My Inwood Memories: Bruce’s Garden


Bruce's Garden Bruce’s Garden, which borders on Isham Park, has profound meaning to anyone who has ever lived in Inwood.

The garden is a testament to Port Authority Police Officer Bruce Reynolds who gave has life so others might live on September 11th. This garden of tranquility is appropriately named for Bruce who, as a child, began tending to the undeveloped little plot of land. Under the careful tutelage and watchful eye of Bruce’s father, Jack Reynolds, the tradition continues to this day. In the spring the garden is literally teeming with activity as neighborhood volunteers plant, dig and prune as nature once again comes alive. reader Jane Guerra recently shared her childhood memories of working beside Bruce in the garden which now bears his name.

Bruce Reynolds Garden today
Bruce Reynolds Garden today

“I remember Bruce when he was underfoot as a kid, when we were teens working and sweating under Jack’s focused ‘stay on task’ eye. How we look back and love every minute of building and creating that Garden! How we look back and wish that we’d known about 9/11, a date thirty years in our future, a veritable eternity away, so that we could have grabbed a hold of Bruce and surrounded him in our arms, not letting him go anywhere. I worked there during the summer of ‘71, I believe it was. I was a student at SHM, the all-girl’s Catholic High School, the Garden’s backdrop. Jack Reynolds would have us go up to The Woods with wheelbarrows and we’d haul them full, stacked to the brim with wood chips, back to The Garden.

Bruce Reynolds Garden in SpringTo this day, thirty-eight years later, I see a wood chip anywhere, and I’m instantly back there.

We used to take the A down to 125th Street to collect our City paychecks. Hey, forty dollars a week for a teen back then was gold. We met other kids from downtown who’d take the train up to work with us. It was there that I learned how to make ‘corn rolls’ on black kids’ hair. I loved those kids that we met and worked hard with there.

Of course there was no commute. The garden was across the street from my ‘house’ (apt.) in Isham Gardens, when the towers were still up on the roof-” The Castle” in which a lot of us kids were raised together, and remain like brothers and sisters to this day, no matter where we’ve traveled or where we’ve lived.

Bruce's Garden Sign Jack worked miracles during those lazy, long days of summer in the 1970’s, using us and the ‘older teens’ as the original hard workers (i.e., Stevie Hanford and Dennis ‘Roach’ Mulford). There was no way we could have imagined what Jack, all along, had envisioned.

When we started, Bruce’s Garden was nothing but an empty lot full of dirt and broken glass. We stayed and worked until Jack’s vision was realized – we built The Well, put the stone bricks in there that line the little paths, planted all sorts of seeds, about which we had no clue, but ‘Jack says to just do it.’

‘Father What-A-Waste’ (because he was so good lookin’) Jack Abrams – one of many Paulist priests, used to come up from the Rectory in Good Shepherd to check up on us and give us encouragement. We stayed until it was completed, and we stayed as the first invitations for the public to visit went out. We also stayed to perform (playing our guitars) and invited guests to perform, for fundraisers. We stayed until we suddenly started to grow up, in the days before we’d all disappear from Our Inwood to go on with our lives.

Bruces Garden birdhouse Although many of us left, Inwood never did, and never will, leave us. God bless Bruce, his wonderful Dad, Jack, who did so much for a bunch of kids who didn’t have anything else to do that summer, and for you for starting this amazing website. We’ll be on this site, my family and I, since we are doing what we always felt we would do after living elsewhere for thirty plus years. We’re moving back to Inwood, come November ‘09. We’ll rent an apartment somewhere. It’s a little worn around the edges, Inwood is, to our comparative eyes, as we are, but it is still vibrant, still beautiful, still Home. To everyone who grew up there, and to everyone who lives there now and loves it, it is, nothing less than “My Inwood”. We each have a 100% share in its priceless stock.”

And the memories just keep rolling in: reader Gerri Zaiko, sent in the following photos taken in Bruce’s Garden in 1975.   Gerri also sent the accompanying description:

Bruce's Garden in 1975 from reader Gerri Zaiko
Bruce’s Garden in 1975 from reader Gerri Zaiko

Bruce's Garden in 1975 from reader Gerri Zaiko 2“I remember the summers working in “The Garden”, taking our breakfast breaks and making runs to “The Commisary”.

There were kids from the Dyckman Projects and kids from Throggs Neck that were assigned to work with us.

Here is the first batch of pictures from 1975,  when we had our own bi-centennial celebration. The woman who looks like an Indian, is Jack Reynolds wife Geraldine.

Bruce's Garden in 1975 from reader Gerri ZaikoThe bricked up house in the rear was at one time the convent for the nuns who taught at SHM before the 7th Day Adventists bought it. There was a breezeway between the school and convent.

I do have pictures from 1976 when we worked not only in the garden but learned how to do silk screening down in the meat market. We held our own Bi-centiennial celebration up there. The memories I have could go on forever but I am leaving them there.

Thank you for bring back the sweet memories of a delightful childhood in a neighborhood of love.”

Getting thier groove on in Bruce's Garden, 1975
Getting their groove on in Bruce’s Garden, 1975

Author’s note: Jane and Gerri, thank you these thoughtful contributions to the website. If others reading have memories or photos they’d like to share I encourage you to write in as well. This is your Inwood as much as it is mine and these stories deserve repeating.

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  1. After I saw the 9/11 movie with Nicholas Cage a few years ago, I ran into Mr. Reynolds on PTE, after leaving my daughter’s apt. in #30. I told him that they paid tribute to Bruce in the movie, and that his loss was also ours. Little did he, we, or anyone else know, as Janie wrote, that the seeds he planted would bloom into such a natural treasure. From the awesome haunted woods theme at Halloween, to the various displays of artistic and musical cultures from the neighborhood and beyond, Bruce’s Garden shares his spirit with us each and every day on those who live there now, and those who return to visit. I live in Teaneck, NJ now, and almost always pass “Bruce Reynolds Way” in Fort Lee, near the entrance to the GWB. His spirit graces us on both sides of The River. I have some pictures which I will post this weekend. Mary


    • Unsure why the garden is locked. I’ll inquire. During the day, if someone is working in the garden, they are always willing and eager to let you in.
      I’m just as curious about the bricked up William Hurst building next door. If anyone has photos of the building, inside or out, before it was bricked up please send them my way. -Cole

  3. Thank you, Janie and Mary – Love you guys – you are such a part of my childhood, those magical days of summer on the lawn, I can still smell the grass and see the blue sky above all the trees like yesterday. Remember we would lay on the lawn and look up at the clouds and call out different shapes we imagined. Remember stick ball in front of the “castle” , sitting on the roof getting a”tan”. On my lunch time walks I pass by Bruce’s garden every day – I feel a bit of magic as I walk by. The birds and bees love it there and they create a symphony in the summer. Yes, we are so lucky to have such beautiful memories.
    Much Love,

  4. David, I didn’t know it was locked – I haven’t been there daily for years, but I do remember that we had it fenced with a latched gate, that we open & closed as we came and went throughout the day. Maybe Cole knows – perhaps it’s only opened to the public on different days or events? I don’t know.

    Laura, wonderful note, wonderful memories – and, it’s interesting: Rich & I bought another couple with us for their first visit to Inwood a couple of years ago, and as we walked around, my friend said, “This place is so magical.” So, yeah, that ‘bit of magic?’ Definitely there.

    • Thank you for this wonderful article Jane. Mr Reynolds was the first neighbor I met after moving to Inwood 20 years ago. He drew me right into the garden and I had my own section that I would maintain. To this day I have the original key given to me by Mr Reynolds on its well worn ‘I Love NY’ lanyard.

      A wild and woodland Garden’ as a nature lover and herbalist I was fascinated by his vision and insight; how he synthesized so much into his vision. And, he was fascinated by my knowledge of wild edible and medicinal plants and welcomed by input and suggestions. To this day the garden has a respectful, interactive relationship with the wild plants that migrate through the cultivated plantings and design.

      Bruce’s Garden makes it difficult for me to ever leave this quiet little corner of Manhattan.

  5. Cole, are you talking about the closed up Convent? That was where the nuns lived when the high school was SHM. Who owns that? Also, is the high school still open and run by the ‘Seventh Day Adventists’ as happened in the late 70s?

  6. As a student of SHM and a member of The Latin Club for 3 years, I recall (vaguely) the insite of the building I wish I could buy and restructure as The Park Terrace B&B! We’d meet before class with Sr. Cecilia Duffy, RSHM, RIP, who gave me the love of learning and appreciation of the written word, both English and Latin! The furniture was cushioned arm chairs, what you might expect to find in a convent reception hall or parlor. Maybe a sofa or two, mahogany tables. We didn’t get far into the convent as our tasks were focused on learning. The lighting was low and muted, conducive to the contemplative nature of the residence. After our club meeting we’d go through that breezeway into the main high school building of Sacred Heart of Mary. “All for Jesus through Mary” was written across the top of our loose leaf paper in every class.

  7. Great site! Cole, Thank you.
    My vague memory of The Convent was a rather large squarish dark wood panelled(cherry?) entry room with a curved stairway opposite the entry door(s?) . I keep thinking it was a double curved staircase, each leading to opposite sides of the building. Think the floor was marble. The chapel for the nuns (RSHM nun were semi-cloistered ) was off the entry to the right. It was wood panelled as well and the pews had high sides and backs, I think. Sort of remember plain stained glass windows. I thought it very sad when it was empty and I agree it would make a great B & B. I hope I haven’t melded other memories into this one. SHM Class of ’64.

  8. Inwood. Just saying it makes me feel happy. We never knew how lucky we were to live in a castle with so many wonderful caring people around us. Just like Inwood is in my blood some of my old friends from that castle are back in my life and I thank God everyday for that blessing. I live far away from Inwood now but it lives on in my heart and always will. It is nice to say that you don’t have any bad memories of where you grew up.

  9. HI
    I am not sure if I know you Gerri, but I was one of the original summer workers that put the garden together with Steve, Gerard, Donald, Roach, and a few more I can’t remember. What a great summer that was. At lunch we used to go to my house I lived at 10 Park Terrace. And at night we would all hang out in the cave.(who remembers that?)In the garden towards the back there is a weeping willow tree and I can proudly say I planted that tree. May all our memories always live in that garden. Thank you Jack

  10. I lived at 10 pte for over 30 yrs. I remember playing music for Isham gardens the very first day it was opened.Mrs Reynolds did a news article of my first gig at the Donemay pub in 1979, New Years Eve. I Aso Played Bruce Reyenold’s wedding in New Jersey. They were aa tribute to Inwood.


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