I’m one of those people who tend to stick to the city when I want to experience arts, culture and the great outdoors. New York has plenty of beautiful parks and gardens in each of the five boroughs, though I’ve yet to find any that would rival the great European formal gardens such as those at the Alhambra, Schönbrunn and Versailles. Bryant Park is modelled after the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Conservatory in Central Park are similar in design but only a fraction as big.
My friend M recently had use of a car and after tossing out some ideas, we headed north to Yonkers to visit Untermyer Gardens. I think I first learned of this place via some short feature on a TV show (most likely on PBS) I’ve forgotten now but the pictures I saw of it intrigued me. Technically, it was a half-hour drive from our starting point in Queens but we were stuck in traffic for a bit in the Bronx; even so, we still arrived fairly quickly. As we left the city limits, the traffic and buildings gave way to beautiful, multi-color trees that lined the parkways.
The Untermyer Park and Gardens are located close to the Hudson River, offering beautiful views of the cliffs on the other side of the river. It’s a bit similar to Wave Hill in the Bronx but I think Untermyer Gardens is a lot more visually interesting with all the beautiful ruins and architecture situated throughout the park. Originally, there was a mansion called Greystone on the site, built by Samuel Tilden back in 1862. Samuel Untermyer bought the property in 1899 and added to it, comprising a total of 150 acres. The current park is only 43 acres now; Untermyer gave it to the state after his death but the upkeep costs were too high and much of it was sold.
The Untermyer Conservancy was established to help restore this beautiful park and so far they’ve done a beautiful job of it. From the parking lot, we walked to the entrance of the walled garden. High walls surround a beautiful Persian garden and once I stepped through the gate, I was reminded a bit of the Alhambra gardens. It was absolutely gorgeous with flowers and bushes lining the streams, pools and fountains and Greco-Roman columns and temples standing majestically inside. Since it was a weekday, there were few visitors which was nice but there was a wedding couple on the lower terrace taking pictures; even though it was a cloudy day, I’m sure the pictures looked wonderfully with the bright, vivid colors of autumn leaves in the background.
There’s a path from the walled garden that slopes downwards to a circular overlook where two lone columns stand at attention. The path and steps were partially covered with a carpet of red and orange leaves from the trees that lined the path. From the overlook, we could see the remains of an old gatehouse at the bottom of the hill that offers an alternate entrance onto the grounds. We didn’t go that way but turned back, walking up a little and detouring off to a woodland trail that retraced our steps and led us toward the rock garden and the Temple of Love. There was construction going on as crews were making repairs to those features so we couldn’t get too close to them. Even from a distance the Temple of Love was lovely to look at.
The sun did peek out for a brief ten minutes while we were on the grounds. Blue skies did make an appearance later on but we had left by then to grab lunch. I would like to revisit the park again in the spring or summer, when everything is lush and in bloom. It was definitely worth the drive there.