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Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art
Staten Island, New York, New York

Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art, steps fromterrace leading to museum building, facing east.
Photo by Kathy Howe
Courtesy of the New York State Historic Preservation Office

The Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art was designed, built and founded by Jacques Marchais, a visionary American woman who was an important collector and respected expert on Tibetan Art. Its complex of buildings and gardens resemble a Tibetan mountain monastery. The museum is the realization of Marchais' dream to provide a peaceful retreat where the public could study the art and culture of Tibet. Marchais was an extraordinary American woman who created an institution to serve as a bridge between the west and the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Tibet and the Himalayan region. She was distinctly ahead of her time in understanding the value of Tibet—then an isolated nation in the Himalayas-to world cultural heritage. She was a prominent collector of Tibetan art and philosophy (largely Buddhist or native religion Bon oriented) in the United States, and the founder of an institution dedicated to cross-cultural understanding. Marchais acquired the property on Staten Island in in 1921 and planned for the center immediately. The property possesses significant architecture and landscape design with a complex of buildings and gardens modeled to be representative of a Himalayan mountain monastery. 

[Photo]Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art, terrace showing built in stone tables and benches.
Photo by Kathy Howe
Courtesy of the New York State Historic Preservation Office

These buildings represent the first Himalayan style architecture to be built in the United States.  Intended to be a “miniature duplicate of the Potala in the forbidden city of Lhasa”-the ruling palace of the Dali Lamas. Jacques Marchais wrote that it was “the only museum devoted solely to Tibetan art in the world.” The two main buildings of historic significance are the library used for the storage of books and artifacts and the museum to house Himalayan sacred art; both are screened by stone walls from the adjacent Lighthouse Avenue. Interwoven throughout the property is a distinctly terraced garden with fieldstone retaining walls designed by Marchais and named the ‘Samadhi Garden’ which was built in stages-the western part I from 1921 to 1938, and the eastern part, with its Himalayan  style structures, built 1938 to 1948. The east side of the Samadhi Garden includes multiple mature trees, stone retaining walls-some with plantings set inside of them, stone stairways, meandering flagstone pathways, stone tables and stone seats set to create niche-like sitting areas, and a large fish and lotus pond built out from the hillside, below the museum, adjacent to the meditation cells. The hillside to the south of the east gardens is so steep it is virtually impassable and has been untouched by development.

The center, located in Staten Island, New York, at 338/336 Lighthouse Avenue, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 29, 2009.
Read our entire file on this property: Jacques Marchais Center of Tibetan Art

The museum is open to the public. For more information, visit:

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