These days most people consider gardening a hobby. However, back in the early days of the 20th century, just about 100 years ago, it was a pastime of great interest among the wealthier classes. In the case of one man, Samuel Untermyer, his passion for horticulture was in a league of its own.
Untermyer, who lived in Yonkers, was a partner in a prominent New York City law firm. As a corporate lawyer, his career was very lucrative. Samuel Untermyer is noted as the first lawyer to make a million dollars from a single legal case. In addition to that he was an astute investor, and became very wealthy.
With his fortune, Mr. Untermyer built one of the most splendid gardens anywhere in the world. Unlike most wealthy people who simply enjoyed gardening, Samuel Untermyer became an expert on horticulture. He also had an appreciation for Indo-Persian architecture, which is apparent in the design of his garden.
At one point Untermyer employed 60 gardeners to maintain the 150-acre property. His garden soon became a popular spectacle. It was such a significant attraction that on one day in 1939, a year prior to Untermyer's death, 30,000 people came out to visit.
When Untermyer died at the age of 82, he willed his garden to the State of New York. Today the Untermyer's Garden is operated by the City of Yonkers which collaborates with a conservancy whose mission is to fulfill Mr. Untermyer's last wish for the garden. He merely wanted it to be the most exquisite garden in the world.
Although the present garden is only a third the size it was in Untermyer's day, the portion which remains open to the public is beautiful and well maintained throughout the year. During the holiday season, there is a spectacular light show which draws thousands of visitors from throughout the tri-state region.
It is the ambition of Stephen F. Byrn, the president and founder of the Untermyer Conservancy to restore the garden to its glory days. The Untermyer Park and Garden are free to enter. However, there are tours of the garden, and they cost between $10 and $25.
The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy is a gem hidden on the hills above the east bank of the Hudson River. From that vista some of the most breathtaking views of the river below may be observed. For the overall beauty and peaceful quiet of this place, I highly recommend it as a day travel destination. Samuel Untermyer did a wonderful thing for the people of the New York metropolitan area when he gifted his garden to us. It was a thoughtful gift which has continued to bloom for eight decades now and counting.
Click on this moovit link for direction to the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy via public transit.
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