Posts Tagged ‘St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery’

Downtown’s secret and secluded church gardens

May 2, 2013


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]

Old St. Marks-in-the-Bouwerie

October 13, 2008

St. Mark’s Church has stood at Second Avenue and 10th Street since 1799. Before that, in 1660, a much smaller family chapel was put up by Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Amsterdam who owned the farm—or “Bouwerie”—on that site.

This 1853 illustration, from Valentine’s City of New York Guide Book, shows the current church building with its Greek Revival steeple, just before a portico was added in 1854. Hmm, was the East Side still so bucolic back in the middle of the 19th century? This depiction seems like a bit of an exaggeration.

Here is St. Mark’s 80 years later, in 1936. The church looks kind of spooky and barren, the facade missing the stone and brick we’re used to seeing today. 

St. Mark’s circa 2008, a lovely landmark open to the public and a reminder of New York’s Dutch colonial past. There are few other places in the city where can you walk along tombstones that mark the burial sites of prominent New York citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries.