Funding expands partnerships with institutions of higher learning


Shelter Island, NY: Sylvester Manor is proud to announce that it has been awarded a $150,000 Officer’s Planning Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its 2022 History and Heritage Planning and Partnership Initiative. This year-long Initiative will focus on organizational engagement with institutions of higher learning and other historical sites, enhancing Sylvester Manor’s capacity as a place-based center of inquiry, scholarship and public engagement.


Executive Director Stephen Searl noted, “With the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this project will build upon existing partnerships, introduce Sylvester Manor to new institutions of higher learning, and connect the organization to similar historical entities and projects that are working to advance more inclusive narratives. Sylvester Manor has reached a point of national significance, institutionally and programmatically, with a responsibility to share this place’s history of generational enslavement, indenture and displacement with a broader constituency.”

“These partnerships will provide us with greater historical knowledge and enable broader interpretation of our programs, exhibitions and tours. They will expand opportunities for scholars, universities and organizations to use the Sylvester Manor property, collections and stories to enhance studies and programs relating to the history of enslavement in the Northern United States,” said Director of History and Heritage Donnamarie Barnes.


As the most intact slaveholding plantation north of Virginia and now a nonprofit organization, Sylvester Manor is uniquely positioned to accomplish this Planning Initiative. The Shelter Island site consists of 235 acres, a 1737 Manor House, an Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground, and various onsite and offsite collections including archaeological artifacts, decorative arts, ephemera and documents that offer students and scholars first-hand access to primary sources. Drawing upon the resources, collections and the cultural landscape itself, this Initiative will nurture partnerships and relationships that enable a fuller, truer interpretation of our shared history and chart new paths toward reconciliation, healing and transformation.

We are excited and humbled to be partnering with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on this transformative project.


Sylvester Manor: The lands of Shelter Island’s Sylvester Manor were once the hunting, fishing and farming ground of the Indigenous Manhansett People. The site known today as Sylvester Manor was home to eleven generations of Sylvester descendants. Gifted to the nonprofit organization Sylvester Manor Educational Farm in 2014, the historic site is the most intact slaveholding plantation remnant north of Virginia.

Over the past 400 years, Sylvester Manor has been a provisioning plantation, an 18th-century Enlightenment-era farm, a pioneering food industrialist’s summer estate, and today includes the 1737 built Manor House, a 19th-century restored windmill, an Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground, a working farm, and educational and cultural arts programming that are open to all. Sylvester Manor was designated a district of national significance on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

For more information, visit www.sylvestermanor.org.



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