A Long Island native's new book, "Americana: Farmhouses and Manors of Long Island" (Schiffer $39.99), tells the story of 15 historic private and public homes on Long Island through the lens of design.
Author Kyle Marshall grew up in a bungalow-style house in Bayville. Among the things he says he remembers most about his childhood home is how the light hit the house. As a child, Marshall, now 33, was fascinated by the design of the houses that surrounded him along the North Shore — homes that had been built and added to over the past 300 years.
Marshall says he was interested in what they looked like now and what it felt like to stand inside them. This was a story he wanted to tell, he says. “I was always interested in interior: What is the atmosphere? What does it feel like to be there? I am not a nostalgic person, I think about these homes as active histories,” says Marshall.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in architecture, Marshall moved back to New York, where he eventually bought a farmhouse in Locust Valley. It was this house that inspired him to write the book, his first.
Marshall brings the reader along with him on a 208-page architectural and historical tour of the houses. He shows the reader what it is like to stand outside the house and inside the house, focusing both on the broad setting and tiny interior details through stunning photos and meticulous writing.
“I wrote the book I wanted to read,” he says.
Of the 15 houses he describes, only four, including Sagitkos Manor in Islip and Old Mastic in Mastic, are open to the public. Marshall’s book provides a rare opportunity to see inside historic privately owned homes of Long Island. Here are a few.
The Homestead, Nissequogue
Built in the late 1660s along the Long Island Sound, the home has transformed over the years much like Long Island itself, Marshall says. Richard Smith built the house. Over the two centuries, Smith family members built extensions, including two stories, a three-bay facade, an additional wing and a wraparound porch, Marshall writes. In the early 1900s, William Dixon bought the house and commissioned iconic architects to add a Colonial Revival flair. Today, the house, owned once again by the Smiths, has an “ease” and simplicity to it, Marshall writes, as the many layers of design and change shine through.
Willow Hill, Springs
Willow Hill, located south of the Accabonac Harbor, was a small house with a chimney on one side when it was built in the early 1700s. After several extensions over nearly 300 years, the house was bought and renovated by Peter Bickford and Greg McCarthy. What strikes Marshall about the atmosphere of the home now is its paradox. He writes that the house’s “restraint and simplicitycomplicity … mark the grandeur of humility.” Marshall says that with the latest renovations, both the past and the present of the homestead are successfully honored in the design.
Turbillon, Mill Neck
Marshall calls this home the “quintessential Long Island Farmhouse.” When the house was first built at the onset of the 1700s, it was quite small. Throughout the century, a side-hall, three back bays and eventually an eastern wing were built. In the 1800s, the owner attached the main block to the service wing. When the wealthy Manhattan widow Katherine Culver Williams bought it in 1927, she transformed the house from a homestead into a “lavish” home. She focused on bringing light to the home, Marshall says, and added a two-story closed porch, which he describes as looking like a Vermont treehouse.