by Kristina Mosco & Whitley Esteban, Plinth members
On a lovely August morning, a group of aspiring classical architects gathered to visit and tour Old Westbury Gardens (OWG), located about 25 miles east of New York City in Nassau County, Long Island, easily accessible by train and a short car ride. Along with Fellows of the Institute Michael Mesko, David Rinehart, and Katie Casanta, the group was able to enjoy a delightful tour, lunch, and casual wandering through the Gardens. The group of twelve was kindly guided through the house and gardens by Mrs. Lorraine Gilligan, Director of Preservation at the OWG.
The Westbury House and Gardens served as the country estate for John Phipps and his family for half of a century. John Phipps’s father was Henry Phipps, a partner in the Carnegie Steel Company and a philanthropist, and the family estates can be found throughout the area. Located on Long Island’s famed Gold Coast, named for the abundance of wealth in the area during the late 19th century and early 20th century, this 200-acre estate features gardens by George A. Crawley, who also did the design for the House, in the Charles II manner. The Phipps’ family also had amassed an eclectic furniture collection, fascinating to peruse, and the group naturally pulled out pen and sketchbook to observe particular details. The distinctive yellow slate roof was a recurring topic of discussion, as we learned a bit more about the challenges of historic preservation and ameliorating old with new techniques and technologies. Also interesting to hear about were the house’s additions and changes over time.
The most recognizable landscape feature is the Linden Allee, which perfectly frames the terraced south facade of the Westbury House. The garden has both formal and picturesque elements. The Thatched Cottage, a play house for the children of the family, is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, while the Walled Garden is a lesson in the elegance of symmetry. Despite the passing of time, it is not hard to imagine the estate during a Gatsby-esque party, overflowing with people and life. As we wandered the gardens following the tour of the house, it was hard to believe we were just thirty minutes from Manhattan!
We plan to continue this tradition of exploring the great classical destinations in the surrounding environs. It was a joy to step away from hustle and bustle of the city, to soak in a bit of architectural knowledge, for both town and country. The trip would not be possible without the stewardship of the Fellows of the ICAA, Lorraine Gilligan and her support staff at the Gardens, Lloyd Zuckerberg, and Suzanne Santry for their efforts in coordinating and planning the day.
This new group has been named, Plinth, with plans to gather for similar events and sketching tours monthly in the Tri-state area. Please stay tuned for these upcoming gatherings this fall, and see you there! Our next destination will be a Riverside Park sketch crawl of memorials, monuments, and buildings. Plinth will meet at Grant’s Tomb (122nd and Riverside Drive) at 1:00 pm on Sunday, September 30, 2012 with culminating sketch review and socializing at Boat Basin Café by 4:00 pm. Following that will be a Sunday, October 21 tour of Forest Hills Gardens with its garden city plan and buildings by the great architect Grosvenor Atterbury on Sunday, October 21. Please e-mail ICAA Fellow, Tony McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join the Plinth monthly mailing list.
Plinth Founders: Katie Casanta, Michael Mesko, Tony McConnell, and David Rinehart.