Field Trip: Planting Fields, Oyster Bay

Planting Fields Arboretum
Oyster Bay, NY

I feel a little badly about this suggestion since it is only accessible by car but couldn’t resist since it was so gorgeous. So if you need a break in your usually scheduled botanical programming (NYBG) this is worth braving the LIE. It’s 55 minutes without traffic, but count on some one way or another.

I hadn’t been there in decades and was impressed not just by the plantings, but how quiet, empty and relaxed the place is — you don’t feel like you are always about to get in trouble like you do at some public gardens. The staff is welcoming and casual, even in the house. It’s almost like you’re a house guest.

It’s the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth TODAY, so this is the time to explore one of the Olmsted Brothers’ projects (if you want to keep to the theme, you could also drive a few miles west and wander the Locust Valley Cemetery, designed by John Charles Olmsted, not to mention Central, Riverside and Morningside parks). Built 100 years ago by Frederick’s sons for Mai and W.R. Coe, the gilded age estate is still preserved as it was in its entirety: 409 acres plus a Tudor mansion.

William Robertson Coe was British and and his second wife, Mai Rogers Coe, was the daughter of Standard Oil partner Henry Huttleston Rogers, so they had some cash. The house is special, and the management of it is refreshingly casual — you can just wander around and enter most of the rooms. There’s usually an art exhibit going on and there are original ironwork commissions by Samuel Yellin and murals by Robert Winthrop Chanler and Everett Shinn.

This is Gold Coast Long Island, and there were a thousand estates like this built after the Civil War through about 1940, making this area the largest concentration of large estates anywhere in the U.S. Just under 60 percent of them survive today; about 400 are in residential use, most on reduced size lots. Planting Fields was one of the last of these estates to be created.

W.R. and Mai commissioned their country home, Coe Hall (1918-1921), to resemble a 400-year-old English manor, along with two greenhouses, a large hay barn with stables — all designed by Alexander Walker and Leon Gillette.

I would take a picnic and eat on the grounds. Check out the Oyster Bay post here, for other options. Or, drive a few miles west and hit Locust Valley for lunch or early dinner:
Karmic Grind for coffee (closes at 5:30)
Pinons for pizza and kale salad (opens at 4:30)
Buckram Stables for uninspired but reliable pub food & bar (opens at 11:30)

Previous Field Trip posts:
Untermyer Gardens
• Oyster Bay
• Fresh Kills Park
• Pier 76
• Rockaway Hotel
• Domino Park
• The Five Bridges
• Lower Manhattan as Black History
• The Empire State Trail
• Anthony’s Nose in Cortlandt, NY
• Croton Gorge Park
• Rollerskating in Brooklyn Bridge Park
• New Paltz, NY
• The Seaport
• Rockaway Beach
• Astoria Park Pool
• Bike into Fire Island
• Beacon, NY
• Riverside Park South
• Long Island City
• Two Bridges
• Governors Island (Reprise)
• Storm King Art Center
• Red Hook
• Sunset Park
• Bay Ridge
• ICP Museum
• Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
• The Fisher Landau Center for Art
• The High Bridge
• The Broad
• Crown Heights
• Spuyten Duyvil
• New York Botanical Garden
• Bed-Stuy
• The New Whitney Museum
• Bushwick-ish
• The Rockaways
• Greenpoint
• Wave Hill
• Governors Island
• F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
• Litchfield County, Conn.
• One Wall Street
• Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
• The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
• Federal Reserve Bank of New York
• East River Ferry
• Museum of American Finance


1 Comment

  1. You know springtime is here when Pam resumes her fabulous field trips series. This one is a winner; they all are, actually. (Yep, I’ve done a bunch.)

    Surprised, though, at lack of mention of train option. Planting Fields is less than 2 miles from LIRR station in village center. An easy bike ride if you bring your own (and the LIRR has eliminated the bike-permit requirement), or a quick trip in a taxi or Uber.