Sailor's Snug Harbor
Model ship from the Noble Maritime Collection
The Nobles entered the history of Snug Harbor late in the game. 
The story began exactly two centuries ago, in 1801, with the death of 
Robert Richard Randall, the son of Thomas Randall, a privateer who was a 
friend of George Washington. (Privateers patrolled New York Harbor before there 
was either a Coast Guard or a U.S. Navy.)

Possibly on the advice of his lawyer, Alexander Hamilton, the younger 
Randall, who had no heirs, left a sizable estate to found what is considered
America's first charitable institution. It was a home for retired sailors 
who had no pensions - a group whose members often died derelict on 
New York streets.

The will provided not only for lodging, but clothing and moral guidance 
for men used to the freedom of the seas. 
(One of the stricter governors was Thomas Melville, whose brother Herman, 
a one-time sailor, often came to visit.)
With the New Deal, sailors were no longer without resources in retirement. 
By 1976, Snug Harbor had few residents. 

Interior of Snug Harbor's chapel, which is a replica of St. Paul's in London.
Even by the '60s, the trustees recognized that Snug Harbor was 
no longer performing its original function. They tried to sell the institution 
(with its 80 acres of botanical gardens) to New York for $1.
The city rejected it. Instead, the property was sold to developers, who planned 
to raze the historic buildings to put up apartments. They did destroy a beautiful 
church, whose interior was a replica of St. Paul's in London.
It was here that John Alexander Noble entered the story. Like his father, he was 
a respected American artist. (Among his father's distinctions was that one of his 
paintings, which hung in a saloon, was the first to be attacked by hatchet-wielding 
temperance leader Carrie Nation.)
The younger Noble fell in love with the sea at a young age. He had lived on Staten 
Island since 1944 and, like many of his fellow citizens, was aghast that the city 
would permit the destruction of Snug Harbor. He joined in the efforts to save it. 
In 1976, the city bought it from the developer for $11 million. 

The Noble Maritime Center honors him and displays work by him and his father. 
It plans to reconstruct the houseboat on which he and his family lived, a piece 
of the boat is currently on display.

It's also an educational center for young people, with numerous programs to teach 
them about American nautical history. The museum has an old printing press, 
which visitors can use to make their own old-fashioned lithographs; there are 
also lithographs on display, made on another of the museum's presses, from 
well-known artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood and Rockwell Kent.
The center also displays objects from its own history, like a typical dormitory 
room with bed and the chest of drawers that easily accommodated a sailor's 
life holdings. 

Works of maritime art appear throughout the halls, as do model ships that have 
been given to the museum.

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center, which is just 2 miles from the Staten Island 
ferry, offers a range of artistic activities in a set of Greek Revival buildings 
originally intended to house elderly, indigent sailors.
For seven years, volunteers, many of them retired, have worked to restore a 
building that had been a dormitory. It's now called the Noble Maritime 
Collection and holds several exhibits about John Alexander Noble, the artist 
for whom it is named, and his father, John (Wichita Bill) Noble.

The Noble Center is open weekends, from 1-5 p.m. 
For more information, call (718) 447-6490.
Original Publication Date: 1/20/01 

Sailor's Snug Harbor Cemetery
The following is the entry for Sailor’s Snug Harbor from 
The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries, 
by Carolee Inskeep. 

Category: Institutional, Seamen 

Years of Use: 1834 to 1976 

Location: Prospect Avenue and Caldera Place, Livingston, Staten Island. 

History: Sailor’s Snug Harbor was created in 1801 by the will of Captain 
Robert Richard Randall as a "home for retired, native-born sailors who 
served at least five years aboard a vessel flying the American flag." 
The Staten Island site opened in 1833 with twenty sailors. It later housed as
many as 1,000 retirees at a time. In 1976, Sailor’s Snug Harbor closed its 
Staten Island facility, sold the property to the City of New York, and 
reopened its doors in North Carolina. It retained ownership of the cemetery, 
and the older gravestones were put into storage. 

The Snug Harbor Cultural Center currently occupies the remaining property. 
It is home to the Staten Island Botanical Garden, the Staten Island 
Children’s Museum, and independent arts organizations. 

Mailing Address:
Sailor’s Snug Harbor
P.O. Box 150
Sealevel, North Carolina, 28577-0150
(252) 225-4411 

Records: Sailor’s Snug Harbor maintains the cemetery records and will 
search them upon request. Researchers should also check the 
Staten Island RootsWeb page on the Internet to see if this cemetery 
has been added to its cemetery database. 

Resources: Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries of Staten Island (FACSI) has a 
blueprint of the cemetery. The graves are numbered; the blueprint shows 
the location of the number. FACSI can be reached at 140 Tysen Street, 
Staten Island, NY 10301-1120. 

Lane, Doris. "By Will of a Sea Captain: Sailor’s Snug Harbor Cemetery," 
The FACSI Newsletter, vol. 15, issue 3 (Fall 1998). (history of cemetery; 
profile of David Jeremiah Hubbard) 

A very complete description of 
life in a self-supporting old-age campus in 1873 as described in an article 
written in Harpers Magazine.