Planting Fields

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Oyster Bay, NY
United States
Planting Fields

In 1913 industrialist William R. Coe acquired this 409-acre estate from the James Byrne family. During Coe’s ownership, Boston architect Guy Lowell was commissioned to improve the estate’s buildings and landscape, which he undertook with his brother-in-law A. Robeson Sargent. Building on a few elements designed by James Greenleaf for the Byrnes, Sargent created initial plans and oversaw the construction of a series of interior drives, some formal landscape elements, and the blue pool in the Italian Garden, a rectangular sunken formal garden enclosed by evergreen hedges. In 1918 the original mansion designed by Grosvenor Atterbury burned down, and architects Walker and Gillette were hired to design its Tudor Revival replacement. Sargent died suddenly that same year, and Coe hired Olmsted Brothers represented by James Frederick Dawson to continue developing the landscape. Dawson integrated his work with Sargent’s, introducing the firm’s characteristic sweeping lawns and naturalistic plantings, additional interior drives, flower gardens, and a heather garden. He also sited the eighteenth-century Carshalton Gates imported from England and created planting plans for the house grounds, the pool area, the Camellia House, and the Italian Garden. Coe, an avid plant collector, continued improving the grounds and greenhouses and amassed a substantial collection of hybrid camellias, rhododendrons and hibiscus. In 1949 he deeded the property to the State of New York; in 1972 it opened to the public as a state park and arboretum. Planting Fields was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.