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Sylvester Manor secures $500K grant: State funds to enable exterior restoration

Shelter Island’s Sylvester Manor will receive the maximum possible grant, $500,000, in a round of funding announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Dec. 22, 2022. The funds will support the rehabilitation of the exterior of the Manor House, which dates back to 1737.

“We are excited to begin the crucial preservation of this storied building,” said Sylvester Manor’s Executive Director, Stephen Searl.

The Manor House is well-known to Island residents, providing a link to the family of Nathaniel Sylvester, who first settled on the Island in 1652. The house is the second built on the site.

In recent decades, much of the Manor’s important history has come to light, largely through archaeological digs on the grounds.

The 236-acre site is the most intact remnant of a former slave-holding plantation north of Virginia. Originally home to indigenous Manhansett people, 11 generations of Sylvester descendants resided there, from 1652 until 2014, when it was gifted to the nonprofit organization Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

Visitors to the Manor could see the effects of centuries of wear and weather on the house, situated by the shore of Gardiners Creek, on the grounds that also include a restored 19th-century windmill, an Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground, a working farm, and educational and cultural arts programs. Sylvester Manor was designated a Historic District of national significance on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Shelter Island Town Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams congratulated Sylvester Manor Educational Farm on its successful efforts to secure the grant. “Your efforts to preserve a cherished Shelter Island historical structure will be appreciated by generations of Shelter Islanders to come,” she said.

The Manor worked with historic preservation consultants Architectural Preservation Studio (APS) to complete a preservation and maintenance Plan in late 2021. This comprehensive report informed the Consolidated Funding Application submitted in July 2022 to New York State, and will guide the preservation, rehabilitation and ongoing maintenance of the historic house. Work is expected to begin in mid-2023.

“We’re excited to begin the crucial preservation of this storied building,” Mr. Searl said. “With this major capital grant, and the start of our ongoing 2023 capital campaign, we’re ready for the work ahead that will sustain this historic resource for our growing numbers of visitors and for future generations.”

The grant came from through a Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. The funds come from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which is administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Sylvester Manor was one of only two organizations in Suffolk County to receive EPF Historic Preservation funding in 2022.