In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowing along a Long Island creek when she came upon Sylvester Manor, a stately mansion guarded by hulking boxwoods. When Griswold went inside, she encountered a house full of revelations, including a letter from Thomas Jefferson and—most remarkable and disturbing—what the aged owner, Andrew Fiske, casually called the “slave staircase.”
This staircase would reveal the extensive but little-known story of Northern slavery, and in 1997 Griswold returned with a team of archaeologists, uncovering a landscape filled with stories. Based on years of research—and voyages that took her as far as West Africa—Griswold has given us both the biography of a place that has witnessed war and reversals in fortune, and the riveting story of the family that has occupied it for three centuries. A fine-grained account and a sweeping drama, The Manor captures American history in all its richness and contradictions.