Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gardiner's Island

Location:   Gardiner's Island
Year:   1639

Gardiner's Island lies just off the east end of Long Island, nestled comfortably between the North Fork and the South Fork, separated from the far more sheltered Shelter Island by the eponymous Gardiner's Bay. Just over 5 square miles in size, it has been the personal property of the Gardiner family since 1639. 

It is the only United States real estate wherein title derives directly from a land grant by the British monarchy. Gardiner's Island was originally a separate British Colony. The Dutch controlled Manhattan and western Long Island (Brooklyn), while Queens (including Nassau) and Suffolk were in dispute between Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The Colony of New York did not yet exist.

The first Lord of The Manor, Lion Gardiner, was wise. Although he held title from the Crown he respectfully purchased the island from the Native American Montauks as well.   

Gardiner's Island has the largest stand of white oak in the American Northeast. Other trees include swamp maple, wild cherry and birch. Over 1000 acres of the island is made up of virgin forest dating back to pre-Columbian times.

The Gardiners have, throughout their long stewardship, striven to keep the island unspoilt and undeveloped. The island is home to New York State's largest colony of ospreys, and is one of the few locations in the world where ospreys build their nests on the ground, as there are no natural predators of the osprey on the island. The island is a natural stop on the migratory flightway, and thousands of species of birds can be seen there year 'round.

Its structures include the oldest surviving wood-frame structure in New York state, a carpenter's shed built there in 1639. The island is also famous for its windmill, and for the Gardiner Manor House. 

The Gardiner family sided with the Patriots during the American Revolution. As a result, the British used their anchorage in Cherry Harbor to block access to the Forks and to Peconic Bay. They also used the island as a base to interdict shipping in The Race where the Atlantic Ocean meets Long Island Sound.

As a punishment to the Gardiner family, the British burned the Manor House. They left the rest of the island alone; however, during the War of 1812, they again occupied the island, again used it for interdiction, and again burned the Manor House. 

Captain William Kidd, the notorious pirate, buried treasure on Gardiner's Island in 1699. 

Julia Gardiner, born on the island in 1820, became the First Lady of the United States when she became the second  wife of the tenth U.S. President, John Tyler. The couple was married in the White House in 1844. Julia Gardiner Tyler was a New York City Copperhead during the Civil War, and supported the Confederacy, as did her husband, who died in 1862.   She died in Richmond, Virginia in 1889.

The current Gardiner Manor House was built after World War II. 


1 comment:

  1. I wish I could find a picture of the shed, it being the oldest wooden structure and all. :-)