THE BAYARD CUTTING ARBORETUM
Great River, Long Island
The Bayard Cutting Arboretum was donated to the Long Island State Park Commission by Mrs. William Bayard Cutting and her danker daughter, Mrs. Henry James, in memory of William Bayard Cutting, "For the purpose 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."
In 1884 William Bayard Cutting and his brother, Fulton Cutting, the Westbrook purchased the 635 acre estate of George L. Lorillard. The Lorillard Mansion, which was just north of Montauk Highway and west of Connetquot Road was retained by Fulton Cutting.
William Bayard Cutting planned to make his home along the river - a relative wilderness then - now the grounds of' the Arboretum. He was impressed with the slightly rolling ground, the streams and the view. The Cuttings first constructed and lived in the gate lodge that remains at the corner of Montauk Highway and Great River Road. The lodge of English design included a roof thatched in heather imported from Scotland, and replaced from time to time with more material from Scotland. The shortage of shipping space in World War 1 necessitated the installations of shingles.
The Cutting Mansion was completed in 1886 - as shown in the tablet in one of the chimneys. The architect was Charles C. Haight. The porte-cochere and annex were later additions. The design of Westbrook is basically English Naturalistic. To provide landscaping appropriate to the environment and the buildings, the eminent Frederick Law Olmstead was retained.
He was the designer, along with Calvert Vaux, of Central Park in New York City, Niagara Falls Park, Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, and West Point.
The native trees were thinned out to encourage the remaining ones to expand into specimen trees. These were supplemented with trees from all parts of the world.
Up to the time that William Bayard Cutting acquired the estate, all the building activity had been north of Montauk Highway. One exception was the farm residence located near the Railroad overpass - which is still in existence and is the oldest building in the Arboretum.
A fire in 1895 burned many of the farm buildings poultry houses, horse barns, etc. Most large farm buildings during this period were as carefully planned as houses, which is why many of them are still standing. Stanford White was retained to draw the plans for a modern dairy. This dairy, known as Westbrook Farms, was one of the largest and most modern on Long Island. Many of its features for feeding and watering the stock were not innovated elsewhere for quite a few years.
A nine-hole golf course was laid out in 1895 in the former Lorillard estate area north of the highway. This was one of the first private golf courses built in the United States.
Many things connected with the original Cutting Estate have disappeared, such as the tennis courts, the locust bridge, a bowling green, water tower, vegetable and flower gardens, log cabins, dog cemetery and greenhouse. Roads are no longer of hand-swept soil. Each Friday men with birch twig brooms walked backward sweeping a criss-cross pattern onto the natural soil.
For days the only mark might be from the electric car that Mrs. Cutting and Lady James left as they toured the grounds.
The following taken from an article the appeared in a local newspaper in 1891 will give some idea of the beauty that existed during the Cutting ownership:
"There is, however, much for the present day visitor to see and enjoy. The Cutting Mansion is open most of the year.
As one enters the Fire Hall there are magnificent Tiffany Windows. The table and chairs and porter's bench are of Antique English Oak, exquisitely carved. Close inspection will reveal the humor and artistry of the carver.
In the former Library is a beautifully carved fireplace mantel of English Oak. Also a close look at the carved faces around the room, each with a different expression, will be rewarding.
A 14th Century fireplace and mantel from a French Chateau adorns the former dining room. There is carving all around the room and over the doors, and a beautiful tapestry wall covering
can be seen above the cabinets which house a very excellent bird collection. A most exquisite Tiffany insert in the marble wall glows like a jewel in the morning light. There is a double door between the dining room and the library - cherry on the dining room side, and oak on the library side.
The Arboretum can be visited all year round. The old Pinetum should be especially appreciated as the trees there are about at their peak of growth and some are lost to rot and old age each
Year. Before the hurricane (Hurricane Gloria – 1985 Ed.) the Arboretum had 21 of the largest growing of various species of trees growing on Long Island and. During the hurricane between 50 and 60 large trees were uprooted or destroyed and many others damaged, so I presume this number has now been decimated.