Poet and newspaperman William Cullen Bryant sought respite from the crowds of New York City, where he served as editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post, by heading east to Cedarmere, his waterfront estate in Roslyn Harbor. Here, the landscaped property, with a pond, mill and gardens, echoed the imagery in Bryant’s nature-inspired poems.
To the northeast of Cedarmere’s main house — an 18th century structure now owned by Nassau County with the support of a nonprofit — sits the circa 1835 home called Springbank, one of several buildings on Bryant’s country estate, among the first on Long Island’s Gold Coast.
The current owners, Dan and Malvina Farcasiu, purchased the home in 1997, two years before it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Deciding it was time to downsize, the couple put the four-bedroom house on the market in July for $975,000, reducing the price to $949,000 in September.
The Farcasius chose the property for its location and layout.
“The house and the garden, they complement each other,” says Dan Farcasiu, 78, a retired scientist. “If you took the house and moved it, it wouldn’t give the same impression.”
While they were in the process of buying the house, the Farcasius learned that it had been nominated for the National Register. Later, they requested information on its history from the Roslyn Landmark Society.
FROM SWISS COTTAGE TO SPRINGBANK
Bryant purchased Springbank — originally called Swiss Cottage because of embellishments added in the 1880s and later renamed for the freshwater springs that surrounded it — in 1868 from a man named Stephen Smith, according to land records compiled by the Roslyn Landmark Society for a history of the property used during a 2003 house tour.
After Bryant died in 1878, his daughter, Frances Godwin, inherited Montrose, a former inn on the northern part of the estate, as well as Springbank, says Harrison Hunt, who along with his wife, Linda, wrote the book “William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere Estate,” set to be released March 28. When Frances died in 1893, the property went to her daughter, Minna Godwin Goddard, and stayed in the family until 1955.
Springbank was one of 13 houses on the 200-acre property, says Hunt. Like many of the accessory buildings on the Cedarmere property, it housed estate workers and was also rented out to other tenants. Conrad Godwin Goddard, the poet’s great-grandson, listed the various tenants in his 1972 book, “The Early History of Roslyn Harbor, Long Island.”
“When I was a young man this house was occupied by the family coachman, Thomas O’Keefe, and after the stables burned I taught him to be a chauffeur,” wrote Goddard, who was born in 1885, of Springbank. “When he died it was empty for a time; then we rented it for about twenty dollars a month to a woman who said she wanted to run a cafe. It turned out, however, that she was running a house of another sort, and as soon as this was discovered we canceled her lease!”
Later tenants include a couple who had a notorious fight on the porch: “The couple occupying Springbank had been chasing each other around the porch and backyard throwing pails of paint and anything else that came in handy, and yelling for help so vigorously that their Boxwood neighbors didn’t quite know whether to send for the police or not,” wrote Goddard, who died in 1974, two years after publishing the book. “There are still traces of this paint on the back porch. Such are the trials of landlords!”
ADDING TO HISTORY
The yellow house, with red and green accents, has styles from a variety of periods. According to the 1997 National Register application for Springbank, which classifies it as both a Greek Revival-style building and a “Victorian Eclectic,” the original home was likely small — 32 feet wide by 20 feet deep — with the large front porch and its lattice balustrade added as part of the Swiss Cottage alterations in the 1880s.
The house has been added to over the years, but still retains its historic features, including original wide pine floorboards in the north rooms. The Firth family, who purchased the home in 1956, constructed a two-story addition with a library, bedroom and bathrooms, using some materials from another house in Roslyn that had been demolished, according to the National Register application. In 2005, the Farcasius put on another two-story addition with offices and a rear staircase.
The double Dutch door on the side of the house was one of the original front doors, says Nancy Hawkins of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty (516-759-4800), who is listing the property.
A GREENPORT RETREAT FOR WALT WHITMAN
No poet has been inspired by Long Island more than Walt Whitman, who was a frequent visitor to a 19th century home in Greenport that was once owned by his sister Mary Elizabeth Van Nostrand. The home recently came on the market for $549,000.
Van Nostrand purchased the 1840s home with her shipbuilder husband, raised five children and lived there until her death in 1899, according to the 1941 book “Some Notes on Whitman’s Family” by Katherine Molinoff. Whitman, who published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass” in 1855, wrote of Greenport in some of his letters.
“Whitman loved that part of the island, liked to drop in on his sister, whose children he loved, and relished his talks with the foreign sailors and farmers to be met with in and near the thriving little town,” Molinoff wrote.
The village was Whitman’s retreat from the city, especially in the summer of 1855 following the publication of “Leaves of Grass,” wrote Jerome Loving in the 1999 book “Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself.”
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, listed with Janet Markarian of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, has the original tin ceiling and walls in the living room and wide-plank pine floors. The property also has a detached garage with an original scalloping shed.
Seller Lora Sappenfield, 46, bought the home two years ago, and didn’t know about the Whitman connection until a Greenport local told her. Coincidentally, Sappenfield’s father taught early American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and loved Whitman’s poetry. “It didn’t affect our decision to buy it, but it was fun to find out later,” Sappenfield says. “I’m really proud to own something that a historical figure stayed in.”
— Lisa Chamoff