Allan Reiver, the gallery owner and architectural artifacts collector who transformed a vacant lot on Elizabeth St. in Little Italy into a flourishing garden full of statuary and monuments, has died. The following tribute was posted on the Elizabeth Street Garden’s Instagram page:
Allan Reiver, creator of Elizabeth Street Garden, builder and curator of extraordinary objects and experiences, has passed on. He leaves behind lasting and significant contributions to the cultural, social and historical fabric of his adopted city. With no formal training, tandem pursuits led him to create his home and gallery with one-of-a-kind collections while simultaneously transforming a neglected city lot and creating the iconic Elizabeth Street Garden, now known across the city and around the world.
Allan surrounded himself with the extraordinary. He traveled the world, searching for pieces he found captivating, with a keen eye for the uncommon and underappreciated. In 1989 he moved to New York City, eventually settling on Elizabeth Street just across from the empty space where he’d soon create a unique landscape filled with sculpture, greenery and architectural elements.
In 2005, Allan relocated to the building adjacent to the garden, renovating an 1850s New York City firehouse with a builder’s perseverance and an artist’s passion. With his distinctive decorative approach, he lined the floors and walls of the space with unique, exquisite and often discarded art, objects and artifacts. Where some would see obsolescence he saw history, beauty and old-world craftsmanship to be cherished, protected and preserved. Visitors could wander through the eccentric gallery and into the garden to enjoy the respite of a true urban oasis.
When the community learned of the city’s plans to destroy the garden, Allan worked with neighbors and supporters to save it — welcoming crucial volunteers to open the front gates, plant more greenery, and establish free public programs.
Now serving as a beloved community garden, outdoor museum and the heart of Little Italy, the garden has inspired wonder and awe in all those who experience its magical qualities. When visiting, one could usually find Allan perched on a bench near the garden entrance. Though mostly a private person, he would gladly share with anyone who asked, the provenance and special significance of any one of the dozens of carved stone, cast-iron and bronze sculptures nearby.
New York is a more interesting place thanks to Allan Reiver and we are forever grateful for his creative gestures, his dedication and his vision. ESG will continue our work to protect and preserve this special place, and once saved, Elizabeth Street Garden will represent Reiver’s legacy, a gift to the city he came to love and where he spent the happiest times of his final years.
Before moving to New York, Allan Reiver served as the owner and president of Realities Inc. in Denver, Colorado. There, he focused on collecting items from buildings marked for demolition and later saw the company expand into the real estate development market for lower downtown Denver properties.