Downtown’s secret and secluded church gardens


New York doesn’t get enough credit for its abundant pocket parks and green spaces.

And some of the loveliest places to enjoy the warm weather are in the gardens and backyards of the city’s oldest churches.

The full name of St. Luke’s Episcopal church, on Hudson Street in the West Village, is the Church of St. Luke in the Fields (at left).

It’s a fitting moniker for this parish, founded in 1820 and named for St. Luke, the “physician evangelist” (makes sense, as the city was in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic at the time).

Behind brick churchyard walls lies a two-acre garden, a labyrinth of walkways, benches, and blooming tulips, cornflowers, lilies, birch trees, cherry trees, and other lush vegetation.


The garden is well-hidden from the street save for an iron entrance gate—which may be why so few people know that it’s open to the public.

Stmarksintheearly40slamsonSt. Marks-Church-in-the-Bowery, on Second Avenue and 10th Street, also has a walled-off backyard garden.

Called the Healing Garden, it’s on the west side of the church grounds, a secluded spot away from Second Avenue traffic and the tombs of 18th and 19th century prominent New Yorkers (including that of Peter Stuyvesant, whose farm the church was built on).

The garden sits behind an old-school cast iron fence, and in the late spring and summer, the canopy of trees provide welcome shade.


It’s not exactly the bucolic tranquility Stuyvesant may have enjoyed 300 years ago when he walked these same grounds, but it’s a sweet place for contemplation and relaxation in the contemporary city.

[Painting above: St. Marks in Bowery the Early Forties by Edward Lamson Henry]

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11 Responses to “Downtown’s secret and secluded church gardens”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    But in the 70s & 80s St Marks was always fenced off and closed to keep the lowlife drinkers out. It’s great that its reopened now, even though its tiny it looks like a peaceful place.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    That side of the church is peaceful. The other side closer to Second Avenue not so much…but still fascinating, with the tombs and all.

  3. nabeguy Says:

    My wife and I used to have lunch in the St Luke’s garden all the time before we were married.

  4. wally Says:

    do you happen to know who lives in the white house that’s at the healing garden? i’ve always been fascinated by it whenver i pass by 10th street.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    No idea, but it is a beautiful, unusual house.

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    […] percent in 2012, even before Sandy struck. [NYT] Downtown’s secret, secluded church gardens. [Ephemeral NY] City seeks developers for next phase of Hunter’s Point. [Crain's] Coney Island Mermaid Parade […]

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    […] the density of its streets, New York is a city with a surprising number of hidden gardens: some in churchyards, others created on empty lots, and some designed to mask garages and other unpretty […]

  8. trilby1895 Says:

    Absolute gems, especially St. Lukes of the Fields.

  9. An epidemic gave rise to a beloved Village church | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] fields aren’t totally gone—St. Luke’s has one of the prettiest secret gardens of any church in New York […]

  10. Greenwich Village’s Oldest Church — Originally “in the field” - Village Preservation Says:

    […] “Art and Acceptance.” The parish prides itself on its welcoming atmosphere, opening its two acre garden to the public, and regularly sharing its indoor space with local groups and […]

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