Adam Purple

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Adam Purple
Adam Purple tending his Urban Garden in 1984
Adam Purple tending his Urban Garden in 1984
David Lloyd Wilkie

(1930-11-10)November 10, 1930
DiedSeptember 14, 2015(2015-09-14) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.

Adam Purple (born David Lloyd Wilkie; November 10, 1930 – September 14, 2015) was an activist and urban Edenist or "Guerrilla Gardener" famous in New York City for his "Garden of Eden". His birth name was David Lloyd Wilkie, although he went by many others,[1][2] including "Rev. Les Ego".[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Independence, Missouri, to Richard and Juanita Wilkie as the middle child of seven, his father was a machinist, carpenter and blacksmith while Juanita was a seamstress, gardener and bookkeeper. In 1945, Richard was trying to put out a fire when he was electrocuted and died.[4]

Adam served in the U.S. Army and graduated with a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He taught at high schools and junior colleges in California and South Dakota.[5] Making his way east, he was a reporter for The York Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania, eventually ending up in New York City in 1968.[6]

The Garden of Eden[edit]

Purple's "Garden of Eden", built by him single-handedly over five years starting in 1975, was a well-known open, community garden on Forsyth Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The garden began when the city and the neighborhood were blighted with urban decay. A building was razed in 1973 on Eldridge Street behind Purple’s apartment, and he decided to plant something with his companion, Eve.[4][5]

The process of clearing the lot took some time since the couple would only use hand tools. Modern machinery was considered "counter-revolutionary." He would haul manure from the horse-drawn carriages around Central Park and created a highly fertile topsoil. The garden was ready to be planted in the spring of 1975. The garden was designed around concentric circles with a yin-yang symbol in the center. As buildings were torn down on either side, Purple would add new rings to the garden, allowing it to grow.[4] By the end, it was 15,000 square feet featuring a wide range of produce, including corn, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, black raspberries, strawberries, and 45 trees including eight black walnuts. He regularly bicycled to Central Park to collect horse manure to use as fertilizer.[6][7]

Family and move to Australia[edit]

He had at least four biological children and two stepchildren. By his first wife, Ann, he had two daughters, Jenean and Lenore. His second wife, Romola, had two daughters, Dorothy and Diane. A later partner, known as "Eve", gave birth to a girl, Nova Dawn. He also had a son by a later partner, according to accounts of his life published in two parts in The Villager (NYC) in January 2016, which contain quotes from the eldest four girls about their lives with Purple, and his sexual abuse of all of them in Australia.[8]

In 1964, Wilkie and his wife, Romola, and their "blended family" of four girls emigrated to Australia, by boat. They traveled on the Orsova, docking in New South Wales after a three-month voyage. Wilkie worked as a teacher of English and literature. The family lived in Kurrajong Heights, near Sydney. Wilkie was convicted of child molestation and deported in the late 1960s or early 1970s, winding up in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, California.[8][9][10]

New York City[edit]

In the early 1980s, the city planned to create low-income housing, but there was opposition from neighborhood activists and supporters. The Storefront for Art and Architecture created a group exhibition in 1984 to present alternative designs that would encompass the Garden of Eden into the public housing initiative. The initiative was unsuccessful.[11] In 1985, Judge Vincent L. Broderick of Federal District Court ruled that the demolition could take place.[5] The garden was demolished on January 8, 1986.[2][12][13][14] Its destruction took just 75 minutes under the large rubber tires of a scoop-equipped highway construction vehicle.[7]

After Purple's "Garden of Eden" was destroyed, his friend, artist George Bliss, painted trails of purple footprints around the Lower East Side leading to the garden's former location.[15][16] He is one of fifty subjects featured in Harvey Wang's New York, a book of photographs and brief biographies of notable or colorful New Yorkers.[17] He was interviewed by Amy Brost in 2006 for StoryCorps and, with the help of Harvey Wang, created a short film.[18]


Purple died on September 14, 2015, from a heart attack, aged 84, while bicycling across the Williamsburg Bridge.[19]


  1. ^ "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT - LOWER EAST SIDE -- UPDATE - Mr. Natural Goes Electric". New York Times. August 15, 1999. Retrieved 2015-03-24.
  2. ^ a b New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 1991-01-14. p. 33. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved 2015-03-24.
  3. ^ "The New Yorker, February 4, 1991, p. 25". Retrieved 2015-03-24.
  4. ^ a b c "Adam Purple and His Guerilla Garden of Eden | Narratively | Human stories, boldly told". Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  5. ^ a b c McKinley, Jesse (1998-02-22). "Adam Purple's Last Stand". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  6. ^ a b Moynihan, Colin (2015-09-15). "Adam Purple, Eccentric Environmentalist and Gardener in New York, Dies at 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  7. ^ a b Adam Purple, 22 November 2006, interviewed by Amy Brost, "Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden", Harvey Wang & Amy Brost, 2011
  8. ^ a b "The dark side of Purple". Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  9. ^ "All Purple's daughters". Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  10. ^ "The Secret Dark Side of Adam Purple is Revealed". Retrieved 2016-01-24.
  11. ^ "Storefront for Art and Architecture | Programming: Exhibitions: Adam's House in Paradise". Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  12. ^ Joyce Mendelsohn, The Lower East Side Remembered, Columbia University Press, 2009, pp. xii, 178-79
  13. ^ Sharon Zukin, Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 202
  14. ^ Sandor Ellix Katz, The revolution will not be microwaved, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006, p. 108
  15. ^ Al Aronowitz (June 1, 2002). "The Strange Case of Max Cantor". The Blacklisted Journalist.
  16. ^ Moynihan, Colin (September 15, 2015). "Adam Purple, Eccentric Environmentalist and Gardener in New York, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  17. ^ Harvey Wang's New York, Norton, 1990, pp. 94-95.
  18. ^ Moynihan, Colin (2015-09-15). "Adam Purple, Eccentric Environmentalist and Gardener in New York, Dies at 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  19. ^ "Adam Purple, legendary gardener, 84, is dead; Was biking across Williamsburg Bridge | The Villager Newspaper". Retrieved 2015-09-16.

See also[edit]