My family and I recently went to Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, NY at the suggestion of my husband, an architect. How I have not visited this spectacular outdoor space just 20 minutes away from my home in Westchester, and just north of the city, I’m not sure. But for anyone living in or visiting the New York area, I strongly urge you to pay a visit, and soon! (and actually, I should’t say pay, as it’s free). It is one of the most exquisite gardens you will ever see.
About Untermyer Park and Gardens
Known as “Eden on the Hudson”, this Persian-Indo garden was designed and based on the Garden of Eden; and, upon entering, indeed it’s like walking into paradise and going back in time. A City of Yonkers public park, it was once the home of Samuel Untermyer, a prominent corporate lawyer (as well as leader of the anti-Nazi movement), who in 1899 purchased the estate, named Greystone, from Samuel Tilden, former Governor of New York. Untermyer expanded the land to over 150 acres, with the intention of building the “finest garden in the world”, set atop and sloping down the Hudson River.
And that he did. Hiring Beaux-Arts architect William Wells Bosworth, of Rockefeller fame, to design the gardens, he created what the press in the 1920’s called “America’s Most Spectacular Garden”. Maintained by 60 gardeners and supplied by 60 greenhouses, it was a great personal triumph for Untermyer, a horticulturalist himself, and he opened the gardens to the public for all to see in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
When Untermyer passed away in 1940, the gardens went into ruins as they were very expensive to maintain. Today the City of Yonkers owns 43 acres, and although much is still in ruins, the core is still intact. The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy was established to restore the gardens, along with the help of the Founding Director of Horticulture at Wave Hill in the Bronx. For those of you familiar with Wave Hill, I should say they are in good hands!
The Design of the Gardens
As for the lay-out of the gardens, they are composed of seven sections: the Walled Garden, The Vista, the Color Gardens, the Vista Overlook, the Woodland Trail, the Temple of Love and the Rock Garden. Together they form what the Conservancy calls “a garden for the world”, drawing inspiration from Persia, India, Spain, Italy and Greece.
The Walled Garden, based on the Garden of Eden, has criss-crossing canals, which symbolize the four ancient rivers; the crenellated walls are characteristic of Persian and Indian traditions; there is an amphitheater with Italian influences; and there also stands a phenomenal large Grecian temple atop what used to be a swimming pool.
The Vista, as it is called, is a doorway in the northern part of the Walled Garden, and when you walk through it you come upon a magnificent stairway leading down to the Hudson. It is an amazing sight, one that was modeled after a Renaissance garden on Lake Como in Italy. At the bottom of the stairs you come to the Vista Overlook, containing two monolithic ancient Roman columns.
The Temple of Love and Rock Gardens are equally as impressive, with their waterfalls and rock formations. Walking through the entire park is like walking into another world, a time machine taking you back to the former glory of what this garden and estate used to look like. It’s simply amazing.
How did the kids hold up? The gardens are a great place of adventure and wandering around for families. They do not, however, have food or beverages, so if you are going when it is sunny and hot out, make sure to go prepared. We were not prepared on the water front, and my girls were very thirsty the entire time. But besides that they had a ball, as it was like one big ancient playground. Pack a picnic and stay a while.
Untermyer Park and Gardens, 945 North Broadway, Yonkers, NY 10701. 914.613.4502 Admission: Free Hours: 7:00 a.m. – Sunset every day. Walled Garden Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – Sunset. Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Sunset. Closed on Major Holidays from November to March.
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