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A Description of Cedarmere in 1902

In February 1843, journalist and poet, William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) wrote to his brother, “Congratulate me! There is a probability of my becoming a landholder in New York! I have made a bargain for about forty acres of solid earth at Hempstead Harbor, on the north side of Long Island….” This property, which he named Cedarmere, was expanded on over time and would remain Bryant’s Long Island country home until his death in 1878.

The following description, written by Rufus Rockwell Wilson, was published in his book, “Historic Long Island.” It should be noted that this description of Cedarmere was published shortly before the November 15, 1902 fire which did severe damage to the house. Shortly after the fire, Cedarmere was rebuilt by Bryant’s grandson, Harold Godwin.

Harold and members of his family lived in Cedarmere until the death of his daughter Elizabeth Love Godwin in 1975. Following her death it was deeded to Nassau County. Currently the house is closed to the public, but visitors are able to access the grounds. In February 2013, through the efforts of North Hempstead Town Historian Howard Kroplick, a roadside marker was placed at Cedarmere.

From Jericho.... it is a scant eight miles to Roslyn, long the home of William Cullen Bryant. Roslyn has a history running well back into the eighteenth century, but was a village of only a few hundred souls when Bryant visited it in 1843, and making it his place of summer abiding, soon grew to regard it as the most beautiful spot he had ever seen. Love of nature was the poet’s absorbing passion, and to this taste Roslyn ministered with gentle prodigality, furnishing the inspiration for much of his sweetest verse. Though he yearly made pilgrimage back to his New England home at Cummington in the Hampshire Hills, Roslyn grew to be the spot he loved best in all the world, and in his latter years he hastened to it early in spring and lingered there until late in the fall.

The Quaker homestead to which Bryant gave the name Cedarmere and in which he dwelt for thirty-five years, is a roomy, rambling structure in the colonial style, with broad piazzas, quaint extensions, and heavy oaken timbers as staunch and perfect as when they were put in place more than a hundred years ago. It stands on a bench in the hillside, flanked on the one hand by a lake and brook, and on the other by a garden teeming with flower-beds and fruit. Before and below it the glimmering harbor spreads its ever changing panorama. Inside Cedarmere are wide, open grates, huge-throated chimneys, and antique balustrades, while a broad hallway runs the entire length of the house, which has altered little since Bryant knew and loved it. Reverent hands shield it from neglect, and each pleasant day in summer finds some visitor knocking at the old fashioned door for a ramble over the poet’s home.

Bryant’s grave is in the village cemetery, whose burial-stones whiten the slope of the neighboring hill. The lot is large and hemmed by trees, with a plain granite shaft in the centre. On one side of the shaft is recorded the death of Frances Bryant, the poet’s wife, who was “the beloved disciple of Christ, exemplary in every relation of life, affectionate, sympathetic, sincere, and ever occupied with the welfare of others.” On the other side appears the poet’s name and birthplace, and the time of his birth and death. There is no epitaph and none is needed.”

A version of this article by former LHC Archivist Myrna Sloam was originally published in the May/June 2014 Bryant Library Newsletter.


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