Park Slope’s Montauk Club boasts new, old-world garden

September 9, 2016 Anna Spivak
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Nestled in bustling Park Slope, one late 19th century building is holding onto its historic roots, and, watering them.

A welcome new addition to the over 125-year-old Montauk Club (25 Eighth Avenue), a vibrant and detail-oriented garden, modeled after the club’s inspiration – the Ca’ d’Oro Palace located on Venice’s Grand Canal – is breathing new life into a forgotten patch of the historic club.

“The building itself was built around 1889 by a famous architect who was copying a building in Venice called the Ca’ d’Oro,” explained landscape designer Jimmy Johnson, owner of Green Earth Gardens and the man behind the Montauk Club garden project. “The club in 1940 put in a garden. [After that] it was neglected for many years, so they asked me to come on board.”

The most difficult part of reconstructing the garden, Johnson says, was making sure he was able to do the Venetian Gothic-style building justice.

“My challenge was – how do I make the garden contemporary while honoring this building?” Johnson explained. “How do I create a garden that complements this beautiful building?”

Looking at the “Floating City’s” original Ca’ d’Oro Palace, built around 1430, for inspiration, Johnson incorporated as much of the same greenery as he could, coupled with unique planters and pieces.

“The beautiful building in Venice comes out of the water,” Johnson said. “I almost wanted to fill the garden with water so I [could] mimic that. I noticed the courtyard in the Ca’ d’Oro had this huge, beautiful planter, and I [was able to] put two urns in the garden to mimic the Venice courtyard. They’re filled with ivy.

“We were sensitive to having it historically correct,” added Johnson. “My goal really was to compliment this breathtaking building.”

Notably, the plan for the garden was as practical as it was aesthetic. Johnson arranged for the installation of drip irrigation – a low-pressure watering system that uses a variety of methods, including dripping, spraying and streams to keep roots moist but not soaked, using less water than other irrigation techniques – for the purpose of conserving water.

The Montauk Club, founded by a group of 25 men, once served as the premiere social club in Park Slope. Francis H. Kimball, a famed New York architect, was chosen to design the elegant four-story space that would come to house a bowling alley, cafés, several reception rooms, grand parties, private events and social gatherings. It remains a private social club to this day and puts on yearly events like jazz performances, talks by local authors, prohibition era cocktail functions and Victorian era salon parties.

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