Caumsett Walled Garden
Article: Dorothea L. Cappadona
Photographs: John F. Barone
Welcome To The Garden...
The Walled Garden or "Gillies Garden", as it was known from the 1920's to the 1950's; is a four acre site located near the current parking lot of Caumsett State Historic Park. Originally planted as a vegetable and cutting garden in 1922, it was a section of the original "Caumsett", built in the tradition of an English country estate by Marshall Field III.
The farm section (which included the current parking lot) was opposite the dairy barn complex. Included in the farm section was the walled garden and the greenhouses. Since the estate was largely self-sufficient, the fruits and vegetables grown in the walled garden were used in the Mansion and were offered to selected estate managers.
The remainder of the crop was sold in town. Flowers were also cut for use on the estate and to be shown in various horticultural shows in the New York metropolitan area. Many of the flowers were prized specimens or estate hybrid varieties. Some of the estate workers' families remember the delicious cherries that grew in the area surrounding the walled garden.
After the Field family left the estate to the New York State Parks Department, the walled garden fell into disrepair and the greenhouses were neglected. Visitors to the park could not enjoy the area and the greenhouses were (and still are) closed to the public for safety reasons.
In the year 2000 help came along when the Caumsett Foundation decided to take on the restoration of the walled garden, and return it in all its' glory to public use.
Since the cost of restoration was high, the Foundation adopted the plan of a landscape architect based on four quadrants, and planned a benefit to raise the needed money. The benefit "Beyond the Garden Wall" raised money for the restoration of the original quadrant. The Foundation also budgeted $ 35,000 for clearing the growth, laying out the alleys, installing an underground sprinkler system and preparing the garden for future plantings.
Cathy Jansen was the chairman of the Caumsett Foundation Garden Committee at the time. She was instrumental in ensuring the success of the project. Credit must also go to Mr. John Norbeck, Director of Planting Fields Arboretum at the time (Mr. Norbeck is now the Long Island Regional Parks Director). He was extremely helpful in obtaining prize specimen material to be planted. The staff at Caumsett have provided the labor for the bed preparation and installation of all the plant materials in the quadrants. The statues in the 3 planted quadrants are original from the estate and are displayed to accent the beauty of the plantings. Lloyd Harbor Village official Paula Rice and the staff from Planting Fields were also wonderful resources.
From the public sector, one family donated matching funds for the completion of the garden as a memorial to some close family friends. Benches in the garden are inscribed with their names. The remaining quadrants are in the process of being completed at this time. Work should be completed in the Fall of 2003. We can hardly wait!
In the summer of 2002, the Parks Department began sponsoring plays in the Walled Garden. In both 2002 and 2003, the Department sponsored Shakespearean plays. For Easter 2003, the Caumsett Foundation sponsored an Easter Egg Hunt to families with children under 10 years of age. The eggs were hidden in different quadrants of the garden for the differing age groups. Also, Summer 2003 brought "The Sound Of Music", a Plaza Playhouse production.
All of these wonderful events were present to the public at no charge!
People enjoy the outdoor performances, the picnic atmosphere, and the zero admission fees, (although it is important to note that in the future some events may take place during collection times for parking).
The garden has begun its revival! Thanks in part to the Caumsett Foundation and State workers like Mike Scheuring (above left) and Jim Hoell (above right). In its' new life it is the hope of the Caumsett Foundation that the garden be used for pleasurable, public events, as opposed to its original use as a fruit, vegetable and cutting garden.
So why a Walled Garden in the first place?
Was it to keep deer out of the garden?
Well not really; there were no deer in Lloyd Neck when it was an estate.
However, there were cows right across the way...Mooooooo!
If you would like to read more about Caumsett's history...click here!