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FC 77 The Manor with Mac Griswold

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Mac Griswold, author of the book The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island.

Bio – Mac Griswold

Mac Griswold photo by Sigrid Estrada

Mac Griswold is an acclaimed cultural landscape historian and writer. Rooted in a childhood spent exploring the castles and towers of lush north central New Jersey, Mac went on to study landscape design at the Radcliffe Seminars and horticulture at the New York Botanical Gardens.

She is the author of Washington’s Gardens at Mount Vernon: Landscape of the Inner Man, Pleasure of the Garden: Images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Golden Age of American Gardens: Proud Owners, Private Estates, with Eleanor Weller.

She taught landscape history at Sarah Lawrence College, where she was a recipient of the Noble Chair in Art and Cultural History, and has lectured widely in America and Europe. A Guggenheim fellow, she has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Travel + Leisure.

You can learn more about Mac Griswold at her author website, www.macgriswold.com. Learn more about Sylvestor Manor from their website, www.sylvestermanor.org.

Book Summary

Mac Griswold’s The Manor is the biography of a uniquely American place that has endured through wars great and small, through fortunes won and lost, through histories bright and sinister—and of the family that has lived there since its founding as a New England slave plantation three and a half centuries ago.

In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowing along a Long Island creek when she came upon a stately yellow house and a garden guarded by looming boxwoods. She instantly knew that boxwoods that large—twelve feet tall, fifteen feet wide—had to be hundreds of years old. So, as it happened, was the house: Sylvester Manor had been held in the same family for eleven generations.

Formerly encompassing all of Shelter Island, a pearl of 8,000 acres caught between the North and South Forks of Long Island, the manor had dwindled to 243 acres. Still, its hidden vault proved to be full of revelations and treasures, including the 1666 charter for the land, and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson. Most notable was the short and steep flight of steps the family had called the “slave staircase,” which would provide clues to the extensive but little-known story of Northern slavery. Alongside a team of archaeologists, Griswold began a dig that would uncover a landscape bursting with stories.

Based on years of archival and field research, as well as voyages to Africa, the West Indies, and Europe, The Manor is at once an investigation into forgotten lives and a sweeping drama that captures our history in all its richness and suffering.


Book InfoThe Manor by Mac Griswold on Fieldstone Common

Title: The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island

Publisher: Farrar, Strouss & Giroux (2013)

Hardcover; 273 pages with end notes, a bibliography, an index as well as BxW photos.

The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island is available for purchase from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

The Interview

Mac Griswold and I discuss the 17th century origins of Nathaniel Sylvester and his wife Grizell Brinley who developed the Manor on Shelter Island, Long Island, New York.  The home remains in the hands of descendants of the same family today. Slavery existed on Sylvester Manor as well as on Constant Plantation in Barbados, the estate of Nathaniel’s brother Sylvester. Mac makes interesting use of a treasure trove of original records and we discuss what was available and how it helped her research for the book.

Prize Winners

One copy of The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island was given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of Farrar, Strouss & Giroux.

The winner is:

  • Carol Ubosi of Maryland

Congratulations to our winner and thanks to Farrar, Strouss & Giroux for their generosity in donating the book!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

The Direct Link to this post is www.fieldstonecommon.com/the-manor-mac-griswold

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