The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island

Mac Griswold

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Mac Griswold’s The Manor is the biography of a uniquely American place that has endured through wars great and small, through fortunes won and lost, through histories bright and sinister—and of the family that has lived there since its founding as a Colonial New England slave plantation three and a half centuries ago.
     In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowing along a Long Island creek when she came upon a stately yellow house and a garden guarded by looming boxwoods. She instantly knew that boxwoods that large—twelve feet tall, fifteen feet wide—had to be hundreds of years old. So, as it happened, was the house: Sylvester Manor had been held in the same family for eleven generations.
     Formerly encompassing all of Shelter Island, New York, a pearl of 8,000 acres caught between the North and South Forks of Long Island, the manor had dwindled to 243 acres. Still, its hidden vault proved to be full of revelations and treasures, including the 1666 charter for the land, and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson. Most notable was the short and steep flight of steps the family had called the “slave staircase,” which would provide clues to the extensive but little-known story of Northern slavery. Alongside a team of archaeologists, Griswold began a dig that would uncover a landscape bursting with stories.
     Based on years of archival and field research, as well as voyages to Africa, the West Indies, and Europe, The Manor is at once an investigation into forgotten lives and a sweeping drama that captures our history in all its richness and suffering. It is a monumental achievement.


Read an Excerpt


It has taken us about twenty minutes to get into Gardiners Creek from a mooring in the town harbor of Shelter Island, set snugly between two peninsulas, the North and South Forks of Long Island, New York, whose tips stretch out to touch the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where the Gulf Stream runs close to the continent as it flows north and east toward Europe.
The tide is full as we ease the dinghy through a big pipe that supports a bridge, a bridge so low to the water that we have to flatten ourselves on the thwarts to get through


Praise for The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island

In the Press

Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island Returns to Its Roots - NYTimes.com
In the hands of a new generation, Sylvester Manor, the 17th-century estate on Shelter Island, has returned to its roots as a working farm, but in a 21st-century sort of way.
- The New York Times
Summer Reading Guide - The Atlantic Wire
The Atlantic Wire covers news, opinion and aggregates content on business, politics, entertainment, technology, global and national on the official site of The Atlantic Wire
- The Atlantic Wire
The House on Shelter Island: The Story of a Northern Slave Plantation - The Daily Beast
Mac Griswold tells Jane Ciabattari about an estate near the Hamptons that used to be one of the largest slave-owning plantations in the North.
- The Daily Beast
Island Profile: Mac Griswold, telling the tale of the Manor | Shelter Island Reporter
Profile of writer Mac Griswold
- Shelter Island Reporter
The Past Is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past. | National Review Online
The Past Is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past. -
- National Review
Slaveholders' Estate, Hiding in Plain Sight - NYTimes.com
Books about a slaveholders' estate on Long Island, the origins and continuing restoration of Prospect Park and a voyage through New York City's food universe.
- The New York Times
The secret history of the Hampton's Sylvester Manor - Hamptons Cottages & Gardens - July 1 2013 - Hamptons
Landscape historian Mac Griswold unveils the truth behind a Shelter Island slave plantation in her new book <i>The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island.<i>
- Cottages & Gardens
- The Washington Post
In “The Manor,” gardening historian Mac Griswold traces three centuries of a Long Island slave plantation
- The Washington Post

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Mac Griswold

  • Mac Griswold is a cultural landscape historian and the author of Washingtons Gardens at Mount Vernon and The Golden Age of American Gardens. She has won a Guggenheim Fellowship and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Travel + Leisure. She lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

  • Mac Griswold Sigrid Estrada





    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island

    Mac Griswold



    Farrar, Straus and Giroux