Planting Fields Arboretum: The Gilded Age in Oyster Bay

"Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Long Island edition!"

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Long Island edition!”

Long Island is home to some of the most lavish historic estates in the country, let alone the world.  When many people think of the fanciest homes, the Hamptons is always the first place that comes to mind.  But you don’t have to go all the way to the east end of Suffolk County to explore the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  In fact, some of the fanciest houses can be found just a short drive from the glitz and glamour of Manhattan, in nearby Nassau County.

Coe Hall

Coe Hall

Just a short distance from the picturesque seashore of Oyster Bay lies the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park.  A giant outdoor garden which features a beautiful collection of flora guaranteed to please the toughest horticulturist.  The centerpiece, however, of this place is the beautiful Coe Hall Historic House Museum.  A mansion so elegant, just walking around the front entrance will make you feel like you’re walking through the English countryside, until you forget the cars are driving on the right side of the road.  Near the end of America’s Gilded Age, the era between the end of the Civil War towards the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the estate named Planting Fields was the home of William Robertson Coe, an insurance and railroad executive, and his wife Mary Huttleston Coe, the youngest daughter of millionaire industrialist Henry H. Rogers, who had been a principal of Standard Oil.  The 67-room Coe Hall includes greenhouses, gardens, woodland paths, and outstanding plant collections.  Its grounds were designed by Guy Lowell, A. R. Sargent, the Olmsted Brothers, and others.  By the way, that is the same Olmsted who designed Central Park in New York City.  Planting Fields also features an herbarium of over 10,000 pressed specimens of herbs.

Built back in 1915, Coe Hall is a wonderful remnant from the glorious days of Long’s Island’s “Gold Coast” heyday, back when illustrious tycoons built their dream homes along Long Island’s North Shore, along the Long Island Sound.  Thanks to the late 19th century spread of the private estates of Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Whitneys, J. P. Morgan, F. W. Woolworth, and others in areas where the rocky terrain features a better view than crops, the North Shore has a long-held reputation of elegance.  Many stately old homes can be found there, and an “old money” atmosphere pervades.  Towns like Oyster Bay, Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn, Kings Point, and such became a playground for the rich and famous.  The closeness to New York City, combined with the beachfront property of the Long Island Sound gave them the best of both worlds, rather than move all the way out to the Hamptons, which was mostly farmland and stables that looked more like upstate New York, along with the even more bucolic North Fork of Suffolk County which can often be confused with driving through Putnam County, NY.

"Sakura in Long Island?!"

“Sakura in Long Island?!”

"Sniff Sniff, Spring is Here!"

“Sniff Sniff, Spring is Here!”

You can't spell foxglove, without love..."

You can’t spell foxglove, without love…”

While on my visit to Planting Fields Arboretum, I was amazed at the plethora of flora, filling the air with their amazing aroma.  A colorful conifer confine of buds, blossoms, and turn of the century luxury.  Why did I enjoy that?  After going through what can be arguably called a long and cold winter across Long Island, seeing all these flowers and tree blossoms was such a welcome change from the now missed chill in the air.  I noticed beautiful foxgloves, which were pink, bell-shaped flowers that draped downward, looking like miniature church bells.  I happen to think it is a rather pretty name, Foxglove.  Mother Nature and the Easter Bunny definitely worked their floral magic.

Coe Hall Fountain

Coe Hall Fountain

What I loved about this place was how luxurious this whole estate felt.  It is wonderful reminder that Long Island is more than just endless suburbs, highway exits, and slightly-overpriced gas stations.  This mansion and garden are a remnant from an era when Long Island was a playground for the rich and famous, and that was before the Hamptons declared a monopoly on expensive real estate and celebrity neighbors.  It may look like a symbol of excessive wealth, but one must at least be impressed by the sheer size of this land.  While I was walking around the front yard of Coe Hall, I noticed just how large the front yard was.  I felt like I was in an episode of Downton Abbey or a scene from Watership Down, minus the farm and angry dog.  Sadly, I did not run into Maggie Smith or Bigwig, but I did get chased off the field by an angry bee!

If you ever want to relieve the Golden Era of the Gold Coast, and you want to frolic in a floral oasis, than make your way to Coe Hall at Planting Fields Arboretum near Oyster Bay, in Long Island, New York.  Also, the arboretum makes a great location for wedding ceremonies!



About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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