The Hudson Park Greenhouse has a long history that extends back to the late 19th century. It is one of the few remaining municipal greenhouses left in Westchester County. The land for Hudson Park was purchased by the City of New Rochelle in 1886. Located on the shoulder of Davenport Neck and overlooking Long Island Sound’s Echo Bay, it would become the community’s first public park. The greenhouses were built about 1915 (the exact dates for construction have not yet been discovered) so that the New Rochelle Parks Department could provide plants for the city’s many public buildings and street plantings. According to experts knowledgeable about the Lord and Burnham style glass houses, the structures were built at two different times with the East Wing being the oldest. The Lawton family constructed the near-by mansion, Wildcliff in 1852 and it was bequeathed to the City by its owner, Mrs. Clara Prince in 1940.
The Present Challenge
The greenhouses supported the City’s parks and beautification programs for decades. During the latter part of its history, the greenhouse became an adjunct for the now shuttered environmental education center formerly located in Wildcliff. The nonprofit, Friends of Wildcliff Greenhouse sustained a municipal beautification project, visited schools and ran programs in the greenhouses to teach potting and plant growing techniques. Senior citizens, school students of all ages and children with developmental disabilities were participating in growing activities at the greenhouses. Over the passage of time though, the condition of the West and East greenhouses deteriorated, culminating in the City’s decision to close them in 2009 due to the dangers of falling glass panes and failing support structures for the concrete slab floor in the West greenhouse. The connecting “Link Building” also has suffered from roof leaks and a fire in the basement. The entire structure is now fenced off to prevent unauthorized entry but it also prevents access and maintenance of the exterior. Consequently the perimeter is severely overgrown and random trees have sprouted inside the greenhouses.
Hudson Park Children’s Greenhouse
In 2015, a group of concerned residents formed the non-profit (501-c-3) organization known as the Hudson Park Children’s Greenhouse (HPCG). HPCG is an outgrowth of the successful Amy’s Greenhouse program at New Rochelle School District’s Barnard School where a small greenhouse [pictured above] was built as a 9/11 memorial for Ms. Amy O’Doherty who perished in the attack on the World Trade Center. Amy’s Greenhouse has grown to include many children’s learning activities that are designed to complement the pre-school curriculum of the Barnard Early Childhood Center.
Hudson Park Children’s Greenhouse Inc. is dedicated to propagating environmental awareness and sustainable development in our community by providing age-appropriate, hands-on educational experiences in a safe, energy efficient and environmentally-sound setting. Building on earlier efforts by the Friends of Wildcliff Greenhouse, this will be accomplished by:
• restoring the municipal greenhouse to a fully functioning level with two greenhouses, a full basement and the Link Building housing a small office with work areas and two public bathrooms that would be fully code compliant and ensure handicap access.
• developing environmental education programs with an emphasis on horticulture and by
• serving as the root supporting a web of environmental and sustainable horticulture activities.
Funding for the initial renovation of the greenhouses will be obtained by a combination of private donations and grants. Long-term maintenance and operating costs will be funded by support from the City of New Rochelle (utilities and insurance), grants for environmental programming, private donations, fund raising activities (e.g. plant and birdseed sales) and by fees arising from persons or groups who want to plant and grow in the greenhouses.
A robust set of distinguished committee members has garnered support from a local architect and persons in the construction trades and obtained preliminary estimates for rebuilding the Lord and Burnham style greenhouse frames and glass. The New Rochelle Council on the Arts has also expressed interest in a collaboration to establish public restrooms as well.
Potential activities could include horticulture classes, such as Sow and Grow classes for children and adults, horticultural therapy sessions for promoting wellness and activities that complement the school curriculum of nearby Trinity Elementary. The greenhouses could assist with homeowner targeted outreach programs promoting New Rochelle’s GreeNR Plan to increase the number of raingardens and green rooftop gardens and also support urban forestry initiatives and habitat/open space preservation. It is not inconceivable to imagine the greenhouses coupled with the presently vacant Wildcliff as the possible site for a future Sustainability Education Center as envisioned in New Rochelle’s GreeNR Sustainability Plan.
Picture a deteriorating municipal structure, tightly choked by a high chain link fence- obscured and overgrown by bushes- on the verge of collapse! Our goal is to create a sustainable and vibrant greenhouse and activities program- a destination that enhances the development of Hudson Park, New Rochelle and Long Island Sound’s coastline for the enjoyment and benefit of New Rochelle’s children and community.
Free the Greenhouse!