Islander Julia Brennan joins Sylvester Manor’s staff


Shelter Island, New York: Sylvester Manor, a significant site of North American history, has hired Julia Brennan to serve in the new position of Capital Projects Coordinator.

Stephen Searl, Executive Director of Sylvester Manor, says “we’re thrilled to have Julia Brennan join the Sylvester Manor team as Capital Projects Coordinator. Her experience and background in historic preservation, communication and project facilitation, as well as her deep knowledge of and connection to Sylvester Manor, makes her the ideal candidate for this position. As Sylvester Manor continues to grow, we need experienced staff like Julia to help oversee the ongoing transformation from private estate to public non-profit that is welcoming and accessible to all. We look forward to working with Julia in this new capacity and to ushering in a new era for the organization.”

Brennan, a full-time Shelter Island resident since 2015, is known locally for her Life Between the Ferries newsletter and Shelter Island Gazette blog. In addition to being an accomplished communicator, she brings to the position experience in coordinating residential construction and, as a former elected official, planning and overseeing public works projects. She is deeply attached to Shelter Island, where she and her husband, Eddie, have been homeowners for 36 years.

With a lifelong passion for historic preservation, Brennan has demonstrated boundless enthusiasm for Sylvester Manor, where she’s pitched in on tasks around the farm, garden and house to enhance her understanding of the place. A former board member, she assisted with the creation of the Comprehensive Landscape Plan, which envisions Sylvester Manor’s transition from a private estate to a public site devoted to honoring, elevating and incorporating in our shared history the voices of Indigenous, Enslaved and Free People of Color.

“I’m thrilled to join the hardworking and devoted team at Sylvester Manor,” Brennan says. “I’m looking forward to engaging with all stakeholders as we preserve and adaptively reuse our historic facilities and thoughtfully build, as needed, for the Manor’s future.”

Thanks to the support of generous donors, work is about to commence on the rehabilitation of the 1737 Manor House. Brennan will be responsible for coordinating and expediting this and other capital initiatives. Among them are improvements to entranceways, circulation and parking; adaptive reuse of existing historic structures, and future development of new facilities on the Sylvester Manor’s 236-acre campus. All are focused on meeting the mission to preserve, cultivate and share historic Sylvester Manor.

She’ll work with the board, staff and expert consultants to coordinate these capital projects and — most importantly — help keep stakeholders informed during Sylvester Manor’s ongoing transition from a private estate to a site of conscience open to all. 


Once the ancestral home of Native Americans with hunting, fishing, and farming traditions, Sylvester Manor, from 1651 to 2014, was passed down through eleven generations of its original European settler family. Now owned and governed by a nonprofit, the site reflects a remarkably intact history of North America’s evolution. Its timeline encompasses a slaveholding provisioning plantation, an Enlightenment-era farm, and a pioneering food industrialist’s estate, to its present-day iteration as an organic educational farm and historic site of conscience. Diversity is integral to all Sylvester Manor activities as a reflective and holistic approach connecting the community with the historic landscape and committing to tell the stories of all with dignity and respect for those considered Ancestors.



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