman for the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

untermyer garden, yonkers, untermyer park
Photo via Jessica Norman for the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

The main feature of the park is an Indo-Persian walled garden that has classical Greek structures, extensive mosaics, and figurative sculptures. Divided into four quadrants, the walled garden is meant to mimic a religious paradise on Earth, including four reflecting pools representing ancient rivers and the elements earth, air, fire and wind. Along the four waterways, there are Japanese hollies, and in the summer, brightly colored tulips. The open-air amphitheater includes a mosaic tile stage, based on a wall fresco found in the ancient city of Tiryns believed to date back to 1400-1200 BCE.

Nearby, accessed by bridges and tunnels, the Temple of Love overlooks the Hudson River and the Palisades and includes rocks and a water feature, topped with a round temple. There are three bridges in the stone and a small sitting area. The garden’s Vista was modeled after the stairs at the Villa D’Este in Italy. Japanese cedars can be found on either side of the stairs, like Bosworth’s original design, and an outlook of the Vista can be found at its base.

While Untermyer had wished to give the country, the state, or the city of Yonkers his gardens when he died, the high cost of upkeep prevented any entity from actually overseeing them following his death in 1940. While Yonkers finally accepted the public park as a gift in 1946, the lack of maintenance forced the park into disrepair, much of it becoming overgrown. In 1974, the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and since 2011, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy has worked towards restoring the gardens back to their original dazzling design.


Photo of last year’s Midsummer Garden Party via the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

Show your support for the beautiful gardens next week at an event hosted by the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy. The group will hold their second annual Midsummer Garden Party on Wednesday, August 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The party includes historic walking tours of the gardens, free drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a DJ. Find more information about the event here.

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Neighborhoods : Yonkers

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