Have you visited Wave Hill in Riverdale? The idyllic landscape hugs the Hudson River and provides magnificent vistas of the river and the Palisades as Henry Hudson had seen it in 1609.
Wave Hill was built as a country home in 1843. Owned by many illustrious owners and dwellers in the years that followed, Theodore Roosevelt’s family once rented Wave Hill during the summer of 1870 and 1871, when Theodore was 12 and 13 years old. Mark Twain leased the estate from 1901 to 1903. Of winters at Wave Hill, Twain wrote: “I believe we have the noblest roaring blasts here I have ever known on land. They sing their hoarse song through the big tree-tops with a splendid energy that thrills me and stirs me and uplifts me and makes me want to live always.” Another noted occupant was Conductor Arturo Toscanini, who lived at Wave Hill from 1942 to 1945.
In 1960, the Perkins-Freeman family deeded the estate, twenty-eight acres of gardens and grounds, to the City of New York. Today, Wave Hill is renowned as a public garden and cultural center, offering programs in Horticulture, Environmental Education, Woodland Management, and outstanding events in the Visual and Performing Arts. The 2007-2008 music calendar includes classical concertos, flamenco guitar concerts, Blue Note jazz recitals, and a tribute to Nat King Cole. You will not want to miss the Conservatory that shelters tender plants from around the world; the Wild Gardens, the Dry and Herb Gardens, the Aquatic and Monocot Gardens where water lilies and lotus ornament the garden pool.
As winter departs, Wave Hill transforms into a verdant haven with exotic outdoor and indoor flora to be admired. Plan your visit to Wave Hill to enjoy a Sunday afternoon concert, a summer dance program, Family Art Project, Sunset Wednesdays, a seasonal lecture, or just to relax in a specially designed deck chair, sunning, reading, absorbing the beauty of your surroundings.
A family with toddlers adds charm to the scene. Friends gather at the Pergola that frames spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Palisades. In any given season, Wave Hill becomes something of a 19th century country scene from one of Monet’s impressionist paintings. And when you are there, it is simply fascinating to watch the day in bloom.
Be sure to stop by the Wave Hill Café for a sandwich of gorgonzola, fresh fig, red wine glaze and baby arugula on Pullman Bread, and for dessert, a Rustic Peach Galette. Before leaving, peruse the gift shop that will enhance your visit with a range of goodies; hand-made jewelry, boutiquey accessories (silk scarves, bags, frames) and of course, garden books. Wave Hill is indeed an oasis of serenity, a treasure to be explored and enjoyed again and again. Come visit, James.
How to get there: Take the Hudson Line local train originating at Grand Central Station to Riverdale. Wave Hill is a safe and lovely – although steep – 15-minute uphill walk from the station. Walk up 254th Street; turn right onto Independence Avenue and continue two long blocks to the Wave Hill Main Gate at 249th Street. For free shuttle information during April – October months, and for other public transportation routes, go to wavehill.org (West 249th St. and Independence Ave., 718.549.3200)