Long Island Mansions Guide

My unofficial guide to fine country house living.


Location: Great River

Built: 1887

Built for: William Bayard Cutting

Architect: Charles C. Haight

Rooms: 68

Acres: 931

Guided Tours: Yes

Now known as the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, Westbrook is a great place to spend the day on the South Shore. It was bulilt for William Bayard Cutting and completed in 1886. There are hundreds of acres of walking trails and plenty of benches to stop for a break and take in the scenery.  I love the benches. Places should have more of them.  The estate originally was more than 900 acres. It's now about a more manageable 600.

Here you will find a rambling Queen Anne manor house with many porches to take in the ocean breeze and views of the lawn sweeping down to the Connetquot River. There are limited tours of the house. Usually just done on Sundays in cooler weather. The house is however open to the public. And it is stunning. The main hall with all the dark carved wood, which is over 500 years old and still looks perfect, massive fireplace and stained glass windows are highlights. You can also view a few other rooms including the dining room, where you will always find an apple on the table, and library that have been well preserved. Also check out the restored breakfast room with it's horseshoe shaped table. Horseshoe shaped so everyone has a view out the windows across the great lawn towards the Connetquot River. A pleasant surprise is the Hidden Oak Cafe, which was once the living room, where you can grab something to eat and then go relax on the porch. The Cafe is open all year.

The grounds here don't contain any formal gardens. Instead this is a more naturalistic landscaping. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, there are many items of interest to see. A huge (I mean huge) Beech tree sits on the main lawn. Take a stroll inside the tree and they have added benches and a wooden deck. Yes, this is all inside the tree. The branches come down to the ground and surround you to create a private room. Did I mention that this tree is huge? You can then walk down the water to take in views of the Connetquot River. There is a path that seems to go on forever all along the river. You can also check out the carriage house, Pinetum and Oak Park. A walk to the old cow meadow is where you will find the Dahlia Garden. If you walk North along the River Walk, you can see Idle Hour, the William Kissam Vanderbilt estate (now Dowling College) across the water. The estate also contained a golf course at one time.

Mansion tours are given in the spring and fall on Sunday afternoons. There are none in the summer because of the heat. The tour is definitely worth it. It is very informative and detailed. It's a fairly lengthy tour that takes you through the main floor, 2nd floor and even servants quarters. Rumor has it it that there might be a spirit or two haunting the place. I don't blame them. I wouldn't want to leave either.





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