By Lorna Luniewski
Arboretum: A place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes (Webster’s Dictionary). And while this may describe Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, it is so much more than that.
William Bayard Cutting (1850-1912) was a member of New York’s merchant aristocracy, an attorney, financier, real estate developer, sugar beet refiner and philanthropist. He purchased the property in 1881, and enlisted famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds, and the renowned Charles C. Haight to design the 68-room mansion named Westbrook, built in 1886, which became the family’s country home. Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, as a historic district.
According to the website, The Bayard Cutting Arboretum was donated to the Long Island State Park Region by Mrs. William Bayard Cutting and her daughter, Mrs. Olivia James, in memory of William Bayard Cutting, “to provide an oasis of beauty and quiet for the pleasure, rest and refreshment of those who delight in outdoor beauty; and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting.”
Remaining true to that mission, the 691-acre park does not allow biking, picnicking, sports, bathing or games. But there is still plenty to do at this beautiful place described as a “passive park” on the website.
Located on the Connetquot River, visitors can stroll along the River Walk; visit the Woodland Garden or the Westbrook Walled Garden; see the thousands of daffodil blooms on the Great Lawn in springtime, as well as the 125-year-old European Weeping Beech; or walk to Paradise Island, a wildlife sanctuary and natural Long Island pine forest where you may be lucky enough to see a bald eagle. In addition to viewing the woodland trees, some of them planted by Cutting himself, the park is home to much wildlife including ducks, turtles, red fox and migrating birds. Free guided grounds tours are offered every Saturday at 11 a.m., in spring, summer and fall.
Tours of the Manor House ($12) are offered seasonally, Thursday-Sunday at 1 p.m., and include the living spaces both upstairs and downstairs. It is decorated in the style of the times, and historical photos show that Westbrook was once a well known dairy farm that sold glass-bottled milk in local markets (parks.ny.gov). The home includes stained-glass windows and a fireplace in the breakfast room by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Attic House tours ($10) are also available, weather permitting, on Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m. All tours are scheduled in advance for a limited number of people on a first-come, firstserved basis. For private tours of 10 or more, call 631-581-1002.
During December, holiday house tours ($15) are offered; and evening tours ($20) are led by the servants of Westbrook, with dessert and beverages served following the tour. Reservations are required.
The Hidden Oak Cafe (opens at 11 a.m.) is located inside the manor house, with views overlooking the Great Lawn and the Connetquot River. In addition to sandwiches, quiche, soups, pies and other desserts, a Victorian Tea serves up finger sandwiches, scones and pots of tea. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance for tea. For details, call 631-277-3895.
The Bayard Cutting Arboretum Farm was established in 2012, and is located next to a barn that was used by the Cutting family for their herd of Jersey milking cows. The Bayard Cutting Arboretum Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is made up of members who share in the costs and responsibilities of running a farm and who receive in return a share in the harvest. Part of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum CSA’s mission is to grow high quality, organic produce for its members using sustainable practices that protect the soil and water (bayardcuttingarboretum.com).
School field trips, for children in grades two through five, include a tour of one of the Arboretum trails, the Westbrook Manor and the CSA Farm, all presented by educators and docents. For information, call 631-581-1002 or email Karen Valdini at email@example.com.
A variety of art workshops, including painting, sculpture, metal-sculpting, mosaics, and more, are offered by local working professionals; and the Annex hosts several art exhibits throughout the year. The next exhibit, “Realism in Watercolor,” features original watercolors by Carlina Valenti, from June 10-July 7, Thursdays-Sundays, from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
The Bayard Cutting Arboretum Horticultural Society (BCAHS) has regular meetings in the upper carriage house at the Arboretum. According to the website, it promotes sound gardening methods, preservation of the environment and appreciation of the Arboretum and Long Island, through education programs, lectures, meetings, newsletters, plant sales and collaboration with other horticultural and environmental organizations. For details, visit www.bcahortsociety.org.
A summer concert series, presented by Islip Arts Council, with support from the National Heritage Trust and NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, begins on July 21, at 2 p.m., with Buddy Merriam. See our Calendar of Events for additional dates throughout the summer.
Located at 440 Montauk Hwy., Great River, Bayard Cutting Arboretum is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. An $8 per vehicle fee is collected from April through the end of November, using automated-pay meters; or you can use your Empire Pass.
For more information on this less than “passive park,” visit www.bayardcuttingarboretum.com or call 631-581-1002.
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