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.
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,...
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Praise for The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island
“Griswold's deft unpacking of the Sylvester Manor mystery reveals the uncomfortable, complicated history they left behind....[A] precise, beautiful book...Haunting.” —The Boston Globe
“Extraordinary...This is an important book, for it is not just about a house. It is about the world and the destruction we have caused in it, all for the sake of making that place called home.” —Jamaica Kincaid
“History buffs will love The Manor, and it tells a story that needs to be told....[The house is] a remarkable relic of American history.” —The Washington Post
“Griswold skillfully weaves a historical tapestry of considerable complexity.” —Women's Wear Daily
“A lively history of early American settlement...Like that Pulitzer Prize-winning work [The Hemingses of Monticello], The Manor is American history tightly compressed.” —The Atlantic Wire
In the Press
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
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
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
Profile of writer Mac Griswold - Shelter Island Reporter
The Past Is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past. - - National Review
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
Landscape historian Mac Griswold unveils the truth behind a Shelter Island slave plantation in her new book The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island. - Cottages & Gardens
In “The Manor,” gardening historian Mac Griswold traces three centuries of a Long Island slave plantation - The Washington Post