Field Trip: Untermyer Gardens

On occasion, I’ll publish a day trip idea, and I am counting on readers to send suggestions. This one is from Tribecan Jolene Howard, who likes to make tracks around the city with her daughter.

THE DESTINATION
Untermyer Gardens at 945 North Broadway in Yonkers — a 43-acre City of Yonkers public park with gardens restored from the early 1900s

THE JOURNEY
By car, the trip is quick. It’s an easy and straight 40-minute drive up the Henry Hudson and the Saw Mill. Entry to the park and parking is free, and no reservations are required.

By train: It seems to me the way to go would be to take Metro-North to Greystone in Yonkers (47 minutes) and walk the 16 minutes to Untermyer, but it may be a weird walk. You could also take the 1 to the final stop in Riverdale and then take a car service the rest of the way (about 7 miles or 15 minutes). It would be a slog either way.

THE BACKGROUND
Jolene maintains a Google Map of “NY Finds.” “I never know when I’ll be tipped off to something clever/weird/delicious but I know I always have my phone to function as my external memory drive. When the world transitioned to a ZOOMtacular smorgasbord of things to ‘do’ online last summer, a dance event at The Untermyer Conservancy popped out of my Facebook avalanche as an intriguing, perhaps even beautiful option worth further inspection. It got a pin drop.

“Getting to this destination in Yonkers by public transportation presented too much of a challenge last year, so this summer I reserved a car rental for the month of August not really knowing what my plans would be … and that is how I finally found myself taking a day trip to Untermyer Gardens. I was gobsmacked. Really, get there if you can.

“These astonishing gardens in Yonkers were a dream realized by Virginia-born Samuel Untermyer who moved to New York City after the Civil War. He was the first lawyer in America to earn a $1 million fee on a single case and his wealth fueled his ambition to build the ‘finest garden in the world.’

“In 1916, he commissioned architect and landscape designer Welles Bosworth to create the gardens, which Untermyer intended would become a state park after his death. The estate gifted a portion of the property to the city of Yonkers in 1946 and since then, the property has experienced ups and downs over the years. Fortunately, the park is thriving now and is celebrating one decade of the conservancy’s stewardship this year. If you have been lucky to visit any of the fantastic castle gardens in Spain, Italy or France, Untermyer will remind you of that grandeur as you wander.

“The website provides some historical context about the eight distinct gardens: ‘Untermyer’s Vista was modeled on a similar series of descending stairs at the Villa D’Este in Italy. At the Villa D’Este, the stairs descend gracefully toward Lake Como while at Untermyer, they cascade toward the Hudson River … The Walled Garden owes its inspiration to the great Indo-Persian gardens of antiquity. The Walled Garden is divided into quadrants by waterways and bordered by crenelated walls anchored by octagonal towers. The Indo-Persian walled garden was intended to mimic a paradise on earth and thus had features inspired by religious descriptions of paradise.'”

While the core of the garden is intact, some of the gardens are in ruin. What is there has been restored with a partnership between the Yonkers Parks Department and Marco Polo Stufano, founding director of horticulture at Wave Hill, and head gardener Timothy Tilghman.

HOURS
The park opens at 9a and closes one hour prior to sunset and is open to the public year-round.

TO DO
The abundant, verdant walking paths are mostly accessible/stroller friendly, but there are areas of the park like the recently restored Temple of Love that are not.

A self-guided tour is facilitated by the printed garden map and brochure, but if you are interested in taking a guided tour, many different tours are available by reservation only, in advance and vary in price from $10-25.

PIT STOP
There are no food vendors, nor is there a café on-site, so pack a picnic if you plan to spend the day. Food is not allowed inside of Untermyer Gardens, but there is a placid dedicated picnic area between the entrance and parking lot, and the views are quite stunning.

If you are on wheels, grab dinner at Tribecan Eileen Connaughton Montague’s family’s restaurant in Riverdale: Riverdale Steak House, which her parents took over more than 40 years ago. It’s a classic.

 

5 Comments

  1. Great to see you promo Untermyer Gardens. I did a day trip there not long after the NYT ran this beguiling story on them by architecture writer Eve Kahn, in 2012: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/arts/untermyer-gardens-in-yonkers-is-being-tended-once-again.html. The Times also ran this fabulous photo gallery by Librado Romero: https://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/07/20/arts/20120720-UNTERMYER/s/20120720-UNTERMYER-slide-2EU4.html.

    In my opinion, your correspondent overstated the difficulty of getting there, as I did, by public transportation. Metro-North’s Greystone station is just 41 minutes from Grand Central, and the walk to the gardens from there is shorter than you reported, if approached directly from the west via the Old Croton Trailway, rather than going the long way via Warburton Ave as Google Maps suggests. Yes, the walk is a tad funky, not to mention uphill, but it adds to the adventure and sense of discovery.

  2. Visited the garden last month. It’s lovely. Our favorite is the Temple of Love. Also nice that it’s free parking and free admission.

  3. I grew up in yonkers and have seen this park before there was a real vested interest to fix it. Within the last 2 years they have been making very fast progress with all the restorations they said they were going to do and it looks great with even more to come!

  4. What does everyone mean when they say the walk is
    a bit “funky”? Just wondering. Is it safe?

    • Somewhat safer than average, little violent crime in this area, certainly in the daytime. Mixed neighborhood might be off putting to some.

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