Untermyer Gardens: 'American’s Greatest Forgotten Garden'
By Estée Pouleris

Untermyer Gardens: 'American’s Greatest Forgotten Garden'

April 25, 2016   |   Spring Activities  

Untermyer Gardens is a secretive 43-acre public park perched on the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers. It’s been called ‘American’s Greatest Forgotten Garden,’ and it’s easy to see why--it’s hidden by a giant crenellated wall.

Untermyer Gardens was created around 1915 by a famous millionaire lawyer, Samuel Untermyer, and his wife, Minnie Untermyer. With their shared passion for exotic plants and their green thumbs, their intention was to build the finest garden in the world on their estate. The result was a mix of Indo-Persian and ancient Greek designs that was dubbed one of the “most celebrated gardens in America” during the 1920s. The grounds now belong to the City of Yonkers and are fortunately being restored back to their glory.

The most frequented area in the park is the Walled Garden. Inside the walls are two crisscrossing water channels that converge into a central basin. The flowing canals are lined with tulips and lush landscaping. Facing north is an open-air amphitheater. It’s flanked with sphinxes on top of two marble columns with the amphitheater behind it.

To the west of the Walled Garden is a gazebo called Temple of the Sky. This temple is made up of Corinthian columns along with a mosaic floor. In front of the temple you can see fantastic views of a sprawling lawn, the Hudson River, and the Palisades. A terrace below the temple leads to what once was a large reflecting pool; unfortunately it’s currently drained and in need of major repairs. 

Towards the end of the Walled Garden is an area called The Vista. This is accessible by an inconspicuous doorway that opens to a long descending stairway. At the bottom of the stairs is the Overlook, which is a circular area decorated by ancient Roman columns perched at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Hudson.

Another remarkable feature, just outside the Walled Garden, is an ornate gazebo that sits on a rocky outcrop called Temple of Love. This section is currently under renovation and not accessible to the public. It is being restored to include a water feature that hasn’t functioned in more than 75 years. It is slated to reopen later this spring.

These grounds are a real gem for lovers of gardens and history. For someone who loves exploring, especially when it feels like a discovery, this park really captured my heart. These gardens are truly a relic of another time.

Tips for Visiting Untermyer Gardens

  • The park is free and open to the public from 7am to sunset daily.
  • Best time to visit is during the summer, when the gardens are in full bloom.
  • Strollers are allowed, but there are areas not accessible with wheels.
  • There are no food vendors although there are picnic tables if you bring your own food.
  • Dogs are not allowed.
  • Restrooms, water fountains, and pamphlets with a park map are available at the community center (which is in the parking lot).
  • There is free parking in two small lots next to the community center at Untermyer. In addition, there is street parking along North Broadway.
  • For public transportation click here.
  • Visit untermyergardens.org for more information and a full schedule of history and horticulture tours (small fee). The grounds are open year-round for free, self-guided tours.
     

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