Today New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced construction has begun on a brand new visitor center for a 19th-century state park and arboretum on Long Island’s South Shore.
Located about 50 miles east of New York City in Great River, New York, Bayard Cutting Arboretum was built on the Cutting family’s estate in 1887 following plans designed by Frederick Law Olmsted’s landscape architecture firm. While many of the original specimens were destroyed in a 1985 hurricane, the arboretum’s present-day collection of conifers—including fir, spruce, pine, cypress, hemlock, and yew trees—is the most extensive on Long Island. The property is also home to dwarf evergreens, rhododendron, azaleas, hollies, and oaks planted amid ponds and streams that attract native wildlife.
The widow and daughter of the estate owner donated Bayard Cutting Arboretum to the Long Island State Park Region in 1936. Their intention was “to provide an oasis of beauty and quiet for the pleasure, rest, and refreshment of those who delight in outdoor beauty; and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting.” Owing to its meticulous and opulent design, the park garnered a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The property’s new, Glass House–esque 1,600-square-foot visitor center, designed by New York City–based MBB Architects, will display information and artifacts relating to the Cuttings’ 60-room, 19,000 square-foot Tudor mansion. (Those who watched The Gilded Age on HBO Max may already be familiar with mansion as some crucial scenes were filmed inside.) The center will also feature materials that highlights the arboretum’s collection amid the threat of climate change.
In addition to the visitor center, the $9.3 million project will upgrade electrical service at the mansion and update the parking lot with 248 standard-width spaces.
The project is funded by the Bayard Cutting Board of Trustees via the Natural Heritage Trust along with grants from New York Works, money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and support from the state Environmental Protection Fund.
“Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park has been attracting visitors for decades and is a shining example of the great estates on the South Shore of Long Island during the 19th century,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “These improvements will make a visit to this historic site an even more enriching and enjoyable experience, and will ensure it is enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers.”
Construction is expected to be complete by fall 2024.