Saturday, March 28, 2009

Save Cedarmere: Contact Nassau County Representatives

Cedarmere, once the home of the influential 19th century Romantic poet, journalist, and man of letters William Cullen Bryant and now a historic site owned by Nassau County, appears to be threatened with permanent closure (see Important Local, Publicly Owned Historic Site in Jeopardy, March 9, 2009).

And there is no need: If properly managed, the site is likely to produce a reasonable income stream, and a Friends group is forming to explore the possibility of a partnership with the county. The ad hoc Friends group can be reached at

The Glenwood / Glen Head Civic Association urges neighbors to contact County Executive Tom Suozzi, Legislator Wane Wink, Majority Leader Diane Yatauro, and Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, who can be reached through the Nassau County website or at 1550 Franklin Avenue, NY 11501, to ensure that these and other elected officials know that Cedarmere has a constituency.

A suggested letter is below.

If the site is not properly maintained and does not reopen in a timely fashion, it could revert back to Bryant's heirs. Grants totaling several hundred thousand dollars already have been secured for much of the needed repair and maintenance of the facility.

Located on Bryant Avenue in Roslyn Harbor about a mile north of the Bryant Memorial Library in Roslyn, Cedarmere has great historic significance. Bryant (1794 to 1878) helped to shape the Romantic Movement and wielded a great deal of political influence for most of the 19th century. Indeed, the man and his works are still included in most high school curricula. Recitals, weddings, film and photo shoots, educational events, and other activities have been held at the site in recent years.

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Dear Elected Official:

I am contacting you to request assurance that Cedarmere, the historic, county-owned museum property in Roslyn Harbor, is properly maintained and reopened in a timely fashion and that the dismantling of exhibits and the removal of priceless artifacts stop pending an explanation of why these items are being removed and when they will be returned to the site.

An ad hoc Friends group recently formed to explore the possibility of a formal partnership with the county to jointly operate the waterfront facility located on Hempstead Harbor. The group is committed to helping the site reach its full potential. I urge you to support such a partnership.

Cedarmere is a rare surviving jewel of the Romantic Movement. As the home of William Cullen Bryant, it was a gathering place for the most influential public figures of the 19th century. Bryant, himself, was a poet, editor of the New York Evening Post (now the New York Post) for more than 50 years, and friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln. The library in Roslyn and Bryant Avenue, as well as the park on the west side of the main branch of the New York Public Library, are named for him. Today, Bryant and his works are included in many high school liberal arts curricula, including the curricula at Roslyn and North Shore high schools.

Bryant’s heirs donated Cedarmere to the county in 1975, along with $100,000 of seed money and the stipulation that the estate be open to the public and used for educational purposes. The facility finally opened in 1994. Since then Cedarmere has hosted school groups, art classes, recitals, weddings, commercial still photography and film shoots, and other events. With proper management, these activities could grow and produce a reasonable income stream. English, history, and art departments in the Roslyn and North Shore school districts are interested in utilizing the site. Other districts throughout Long Island are likely to share this desire when informed about the treasures Cedarmere holds.

Over the years, the furnace and plumbing in the main house have been replaced, the gardens have been largely restored, exhibits have been created, and some restoration work has been completed. At present, $500,000 is allocated through the hotel tax, Environmental Bond Act, and grants to repair the roof of the main house and continue other restoration projects. There is need for an additional investment of perhaps $500,000. The ad hoc Friends group is prepared to help raise these funds and help market and staff the site. In addition, Benjamin Moore has offered to donate paint.

It appears that the county has put all maintenance and restoration projects at Cedarmere on hold. If Cedarmere is not properly maintained and reopened in a timely fashion it could revert to Bryant’s heirs. This development would be a serious disservice to present and future generations. One cannot help but wonder how the county can justify spending Environmental Bond Act money for new acquisitions—as important and desirable as these acquisitions may be—when Cedarmere and so many other significant cultural sites already dependant on proper county stewardship need attention.

Please support the restoration, proper maintenance, and reopening of this important local and national landmark. Thank you for your consideration.

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