Old Estates at Oakdale

Footnotes to Long Island History

Old Estates at Oakdale

Thomas R. Bayles



The Cutting estate of 600 acres at Oakdale, which was turned over to the state of New York several years ago, is operated by the Long Island State Park Commission as a park for the public. It is known as the "Arboretum," and is one of the most beautiful places on Long Island, with its miles of paths and magnificent collection of evergreen trees from foreign lands.

 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle for August 3, 1907, gives the following description of this estate and also "Idle Hour," the W. K. Vanderbilt estate on the opposite side of the Connetquot River:

 "A Queen Anne mansion, almost hidden from view by clinging vines that just now are in their fullest beauty is the Summer residence of W. Bayard Cutting, who owns 1,700 acres in the Oakdale section, and not one acre of it is wasted. Some of it is lawn some woodland, and some farm, but all of it forms a part of the   the wonderful Westbrooke estate, and the family revels in it all when they are there to enjoy it.

 "To the south of the house is one the finest lawns to be found in the country. It slopes down to the shore of the Great River, with its beautiful scenery spreading out for miles before the eye. The river is broad, and framed on either side with a wall of shrubbery. Out in the center, in front of the Cutting mansion, is a pretty island, which does its share towards perfecting the scenery.

 "On the other side of the house, to the north, a view that costs a fortune to keep in trim, stretches as far as the eye can reach. A succession of grassy mounds bob up before the eye, and between them pretty little valleys carpeted with velvety lawn. Evergreen trees that are foreign to that region, were long ago set out picturesquely, and now they have grown to be monuments to what nature has done in other lands.

 "The Cutting place has a mile and a half of water front along Great River, and there is a drive within a few feet of the shore all the way shaded by a row of trees. Along this drive there are stretches where nature is allowed to have her own way in the line of decoration with wild flowers and berry bushes. As the mansion is neared, the handiwork of the gardener is seen in the wide spreading fields of rhododendrons, which when in bloom, make the picture a bower of beauty.

 "Following a pretty drive that is lined so thickly with shrubs that has has to part the branches with his nose, one comes to the greenhouses and flower gardens, several acres taken up everything that is beautiful. The gardens are surrounded with a neat box hedge that makes a green frame to the picture within it.

 "There are many other features of the Cutting estate that go to make it a model place for Summer life. There are two race tracks that are used simply for training the horses kept in the Westbrook stable. There is a fine golf course, which Mr. Cutting has opened to his neighbors of the South Side Club. There are yachts in the boat house and a private dock. There are hundreds of acres of farm lands with everything on them that goes to make up a farm., including herds of cows and other live stock. The gatehouse that stands at the roadside is unique. It is built after the pattern of a Swiss chalet, with slanting roof, which is thatched with genuine Scother heather that was imported for this use.

 " 'Idle Hour,' the estate of William K. Vanderbilt, on the eastside of the Connetquot River, or Great River, is one of the most celebrated on the south shore of Long Island. It is not a seaside estate, but it has three miles or more of water front on Great River, providing even finer scenery than could be had on the bay front.

 "The Vanderbilt mansion is located on high ground only 100 feet back from the river's edge, and leading down to the water from the main veranda is a series of wide stone steps and terraces that fit in well with the splendid view to be had from the veranda. The river is wide at this point, and across on the other side may be seen the mansion of W. Bayard Cutting.

 "The Idle Hour mansion is of red brick, and there are nearly 100 rooms in the house. One of the features is the enclosed ivy garden, which occupies a court between the wing in which the guests' rooms are located, and the house proper. There is also a regulation sized tennis court in the house, so arranged with electric lights that the game can be played at any hour of the evening.

 "All around the house are spacious lawns and shrubbery and flower gardens of odd shapes dot the lawn and line the drives and paths. Rare plants are growing under the guidance of careful gardeners, and greenhouses are filled with flowers that wouldn't grow outside. The roads that wind through the 800 acres of woodland are rolled smooth and the grass is cut with regularity. There are something like 10 miles of drives through the woods, and deer and other game inhabit these forests," the article concludes.

 The Bayard Cutting Arboretum was donated to the Long Island State Park Commission by Mrs. Bayard James in memory of her father, William Bayard Cutting, who started to develop the 643 acre Arboretum property in 1887. Mrs. James made this donation for the purpose of "providing an oasis of beauty and of quiet for those who delight in outdoor beauty, and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting."

 Many of the fine specimens in the Pinetum date back to the original plantings of fir, spruce, pine, cypress, cedar, yew and hemlock from many countries of the world, which are now towering monuments, breath-taking in their beauty. The broadleaf evergreens are represented in the growth of rhododendrons and azaleas which border the walks and drives.

 Miles of footpaths lined with wild flowers are located in a setting of three fresh water ponds fed by small rivulets. Through the generosity of the Cutting family this wonderland of natural beauty has been made a heritage to future generations as well as the present.

 It is open daily from 9 a. m. to dark.

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