After nearly a century with no repairs, the 1,360-foot-long brick wall enclosing the formal garden at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Lloyd Harbor is falling apart.
The structure needs a lot of help and soon will start to get it, thanks to a recent $300,000 state grant to the nonprofit Caumsett Foundation, which funds restoration and other projects at the park.
The Environmental Protection Fund grant, to be matched by the foundation, will allow it to undertake the first phase of rehabilitating the Walled Garden built in 1922 as part of Marshall Field III's 1,750-acre Caumsett estate.
The foundation hopes to begin work this summer before sections of the wall crumble and force the closing of the space used for plays, concerts, classes and just sitting to enjoy the quiet.
The 81/2-foot-high and foot-thick solid brick wall is missing bricks, others are cracked, the mortar is disintegrating and vegetation is growing through gaps. Most ominously, the southwest corner is coming apart and the entire southern section is leaning outward.
That section "will have to be taken apart and rebuilt because it's tilting out 6 inches at the top," said Lynn Gundersen, the board member who manages restoration for the foundation. Over the past decade, the foundation has raised $6 million for projects at the Dairy Complex, Polo Stable and Winter Cottage in the park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The consulting firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, which has worked with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the foundation on previous projects at the park, estimated that repairing the 25,000 square feet of brick surface area would cost $1 million.
So, the foundation plans to complete the north and west walls first and then seek additional grants and conduct fundraising activities to pay for the rest of the work. Construction is expected to take nine months.
Gundersen said replacement bricks can be obtained from the same company that made the originals to keep the appearance uniform. A white horizontal line that used to run along the wall will also be re-created.
Once all of the brick has been repaired, three of the remaining original gates now in storage will be restored and reinstalled along with one replica. They will be closed to keep the deer from eating the shrubs when the park is closed.
The almost 4-acre garden was originally used to grow fruit and vegetables for the estate. But it was redesigned in 2000 "because it was impractical to have a huge vegetable and cutting garden," Gundersen said. Now dwarf flowering crabapple trees line the two intersecting paths and flowering perennials and shrubs and lawn fill the rest of the space. A sculptural birdbath is in the center.
"It's a beautiful garden and people use it," Gundersen said. "We've added benches and people come and sit. It's a nice quiet place for reflection."