Walking through the narrow gate into the gardens at St. Luke in the Fields is like diving underwater. The din of the West Village on a weekday morning—jackhammers, cell phone conversations, car horns, and the construction crew’s boom-chicka boom-chicka radio—fades to nothing. Trees, bushes, and vines absorb the surrounding noise, leaving the gardens pristine with just the sounds of breeze and birds. The gardens are a place to sit with oneself—a place surrounded by high brick walls designed to shut out distraction.
The church itself, located on Hudson Street between Barrow and Christopher in the West Village, was built in 1821. In 1842 a planting from England’s famous Glastonbury thorn tree, a sacred site for Christians, was planted in its gardens. It survived until 1990, when it was knocked down by windstorms. The gardens were expanded in the 1950s and again in 1985. Today they are comprised of six parts in total.
The gate on Hudson Street leads to the Barrow Street Garden where a walkway along all four sides extends diagonally from each corner, meeting in the middle to form a circle of trees and benches. Further back is the small Gene Morin Contemplation Corner, which features fewer greens and more blooms in lavender, white, and pink. Even further back is the South Lawn, a large expanse of grass that bleeds into the cheery-tree-lined allée. The allée curves around the church’s back wall into the North Garden, which is shaded by two hundred-year-old maple trees. The Rectory Garden, which is the oldest section, has its own separate entrance and houses a rose garden and the ruins of the former parish hall, which burned down in 1981.
Although the garden is scattered with benches, few are regularly occupied. The occasional West Village resident ducks in to read or snack or sit, but no one within the garden’s confines generally speaks louder than a whisper. As Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote in The Secret Garden, “Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.” Just as it does in that garden, magic abounds in the gardens at St. Luke.
Know Before You Go
The entrance to the Barrow Street Garden is located on the corner of Hudson Street and Barrow Street. All other areas of the garden are accessible from there.