Roslyn Harbor Village
Roslyn Village administrative office is located at 500 Motts Cove Road South, Roslyn NY 11576; 516-621-0368.
In 1843 poet and New York Evening Post editor, William Cullen Bryant, purchased 40 acres and established his estate which he named "Cedarmere." In 1999 the Roslyn Harbor Multiple Resource Area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Selected text, below, was transcribed from a copy of the original nomination document.
The Historic and Architectural Resources of Roslyn Harbor ... includes six individually significant properties. The ... resources illustrate the distinctive features of the architectural and historical development of the village from its beginnings in the 18th century to 1930, when the last of the large estates was completed.
The small village of Roslyn Harbor, incorporated in 1931, covers an area of approximately 670 acres and in 1994 had a population of about 1,300, with approximately 362 residences. The village is a residential suburban community located between the more built-up villages of Roslyn to the south and Glenwood Landing to the north. These two villages have commercial centers; Roslyn Harbor does not.
Roslyn Harbor is located on Long Island's north shore approximately 18 miles east of New York City. The western boundary of Roslyn Harbor extends along one-and-one-quarter miles of the shore of Hempstead Harbor, a long reach of Long Island Sound. Along the low shoreline to the south there are two mill ponds and several smaller ponds. Just beyond the shore the land rises steeply. The shore to the north rises abruptly to a high bluff. The village shoreline ends at the north at Mott's Cove. Inland, Roslyn Harbor has a general elevation of 100 to 150 feet Above Sea Level, with some higher hills (Goddard p. 4). It is the scenic beauty of these hills and the harbor views that first lured tourists and subsequently wealthy families to build country estates.
Roslyn Harbor is almost exclusively a suburban residential community and much of the land has been taken up in the past 40 years by residential subdivisions. A few large properties remain, especially along Hempstead Harbor, but there are two particularly extensive properties in the village: the modern Engineer's Country Club maintains over 150 acres as a golf course and Nassau County owns and maintains a 165-acre property, the former Clayton and Cedarmere Estates (National Register listed) as their Office of Cultural Development and a museum.
The properties included in the multiple property submission comprise a unique collection of frame, brick, and stone residential buildings which embody the distinctive characteristics of the types, periods, and methods of construction specific to Roslyn Harbor's architectural and historical development. Residential building types, representing all periods of the town's historical development from c. 1685 through 1930 are included in the submission.
The oldest properties in the multiple property submission are associated with the early settlement period when Roslyn Harbor was mainly an agricultural area with two large farms and a few smaller ones. Beginning in the 1830s Roslyn Harbor's picturesque shoreline was recognized as a rural retreat for wealthy New Yorkers. From that time until c. 1930, the community's farmhouses and farmland were transformed into large country estates by New Yorkers seeking weekend and summer retreats from the city. Most of the properties in the multiple property submission are from this 100-year period of the development of Roslyn Harbor.
In addition to the creation of large country estates, Roslyn Harbor also saw the development of small-lot residential dwellings in the southern portion of the community during the period 1850-1890. This development was associated with the neighboring village of Roslyn which had port facilities and was becoming a commercial center. Three historic contexts cover the historical and architectural developments of what is now the Incorporated Village of Roslyn Harbor: Settlement, 1643-1834; Estate Development, 1830-1930; and Small-lot Residential Development, 1850-1890.
Settlement of Roslyn Harbor Area, 1643-1834
As Roslyn Harbor did not become an incorporated village until 1931, the early history of the area is connected with that of the village of Roslyn and the town of Hempstead (now North Hempstead). Originally, most of the north shore of Long Island was inhabited by the Matinecock tribe of the Delaware Indian Nation. The area came under Dutch control in the 1630s when the Dutch West India Company established the Colony of New Netherlands, with its capitol located in the settlement of New Amsterdam (New York City). Although the Dutch claimed control of the portion of Long Island that is today western Nassau County, there was little settlement in the area. Dutch officials merely patrolled the area to retain their claims and to keep the English from coming across Long Island Sound from New England to establish settlements.
The first European settlement in the Roslyn Harbor area occurred when a small group of English colonists arrived from Connecticut in 1643. The settlement, known as Hempstead Harbor (renamed Roslyn in 1844), was very small and existed mainly as the landing for the village of Hempstead, which was settled in 1644 by colonists from Stamford, Connecticut, under the leadership of Robert Fordham and John Carmen. The settlers purchased a ten-mile long strip of land (this would later become the town of Hempstead) from local Indian tribes and from the Dutch. The purchase of the land was authorized by a land grant from Lord Sterling. This English land grant was disputed by the Dutch, who claimed the area. After some negotiation and the settlers' agreement to pay a ten percent income tax to the Governor of New Amsterdam, the Dutch relinquished their claim to the area and allowed settlement. The patent gave the settlers an unusual position among the neighboring Dutch settlements in that they were allowed to choose their own governing officials and manage their own affairs without Dutch interference. Dutch rule of the area was short-lived as Long Island and the rest of the New Netherlands colony passed to English control in 1664.
In 1685, Nathaniel Pearsall, the five other original proprietors of the town of Hempstead patent, and the settlers were granted title to the land on which they dwelt. As a proprietor, Pearsall was entitled to claim a 150-acre grant of land within the township and it is thought that his property covered the northwest quarter of the present village of Roslyn Harbor, including much of the land along the northern portion of the shoreline of Hempstead Harbor. At this time Pearsall built a farmhouse and expanded his farm, and the remainder of the area of present-day Roslyn Harbor consisted of a few other large farms and woodlands. The only buildings in the area were those associated with the farmsteads.
When Nathaniel Pearsall died in 1703, he left his extensive farm to his son, Thomas. It is believed Thomas Pearsall built a farmhouse for his family on the property sometime after the mid-18th century. This house, now incorporated into the estate house Willowmere, (individual component) has been dated to c. 1770, on the basis of molded flat panels above a fireplace that relate to those in other local houses of the period, by Dr. Roger Gerry of the Roslyn Landmark Society. The house was built in place of, and incorporated part of, an earlier house on the site built by Nathaniel Pearsall. Thomas Pearsall and his descendants continued to operate the farm, and by the 1830s the family holdings had grown to 250 acres, more than a third of the present-day village of Roslyn Harbor. The property included all of the land along the shore of Hempstead Harbor to the northern boundary of the present village line as well as land on the east side of Glenwood Road.
The Pearsall farm remained in the family until 1839 when the land was subdivided into several parcels and sold at auction. Mr. and Mrs. William Cairns bought the Pearsall farmhouse and approximately 20 acres of land and transformed it into a country estate, which they named Clifton. In 1882 the estate passed to the Cairns' daughter, Mrs. Aaron Ward, wife of Admiral Ward, USN, who renamed it Willowmere. Additional renovations took place in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Another farm in the Roslyn Harbor area was the Mudge Farm, an approximately 100-acre property located near the present-day Bryant Avenue and Motts Cove Road. Michael Mudge reportedly purchased the farm, consisting of two parcels of land, from early settler Amos Mott in 1745. Michael Mudge died in 1801 and his farm passed to his son Daniel, who died in 1840. Records indicate that Daniel's daughter, Amy, was still living in the house c. 1868. The Michael and Daniel Mudge Farmhouse (individual component) is believed to be the oldest house in the village of Roslyn Harbor. Architectural evidence in the form of two raised panel fireplace walls puts the construction of the farmhouse to c. 1740. The farmhouse was purchased by William Cullen Bryant in 1868 and it was moved to an unknown location on Bryant's estate Cedarmere. It was again moved c. 1920 to its present location, where it underwent some alterations.
During the 18th century, another large farm occupied the land along the shore of Hempstead Harbor south of the Pearsall farm. This 100-acre farm was owned by Richard Kirk, a Quaker, who built a house on the property in 1787. Kirk also built a mill pond on his land and was operating a fulling mill there as early as 1770. The Kirk farmhouse was purchased by Joseph Moulton, a New York lawyer, author, and historian, for use as a part-time residence. Moulton also attracted his friend William Cullen Bryant to the area. Bryant, a renowned poet and editor for the New York Evening Post, purchased 40 acres of the former farm from Moulton, including the Kirk farmhouse, in 1843. Bryant completed Moulton's transformation of the property, which he renamed Cedarmere, from that of a working farm into a waterfront estate. Portions of the Kirk farmhouse survive in the Cedarmere Estate, part of the National Register listed Cedarmere-Clayton Estates.
It was through the efforts of Bryant, Moulton, and the Cairns in the mid-19th century that one can see the beginnings of large country estate development in Roslyn Harbor. The abundance of open and wooded land and lack of extensive residential development made Roslyn Harbor an ideal location for those seeking to develop a country estate as a retreat from the hectic pace of New York City.
Besides the National Register listed Cedarmere, the settlement period in the history of Roslyn Harbor is represented in the multiple property submission by Willowmere and the Mudge Farmhouse. Willowmere, once the seat of 250-acre farm, is a two-and-one-half story, center hall dwelling with a gambrel roof and five bay main facade. The Michael and Daniel Mudge Farmhouse, originally located on a much smaller farm, is a one-and-one-half story, center hall dwelling with end chimneys, a five-bay main facade, and a lean-to profile. Both houses are typical of the architectural styles found in the area during this period.
Willowmere and Cedarmere were redeveloped and reinterpreted during the estate period. To some extent the Mudge Farmhouse could also be included in this group as it was purchased in 1868 by William Cullen Bryant for use on his estate. The transformation of these farmhouses was done in such a way that the architects attempted to evoke the scale and massing of the original house while adding contemporary trends in architectural design associated with estate living, such as open porches with scenic views, larger rooms for entertaining, guest quarters, expanded kitchen facilities, servants' quarters, and extensive landscaping of the properties.
Estate Development in Roslyn Harbor, 1830-1930
Hempstead Harbor (Roslyn) consisted of only a few scattered farms, one or two grist mills, and several of buildings associated with the landing for much of its first 100 years. Throughout the 18th century and well into the 19th century the area that is now the village of Roslyn Harbor was a stretch of farmland dominated by a few large farms between the port villages of Roslyn to the south and Glenwood Landing to the north. According to Henry Western Eastman's history of Roslyn, which appeared as installments in the Roslyn News in 1879, "... the only dwelling houses along the east side of the harbor were the Kirk farmhouse, the Pearsall house, the Mudge farmhouse, and a small tenant house built for a laborer. (Roslyn Landmark Society, 1990).
The transformation of Roslyn Harbor from an agricultural region to an area almost exclusively taken up by large estates occurred gradually from the 1830s to 1930, when the last large agricultural tract was developed into an estate. During this period, many area farmhouses and their corresponding farmland began to be transformed into large country estates.
In order to understand the transition of Roslyn Harbor's rural landscape into large estates one must examine the larger context of estate development that was taking place in America during the period. Essential to this theme is the fact that during the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century an extraordinary number of Americans had amassed significant fortunes. These fortunes were amassed during a period of great industrial expansion in railroads, banking, oil, mining and other industries. These newly rich Americans sought to acquire, through the building of great estates, tangible expressions of affluence that would both symbolize and celebrate their new wealth. Their display of wealth was a means of reinforcing if not establishing social position.
During this period New York City emerged as the nation's business and commercial capital. As a major financial center, the city attracted business leaders, industrialists, and other professionals and thus contributed to the wealth of a large proportion of these affluent estate builders. It may be argued that nowhere was the impact of estate development greater during this period than on Long Island, where hundreds of estates were built during this relatively short period.
The roots of this phenomenon on Long Island may be traced to an earlier recreational trend, that of tourism, which grew in popularity among the middle and upper classes well before the Civil War. The increase of tourism was in part caused by the expansion of the railroad and improvements in other modes of transportation such as the steamship. The value of waterfront property had already been discovered by this earlier generation, many of whom had sufficient means and time to enjoy Long Island's extensive and varied coastline.
Before the second half of the 19th century, much of the north shore of Long Island contained farms, large tracts of undeveloped land, and scattered small villages. With the opening of the Long Island Rail Road branches to Roslyn in 1860, Glen Cove in 1865, Port Washington in 1898, and Oyster Bay in 1889, these scenic villages and seashores were made easily available to the tourist (Sobin p. 28). The Long Island Rail Road also helped to encourage suburban development by publishing slick brochures about the communities of Long Island. These publications advertised the scenic and bucolic nature of the towns and also emphasized the anti-urban nature of Long Island.
After the 1830s, numerous hotels, boarding houses, and picnic grounds began to dot the north and south shores of Long Island, and by the middle of the century, more permanent summer cottages and larger summer residences were built to accommodate the seasonal influx. The architecture of summer houses changed to keep pace with the ambition, tastes, and growing affluence of their owners as the century progressed, and the country houses in this multiple property submission reflect the trend toward more extensive estates with amenities such as formal gardens, large rooms for entertaining, and facilities oriented toward the water, such as open porches and sloping lawns.
With the exception of small widely scattered farming and fishing villages, Long Island had remained primarily rural up to the mid-19th century and was therefore especially suitable for estate development. The North Shore had never been a prime area for farming because of its hilly terrain and rocky soil. Even by the late-19th century, areas of virgin woodlands remained on the North Shore.
Although poor for farming, the North Shore's rugged quality provided a picturesque topography that appealed to the 19th century sensibility of trying to escape the aggressive urbanization of the cities by building rural retreats. The North Shore's landscape was attractive to those seeking to build complete estates and the irregular topography meant that each estate would in some way be unique. The terrain was also desirable for the development of golf courses and bridal paths and for hunting. In addition, protected harbors and bays were perfect for estate owners who were yachtsmen and sports fishermen as they offered access to the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
During the last quarter of the 19th century the well-to-do began to look at the North Shore as a locale for estate settings. By the end of the 19th century, the shoreline of the North Shore had been transformed into the so-called "Gold Coast" (as the estate areas of the North Shore came to be called). Although the Gold Coast had its beginnings in the late 1800s, the largest period of estate building was during the period of 1905 to 1915 (Sobin p. 35). By 1920, more than 600 estates had been developed on the North Shore. Most of these were more than 50 acres in size and at least 150 of them had more than 100 acres (Sobin p. 40). Edward Smits describes the estate phenomenon:
The magnificent estates were a world of their own, of European splendor, rural Long Island quietude and a life of leisure. At their height in 1930 they occupied a sizable portion of the land in the towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay and retained a completely rural atmosphere in this area despite a great decrease in farming. (Smits 1974).
In the late 1830s, steamboats began to make regular trips from New York City to Hempstead Harbor. As a result, the Roslyn area became accessible and its scenic shoreline and wooded hills attracted many visitors. The best picture of Roslyn Harbor during this period is provided by the 1837 U. S. Coast Guard survey map of Hempstead Harbor. The map clearly shows the roads, buildings, lots, farmland, and woodland in the area. The only roads shown in the Roslyn Harbor vicinity are the present Bryant Avenue and Motts Cove Road. Eight residences are shown on Bryant Avenue along the shore and one small farm is on Motts Cove Road. The land to either side of Motts Cove Road is field and pasture and much of the remainder is woodland.
The transformation of the shore of Roslyn Harbor from an agricultural landscape to a site for country estates began as early as 1834 when Joseph W. Moulton, a New York lawyer, author, and historian, purchased 18 acres of the former Richard Kirk farm from the Hicks family, well-known early settlers in the Roslyn area. His purchase included the farmhouse, which Moulton intended to use as a part-time residence. Moulton expanded his estate in 1836 when he bought two more parcels from the Hicks family, bringing his holdings to about 40 acres, nearly half of the original Kirk farm. Moulton improved his property by building gardens and an orchard.
In an effort to capitalize on the scenic attraction of the area and the usefulness of the steamboat as a fast link to New York City, Moulton and William Hicks conceived the plan for a large real estate development in the southern portion of present-day Roslyn Harbor. They planned to subdivide their joint property into lots of 25 feet by 100 feet, laid out along streets of a town plat. As a result of the 1837 financial panic, the development was never built (RLS TG 1990 p. 353-54). Indirectly, this well advertised subdivision, which promoted the scenic qualities of the area, may have attracted William Cullen Bryant to Roslyn Harbor.
William Cullen Bryant, renowned American poet and editor/half-owner of the New York Evening Post, was a friend of Joseph Moulton. Bryant purchased 40 acres from Moulton, including the Kirk farmhouse, and established his estate there in 1843. Bryant completed Moulton's transformation of the Kirk farmhouse and farm from a working farm into a summer retreat, altering the house and grounds and naming the estate Cedarmere.
Bryant's influence spread beyond Cedarmere as he built and remodeled other houses on his estate, bringing a variety of architectural styles and designs by well known architects and artists such as Frederick S. Copley, Frederick Law Olmsted, Clavert Vaux, and Andrew Jackson Downing to Roslyn Harbor. Bryant continued to enlarge and improve his estate, purchasing more land and constructing additional buildings from 1843 to his death in 1878. His family and descendents continued to live in the area, maintaining and improving a number of Roslyn Harbor's houses.
In addition to the National Register-listed Cedarmere, and the previously discussed Daniel and Michael Mudge Farmhouse, three other properties directly or indirectly associated with Bryant still exist in Roslyn Harbor --one is included in the multiple property submission and the other two may be included at a later date.
The first is the Stone House, built at the northeast corner of Bryant's estate in 1871 for use as a guest cottage. This was the last building that Bryant had constructed on his estate. Ownership of the house passed to Bryant's daughter Fanny Godwin, upon his death in 1878. The Stone House subsequently became a part of Godwin's Montrose estate. It remained in the Godwin family until 1955, when the estate was subdivided. Today, the Stone House sits on a one-acre lot screened from modern in-fill by a tree border. The architect of this Second Empire dwelling is not known. The Stone House is the only example of the Second Empire style in Roslyn Harbor. It is not included in the multiple property submission at this time but may be included at a later date.
The second property associated with Bryant, also nor included in the present submission, is the former Hicks residence, known as Montrose. Montrose was built c. 1834 by William Hicks, Hempstead Postmaster and owner of a sawmill. Hicks had previously owned the Kirk farmhouse, which he sold to Joseph W. Moulton in 1834. Hicks was one of the most important figures in the development of Roslyn Harbor. In addition to his unfulfilled development scheme with Joseph W. Moulton, he ran a sawmill, lumber yard, and a store, and was the founder of a steamboat line between Hempstead Harbor and New York City. He was appointed Overseer of Highways for the district on the east side of the harbor in 1830.
Musqueto Cove Road, the forerunner of Bryant Avenue, was laid out during Hicks tenure as Overseer. In 1837, Hicks sold Montrose to two businessmen from New York City, James Evans and George Derick, who operated it as the Montrose Hotel, in association with the nearby steamboat docks owned by Hicks. In 1852, Bryant purchased Montrose and four acres of property located on the east side of Bryant Avenue across from Cedarmere for his daughter Fanny and her husband Parke Godwin. In 1869, the Godwins hired the prominent New York City architectural firm of Vaux, Withers and Company to renovate the two-and-one-half story late Federal-style house, enlarging it and outfitting it with Victorian details.
Montrose is an example of Calvert Vaux's ideas (which were published in his 1864 book Villas and Cottages) on renovating older farmhouses to bring them up-to-date in style and convenience. Vaux was one of the most prominent architects of his time and the author of a number of books on various architectural subjects. The drawings and elevations of Montrose survive and bear the imprint of Vaux, Withers, and Company, 110 Broadway, New York (RLS TG 1990: 490).
Montrose, which had grown from its original four acres to include over fifty acres, included much of the land that had belonged to William Cullen Bryant. Montrose was renamed Clovercraft sometime after 1898 when it was deeded to Parke and Fanny Godwin's daughter Minna. It remained in the hands of the Godwin family until 1955 when the property was subdivided into 38 building lots.
The third property associated with Bryant is Springbank, which is closely associated with the history of Montrose and adjacent to the present Montrose property. Like Montrose, Springbank is likely a Federal period house that was near what was built as the core of Montrose by William Hicks in 1834. William Cullen Bryant acquired Springbank in 1868 and the house was later moved to the northwest corner of the Montrose property sometime between 1876 and 1894. It was likely a secondary residence on Bryant and his daughter's estate. Also, the house was remodeled with eclectic Victorian period elements including deep eaves and a front porch.
It was purchased by its present owners in 1956. Springbank is included in this multiple property submission.
At the same time that William Cullen Bryant was transforming the southern half of the shoreline of Roslyn Harbor into a rural retreat with picturesque architecture and landscaping, the northern half of the shore was also changing from farms to country estates. The 250-acre Pearsall farm was subdivided and sold between 1837 and 1839. The Pearsall farmhouse (Willowmere) was purchased in 1839 by Mr. and Mrs. William Cairns who used the house and the surrounding 20 acres as a country estate. The Cairns called their house Clifton, but it was later renamed Willowmere by their daughter. A lithograph of the property appears in Thompson's History of Long Island (2nd Ed., 1843).
There are two other dwellings in Roslyn Harbor that are associated with the Cairns family as well as the period of estate development: Clifton (individual component) and Locust Knoll (not included in this multiple property submission).
Clifton, a Flemish Revival cottage with Gothic Revival detailing designed by New York City architect/artist Frederick S. Copley, was built c. 1862-63 on the shore just north of Cedarmere and south of Willowmere. Mrs. cairns had the house designed by Copley, a protege of Bryant, as the third parcel of a bequest to her three granddaughters. A sketch and plans of the house were published in Woodward's Country Homes (1865). The architect is identified as Frederick S. Copley, Artist, Tompkinsville, Staten Island. The entire section of the book was reprinted in the Roslyn Landmark Society Annual House Tour Guide for 1988, pages 673-676.
Blanche Willis, granddaughter of Mrs. Cairns, and her husband Lt. William Helmsley Emory, took possession of the house in 1876 and named it Clifton, after her grandmother's house (now Willowmere). In 1917 it was sold to John M. Demarest, a successful real estate developer who renamed the house Sycamore Lodge. During his ownership the Boston firm of Olmsted Associates completed extensive landscaping of the property.
A conflicting story has Clifton being designed by Copley for William Cullen Bryant. The basis for this story is that Copley had designed a cottage on Bryant's estate (Cedarmere) in 1862, which borders Clifton to the south. Also, a 1873 Beers Atlas identifies the occupant of this house as George Cline, the superintendent of Bryant's estate from about 1855 into the 1870s. The validity of this story is somewhat in question given the records available detailing the rental and succession of ownership of Clifton by members of the Cairn family. It is more probable that the house was not associated with Bryant's estate and that Cline rented the house from the Cairn family.
The other property in Roslyn Harbor that is associated with the Cairns family is Locust Knoll. This Gothic Revival residence was built in 1854 by the Cairns' for their daughter Ellen Eliza and her husband Robert Stuart, Jr. A fire during the construction of the house forced its rebuilding in 1855. The Stuarts named the house Locust Knoll and it retained that name until 1948 when it was renamed Mayknoll. Robert Stuart, Jr. died in 1863 and three years later his widow married Elijah Ward, the uncle of Aaron Ward of Willowmere. Elijah Ward, a lawyer, was Judge Advocate General of New York State and served several intermittent terms in Congress. He died in Roslyn in 1882. His wife, Ellen Eliza died in 1893 and, in 1895, her three children donated the Ellen E. Ward Memorial Clock Tower (National Register listed) to the Village of Roslyn.' Locust Knoll changed hands a number of times until 1923 when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Schwerin. Mr. Schwerin was Roslyn Harbor's first mayor after its incorporation in 1931. Locust Knoll may be nominated as an individual component in the multiple property submission at a later date.
There is one other property of major significance in Roslyn Harbor dating from the 19th century and related to the development of summer homes and large estates. Known as the Thomas Clapham Estate, or Wenlo-on-the-Bay, the main house was designed in 1868 by Jacob Wrey Mould in the Victorian Gothic style for an eccentric yacht designer. Although the main house and some of its outbuildings survive, the house has been altered numerous times and the estate has been subdivided into suburban lots, so it lacks sufficient integrity to be included in its entirety in the multiple property submission; however, some of the secondary buildings on the property may be determined to meet the registration requirements and may be included at a later date.
During the early 20th century additional estates were established in Roslyn Harbor. One of these is included in the multiple property submission, one has previously been listed on the National Register, and two are not included in the submission. This submission includes the Jacobethan style Greenridge, built in 1916. Previously listed is the Neoclassical Clayton Estate, built in 1900. Not included in the multiple property submission but likely to be nominated at a later date are: the Georgian Revival Henry Tailer Estate, built c. 1900-06; and the Georgian Revival Percy Pyne House, built 1926-27.
About 1900, Lloyd Stephens Bryce developed the 150-acre Clayton estate on land acquired from the Cedarmere estate. Bryce's Neoclassical style main residence was designed by Ogden Codman, Jr. Clayton was previously listed on the National Register as part of the Cedarmere-Clayton estate nomination. It remains the largest estate property in Roslyn Harbor although it is now in public ownership.
Henry Tailer purchased four acres of the southern portion of the Clapham Estate in 1900 and an additional adjoining four acres to develop his estate. Little is known of Tailer except that he is listed in the 1906 Belcher-Hyde Atlas of Nassau County as the owner of the property. Tailer built a large frame Georgian Revival residence on his property between 1900 and 1906. A subsequent owner of the property, a Mr. Bradley, built two large brick Georgian Revival gatehouses on the property.
Arthur Williams, a power company executive, built a large brick Jacobethan style dwelling, which he named Greenridge, on a 14-acre property on Bryant Avenue in 1916. The design of the house is attributed to architect Harold Victor Hartman. Williams lived in the house for a brief four years, selling it in 1920 and building a larger house just north of the north boundary of Roslyn Harbor, in the village of Glenwood Landing.
In 1926, Percy Pyne bought the last large tract of farmland still available in Roslyn Harbor and developed a 90-acre estate that was likely completed in 1930. He commissioned the New York architectural firm of Cross & Cross to design a large Georgian Revival main residence, gatehouse, poolhouse, and gazebo. Pyne also employed noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to design the extensive landscaping of his property. In 1945 the Percy Pyne Estate was subdivided for suburban development and the estate retains six acres. The large and small estates that had been established in Roslyn Harbor by
1930 remained intact throughout the first half of the 20th century. The estates represent the work of such prominent New York architects as Vaux, Withers and Co., Frederick S. Copley, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. These known architects employed to design the Roslyn Harbor estates were prominent in their profession both here and in other locations.
The Village of Roslyn Harbor was incorporated in 1931 at the same time that the adjacent Village of Roslyn was incorporated. The owners of the estates in Roslyn Harbor established a separate village as they felt their needs were different from those of the inhabitants of the more densely populated Village of Roslyn.
The incorporation of "estate" villages was another phenomenon that occurred throughout the North Shore during the period 1911-1932. The term 'Golf Club Villages" was used to describe a village that came into existence through the efforts of the estate owners. It was not a village in the general sense, but rather legal in nature. Most had no stores, industries or other commercial endeavors. Most were comprised of several large estates and often a golf or country club.
The majority of estate villages were incorporated during the early 1920s and 1930s when local towns were creating special districts for water, light and garbage removal -many services that the estates did not use or need but would have been obligated to pay for. In addition to avoiding capture into these special districts, there were other advantages to incorporation. This included the fact that town roads in the incorporated area automatically became village roads, so that improvements to them were no longer the decision of the town. By not improving roads, estate villages were able to keep the area as exclusive as possible.
The most important advantage that incorporation gave the estate owners was that the village governments had the power to pass special ordinances and zoning laws to further discourage visitors and restrict development. Local villages were also able to create their own police forces (Sobin: 100). There are 31 incorporated villages within the town of North Hempstead. All of them were incorporated between 1911, when the minimum resident law changed, and 1932, when the state incorporation charter changed.
The era of "estate" incorporation came to an end in 1936, when a new Nassau County charter preserved the rights of villages already incorporated to legislate local zoning laws but denied it to newly incorporated villages. Accordingly, there has not been any incorporation of villages in the town of North Hempstead since 1936.
Roslyn Harbor became incorporated in 1931. New York State law then required that a village have minimum of 50 residents at the time of incorporation. As many owners of the North Shore estates commonly only used their properties during the spring and early fall, maintaining a summer residence in Bar Harbor, Maine or Newport, Rhode Island, and a New York City apartment for winter use, it is possible that they may not have been considered residents under the state residency rules. As a minimum of 50 residents were needed, it could explain why the small-lot residential development centered in the area around Bryant Avenue, Summit Avenue, Church Street, and East Street was included in the limits of the new village. Even though it was not part of an estate area, development there was sparse, and perhaps by incorporating it into the new village of Roslyn Harbor the estate owners were able to meet the residency rule, and also hoped to discourage any future development on their perimeter.
With the coming of the Great Depression and World War 11, the period of estate development in Roslyn Harbor and the rest of the Gold Coast came to an end. Spiraling costs of estate ownership and a reduction of the available labor force for estate workers due to industrial development on Long Island both helped to end the era of the great estates. Additional expenses in the form of operating costs, such as heating and maintenance of the estate buildings, also led to the demise of many of the great estates. Rising property, income and inheritance taxes were additional factors that made operation of a large estate a very costly endeavor. The value of real estate on Long Island also increased during the 1940s and 1950s, making the sale and subdivision of a large estate a lucrative proposition.
This period saw the transformation of Roslyn Harbor from an area of a few large estates into a suburban residential community. Although all of the estates included in the nomination have been subdivided, some of the properties include outbuildings, often on separate lots which still contribute to the setting and integrity of the main residence. Only the Cedarmere and Clayton Estates, purchased by Nassau County in 1969, remain relatively intact.
Small-lot Residential Development in Roslyn Harbor, 1850-1890
The neighboring village of Roslyn to the south of Roslyn Harbor had port facilities and was developing as a commercial center of the region. During the first half of the 19th century a few residences connected with economic life of Roslyn were built in the countryside to the north along Bryant Avenue, now a part of Roslyn Harbor. Two residences that were built during this period are in the Summit Avenue Historic District, a proposed component of the multiple property submission that may be nominated at a later date. One is a vernacular Greek Revival dwelling and the other is a vernacular dwelling with a combination of Greek Revival and Victorian details. Both houses were built for ship captains based in Roslyn.
A larger development of modest residences occurred at the southern edge of the shoreline of Roslyn Harbor, bordering the village of Roslyn, during the late 19th century. Twenty-seven small building lots were laid out c. 1873 along Bryant Avenue, Summit Avenue, Church Street, and East Street. Seven modest Victorian cottages were built on the lots between 1873 and 1890, which form the core of the Summit Avenue Historic District. The focal point of the district is the Victorian Gothic brick and stone St. Mary's Church, built 1871-78.
The Stephen and Charles Smith House (individual component) located at 405 Bryant Avenue, to the north of the Summit Avenue Historic District, is also related to the period of Roslyn village's economic expansion. The house was constructed c. 1860 on land that was originally part of the Nathaniel Pearsall land grant. The property was acquired by William Hicks in 1828. Hicks sold the land to Stephen Smith in 1850. It was during the ownership of Smith that the house was constructed.
Associated Property Types
The Roslyn Harbor Multiple Property Submission includes two property types: Roslyn Harbor Estates, 1830-1930; and Small Residential Properties, 1850-1890.
Roslyn Harbor Estates, 1830-1930
The property type, Roslyn Harbor Estates, 1830-1930, is the primary property type in the Village of Roslyn Harbor and in this multiple property submission. Five properties of this type are included in the submission. Three of them were actually built prior to the development of the Roslyn Harbor estates, including two that are settlement period houses; however, each of these earlier dwellings became identified with one of the large estates and each was also altered in some way during the period or estate development.
The period within which the estate type developed is defined as 1830-1930, the century during which Roslyn Harbor became the focus of wealthy New York City businessmen and their families seeking an area in which to develop country estates. Six properties included under this property type were developed as estates during this period and have not been significantly altered since 1930. The estates themselves fall into two categories: (1) 18th and 19th century residences that were enlarged, altered, reinterpreted, and/or redesigned for use as estate dwellings during the period of significance; and (2) new buildings designed and constructed specifically as estate houses during the period of significance. Much of the historic landscape, intact from the estate period, also reflects aspects of both periods of development. Some of the woodlands, originally belonging to the three large 18th-century farms in the area, survive within the settings of the estates.
The architectural styles of the Roslyn Harbor estates differ, but they have similarities in scale, siting, and plan. They also represent a shared aesthetic sense among the wealthy urban businessmen for whom they were built. A variety of Victorian and eclectic styles are represented in the estates, including Flemish Gothic, Gothic Revival, French Chateau and Jacobethan, as well as the earlier Federal period and Greek Revival styles.
Almost all of the estate properties enjoy a consistent geographic relationship to Hempstead Harbor. All are located on fairly large tracts of land, although greatly reduced from their original acreage, along or within view of the harbor. Each estate house is oriented towards the water to enhance the scenic vistas. The historic rural character of the harbor is preserved by the survival of narrow winding roads, long access drives, woodlands and rolling hills. Original estate parcels ranged in size from 14 to 150 acres. Typically, each estate was located along the harbor or between the harbor and the primary north-south road now known as Bryant Avenue. The estates, for the most part, have been subdivided and no longer retain the extensive holdings that were typical during the period of significance; however, all of the estates retain the important characteristics of location and setting that define their type, including a secluded and somewhat expansive rural and naturalistic landscape, access from the primary road, and waterfront orientation.
Greenridge, the property dating from the period 1900-1930, has a somewhat different orientation than the earlier estates. By 1900, most of the large tracts of land had been purchased for earlier estate development, so the later estates tend to be somewhat smaller in terms of original acreage.
The Roslyn Harbor estates can be considered a distinctive subset within the broad regional estate type prevalent on Long Island during the period 1830-1930. Like other Long Island estates, the Roslyn Harbor estates are characterized by large parcels of land, large main houses, orientation to water and scenic vistas, large rooms for entertaining, porches, support buildings, secluded settings, formal or naturalistic landscaping, as well as pre-existing farmsteads from the parcels that combined to make the estates.
Whereas many of the dwellings from earlier periods were built by local carpenters using pattern books, or designed by architect-builders who had little formal training, the wealthy owners of the Roslyn Harbor estates employed architects with formal training to design their properties. Many of the architects have yet to be identified for the Roslyn Harbor estates; however, those that have been identified include those prominent in their field, including Calvert Vaux, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Frederick S. Copley.
The estate residences were situated on extensive properties, some distance from the village of Roslyn. They remain on relatively large parcels and share a similarity in siting with spectacular views of Hempstead Harbor as well as a similarity in scale. All are of a considerable size in comparison to other dwellings of the period. The designs of the residences utilize the forms, materials, details and general concepts of massing from their respective styles. The houses are also characterized by large interior spaces and open floor plans. There is usually a direct relationship between the interior and the exterior in the use of terraces, verandas, and porches extending from the living areas. Additionally, the landscape was an essential component of an estate, with the properties originally being developed with picturesque vistas of the harbor, formal gardens, and natural areas. Although all of the estates have been subdivided, they retain sufficient landscape features that recall their estate settings.
Some residences within this property type remain on estates of considerable size which feature dependencies such as garages, stables, boathouses , and carriage houses.
The Roslyn Harbor estates are significant under Criterion A in the areas of recreation and community planning and development for their association with the theme of estate development in Roslyn Harbor during the period 1830-1930, one of the most important periods of Long Island's history and development.
In terms of recreation, the estates, which were developed by wealthy families as second homes, are significant in representing the period when Long Island coastal areas, which had begun to be populated with resort hotels in the 1830s) was developed with large private seasonal estates by wealthy New Yorkers looking for weekend and summer retreats from urban life and opportunities for a multitude of recreational pursuits such as swimming, sailing, and tennis. With the increase in prosperity, position, and class awareness in upper class New York society after the Civil War, the development of large private seasonal estates in the New York metropolitan area, such as Roslyn Harbor, became more common.
The estates are also significant under Criterion C in the area of architecture as distinctive intact examples of Long Island estates of the period, as representative examples of a variety of popular American architectural styles, and for the ideas about preserving, reinterpreting, and enhancing the surviving 18th-century cultural and physical landscape that are embodied in the designs of estate buildings and their placement within a traditional landscape. Each of the six estate properties embody the distinctive characteristics of the Long Island estate type, including a large somewhat secluded parcel, a landscaped setting, a large main residence designed to accommodate entertaining and leisure time activities (including features such as porches, views of the harbor, and grounds for walking, riding or hunting), and secondary support buildings. In addition, the estates embody the distinctive characteristics of their respective styles including late Federal, French Chateau, Colonial Revival, Flemish Revival, Gothic Revival, Jacobethan, Second Empire, and vernacular settlement period architecture.
The Stone House, Montrose, and Springbank are historically significant for their architecture, for their association with William Cullen Bryant and his family, and as for their place in the early period of large estate development in Roslyn Harbor. Neither Stone House or Montrose are included in this multiple property submission but may be submitted at a later date.
Small Residential Properties, 1850-1890
This property type may be defined simply as modest residences, mostly frame, that were built on small lots in what later became the Village of Roslyn Harbor between 1850 and 1890. Most of these properties are located within the proposed Summit Avenue Historic District, although a few are scattered throughout the village. They range from vernacular Greek Revival to vernacular Italianate and Victorian in style. The lots on which they are situated are uniformly small, although the houses are all free-standing. All of the houses are set back somewhat from the street. One property that is related to this small-scale residential development but is religious in nature is St. Mary's Church, a unique building in the village in that it is the only institutional building in the village that is more than 50 years old. It may be nominated at a later date.
The small residential properties in Roslyn Harbor are significant ... for their association with the theme of small-scale residential development, second only to estate development as the defining themes in the history of the Village of Roslyn Harbor. This small-scale residential development reflects the proximity of the commercial village of Roslyn and the almost accidental development of a very small number of middle-class residential properties in Rosyln Harbor after 1850. The small residential properties area also significant ... in the area of architecture as representative examples of their period and style.
In order to qualify for nomination, small-scale residential buildings of the period 1850 to 1890 must retain a high level of integrity to their date of construction and be representative examples of vernacular Greek Revival, Italianate, or Victorian style architecture.
Major Bibliographical References
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