[Instagram Tour] The Samuel Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers, N.Y.

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 by Roberta Lane 4 Comments

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” -- Edwin Way Teale, American naturalist and writer

It’s May, and the historic Untermyer Gardens of Yonkers, N.Y., are in bloom. We all know that gardens mean hope. Creating a place where natural beauty can be sown and nurtured and enjoyed is an ambitious, humanitarian act. Therefore, a restored historic garden represents hope renewed.

My trip to Yonkers confirmed it -- there is no better way to recharge than to try to capture some of the stories and scenes in a historic garden.

The Samuel Untermyer Gardens -- extensive, world-class historic gardens that boast views of the Hudson River -- are open as a public park, and they're being restored by the city of Yonkers and the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy.

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

The National Trust recently learned of the local efforts to raise awareness of the Untermyer Gardens and to spur further restoration, so I took to the road for a May afternoon in one of America’s historic designed landscapes.

Whether formal, naturalistic, or modernist, America’s garden heritage is rich and delightful. Public gardens are beloved community assets, but they, too, have documentation, restoration, and preservation needs. The Garden Conservancy is a great resource for planning your own Instagram tour of a historic garden near you.

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

Samuel Untermyer purchased the great estate of former New York Governor Samuel Tilden in 1899, and hired architect and landscape designer William Welles Bosworth in 1912 to create the “greatest garden in the world.” Untermyer was an enthusiastic and expert horticulturalist, and the gardens Bosworth and his patron created together were among the most famous in the country by the 1920s and '30s.

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

The Untermyer Gardens also represent America’s diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. Samuel Untermyer was a prominent lawyer and close associate of Woodrow Wilson, and he was among the most important Jewish leaders in the United States in his time. He and his wife Minnie Untermyer were renowned for their philanthropy and patronage of the arts in New York City.

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

The gardens are situated across from the Palisades -- cliffs along the western side of the Hudson River. Large spans of these cliffs were protected through joint efforts of the states of New York and New Jersey at around the same time Samuel Untermyer was creating his gardens.

Today, the National Trust and our partners are working to save a part of the Palisades south of here -- across from the Bronx and upper Manhattan -- from inappropriate development, as the Town of Englewood Cliffs has swept aside long-established height limits to allow LG Electronics to build a high tower that will deface that portion of the landmark viewshed.

Credit: Roberta Lane, Instagram

Today, visitors can enjoy a walk, lecture, or performance surrounded by blooming flowers and trees in Untermyer’s walled garden, which is a masterwork of Indo-Persian motifs and configurations. Water features, fine sculptural elements, mosaics, and colonnades draw one through the space.

I'll leave you with another quote, this time from Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic The Secret Garden: "And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles."

Find Roberta on Instagram at @RobertaL7 and the National Trust at @PresNation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Roberta Lane

Roberta Lane

Roberta Lane is the Senior Field Officer and Attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s New York City Field Office. She has been with the National Trust since 2006, delivering preservation technical assistance and legal guidance in the field.

Landscapes, Restoration, Slideshows, Travel

4 Responses

  1. Cristiana Pena

    May 8, 2014

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE! After all, in what New York cemetery does Mr. Untermyer rest eternal? The Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx!

  2. Will Cook

    May 8, 2014

    Wonderful post! Thank you for introducing me to a corner of New York, and a garden, I didn’t know.

  3. Shantia Anderheggen

    May 9, 2014

    Thanks, Roberta–nice blog about a place that looks to be a really worthwhile trip!

  4. Ruth Rosenblum

    May 9, 2014

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’m inspired to visit.