Volume 73, Number 6 | June 9 - 15, 2004

Garden weddings grow, thanks to Miranda’s mishap

By Heather Paster

Photo by Doug Keljikian

The wedding of Jessica Stein and Troy Denning in Jefferson Market Garden, above, inspired an episode of “Sex and the City” — which, in turn, has caused an increase in weddings at the garden.

Nestled between Sixth and Greenwich Aves. and W. 10th and Christopher Sts. lies a community garden laden with history.

As the name indicates, the Jefferson Market Garden was once a marketplace adjacent to the former Jefferson Market Courthouse. The courthouse, which now houses a public library branch, has been declared a historic national landmark. In 1927, the market buildings were destroyed to make way for a house of detention for women convicted in the Jefferson Market Courthouse. One of its more famous residents, Mae West, was held in custody for obscenity charges after the Society of Suppression of Vice targeted her Broadway play “Sex.”

Prisoners were notorious for shouting to passersby around the clock. David Duchovny’s recent directorial debut, “House of D,” chronicles the relationship of a female prisoner and a young boy living in the Village. Robin Williams, who portrays the protagonist as a grown man, filmed several scenes in the Jefferson Market Garden.

In 1973, after years of the community’s demanding for the prison to be demolished, the inmates were moved to Rikers and the building was razed. Community members protested any new buildings being erected on the property. The land was donated to the city and a garden was born. Just 18 inches below the grass lies rubble and remains of the house of detention. Volunteers today still find artifacts from the prison including keys and bowls.

The garden received prominent exposure this January when Cynthia Nixon’s “Sex and the City” character, Miranda, and her character’s boyfriend, Steve, got married there. In the episode, called “The Ick Factor,” Miranda notices the garden after her Duane Reade bag breaks as she is passing by and looks up to see a sign reading, “This is a community garden project.” Miranda decides the garden is the perfect “non-icky” setting, because it’s not a romantic cliche but informal and natural.

The idea came to a location scout when she passed the wedding of longtime resident Jessica Stein and Troy Denning. She was so impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the affair, she incorporated it into the script.

“It was the perfect Village wedding,” says Jessica’s mom, Nancy Stein. “Even the Engine 18 passed through.” She, of course, was referring to the firefighters from the local fire stationhouse around the corner, whose sirens caused the ceremony to pause a moment. “It was so beautiful. If I had another daughter, we would have another wedding there in a heartbeat,” she said.

Bagpipers played at the Stein-Denning wedding ceremony. However, only weddings, not receptions, are done in the garden.

Following the episode of “Sex and the City” five months ago, bookings for weddings in the garden have increased. Whereas last year there were six weddings in the garden, this year six have already been scheduled, with two already held. The beautiful venue, which accommodates up to 65 guests, accepts short-term reservations as well. One resident passed the garden on a Friday afternoon, got the idea and was married there that Sunday. Virginia Giordano, special events coordinator for the garden, is not surprised with the garden’s increased popularity. “It provides a stunning backdrop for spring, summer and fall weddings with an authentic Village feel.”

The garden accommodates wedding parties of up to 65. While there is no specific fee, donations are welcomed.

“It’s one of the most economical places in New York to get married,” said Giordano.

Jefferson Market Garden is open April through October, Tuesdays through Sundays. Existing solely on donations, the garden has one staff employee, the horticulturist, Susan Sipos. Several years ago, the Vincent Astor Foundation donated an attractive wrought-iron steel fence, replicating the original 19th-century fence and replacing the unsightly chain-link fence that had been there.

Volunteers at the garden are eager to return to the community — reaching out to local schools and children. Kindergarteners of nearby schools visit in late winter and plant seeds. Returning in the spring, the students see the fruits of their labors. “They have watched the garden change from stark barebones to full bloom,” says Jeanine Flaherty, chairperson of the garden.

Additionally, the garden hosts two children’s festivals. The fall festival celebrates the harvest. Children are invited to paint pumpkins, play games and make crafts while learning about gardening. The spring festival of flowers encourages children to plant seeds, march around in the compost and watch magicians. The Jefferson Market Garden regularly hosts story-reading sessions for children, as well.

Photographs of the earlier buildings that used to be on the site can be seen at the adjacent Jefferson Market Library. Last year, over 5,000 visitors from 31 states and 17 countries signed the garden’s guest book.

For information on weddings, stop by the garden or call Virginia Giordano at 212-598-2181.

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