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Cedarmere

Roslyn Harbor, Bryant Avenue (just north of Northern Boulevard)
516-571-8130

Hours: The house is currently closed; the grounds are open daily.
Admission: Free

Cedarmere has been designated a part of the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail.

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HISTORY. Cedarmere, the historic property of prominent 19th-century poet, newspaper editor and civic leader William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), includes the Bryant home and several other structures on a beautiful 7-acre property overlooking Roslyn Harbor.

Cedarmere served as the rural Long Island home of Bryant from 1843 until his death in 1878. Bryant purchased the Cedarmere property as a retreat from the pressures and congestion of the city, so that he could work on his poetry and indulge his love of nature

CedarmereHouse
A view of the main house at Cedarmere, from the pond.

Born in Massachusetts in 1794 to parents whose ancestors traced their history in America to the Mayflower, Bryant was educated at Williams College and studied law at Worthington and Bridgewater, gaining admission to the bar in 1815. Bryant worked as a lawyer in Massachussetts until 1825, when he moved to New York with his wife and began contributing to such literary journals as the North American Review and New York Review. After the New York Review went out of business, Bryant became editor of the New York Evening Post, in 1829, a position he held until his death and from which he pressed his anti-slavery and liberal views, including support for the newly formed Republican Party (of which he was a founder) and the candidacy of Abraham Lincoln.

In February of 1860, Bryant introduced Lincoln to New Yorkers, as the then-presidential aspirant made his famous address before a packed auditorium at Cooper Union in Manhattan. Upon Lincoln’s death, Bryant penned “The Death of Lincoln,” including this verse:

“Thy task is done; the bond are free

We bear thee to an honored grave

Whose Proudest monument shall be

The broken fetters of the slave.”

Bryant, who achieved acclaim as one of America's most original and significant poets, published his first work of poetry when he was 10 and his first book of poetry when he was 14. Later in life, Bryant translated Greek and Latin classics, including The Iliad and The Odyssey. Manhattan's Bryant Park, on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, is named after William Cullen Bryant.

Today, Bryant is scarcely remembered by the general public and even among professional historians may only receive a passing mention, but in his era Bryant was a major American figure in both the arts and politics. In New York, flags were flown at half mast upon his death and crowds at his memorial service in a New York City church spilled out into the street. The great poet Walt Whitman immediately returned to New York from Philadelphia to attend the funeral when he heard of Bryant's death.

"I had known Mr. Bryant over thirty years ago, and he had been markedly kind to me," Whitman wrote of Bryant's death. "Off and on, along that time for years as they pass’d, we met and chatted together. I thought him very sociable in his way, and a man to become attach’d to. We were both walkers, and when I work’d in Brooklyn he several times came over, middle of afternoons, and we took rambles miles long, till dark, out towards Bedford or Flatbush, in company. On these occasions he gave me clear accounts of scenes in Europe — the cities, looks, architecture, art, especially Italy — where he had travel’d a good deal."

CedarmereMill
The Gothic mill at Cedarmere is located alongside the pastoral pond. It is scheduled to undergo renovation in 2010.

THE PROPERTY. The oldest section of Cedarmere was constructed in 1787 by Richard Kirk, a Quaker farmer. Bryant greatly enlarged the original farmhouse, renovating it several times. He also planted numerous exotic trees and flowers on the grounds, tranforming the estate into a horticultural showplace.

"To understand Mr. Bryant's inmost poetic life," The New York Times wrote upon his death with a reference to Cedarmere, "one should have visited him on a Summer's day in the old-time mansion, smothered in forest trees and vines planted by his own loving hand, near the pretty village of Roslyn, on Long Island."

Following Bryant's death, Cedarmere was occupied by his daughter, Julia, and his grandson, Harold Godwin. Godwin ultimately added such features as a stone bridge and sunken garden to the landscape. He also rebuilt the house following a major fire in 1902. The estate was left to Nassau County by Godwin's daughter, Elizabeth, to preserve as a memorial to Bryant.

Visitors can view the exhibits in the house and stroll on the property, which includes a Gothic mill, a pond spanned by a rustic stone bridge, and a small formal garden. Elements magazine has called Cedarmere "one of the most beautifully preserved and serene enclaves on the North Shore of Long Island."

Cedarmere has received a $75,000 matching grant from the New York State Envirornmental Protection Fund designed for renovation work on the home; the county is in the process of soliciting additional funding from private donors.

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