gdphoto_sylvester_01-580x386                                                                  Photo by Steve Gross and Sue Daley



————–Announced June 25, 2014————–
Historic East End Sylvester Manor House 
and grounds donated to non-profit by 
family who held it for more than 360 years.

Eben Fiske Ostby, 10th generation descendant of the original European settlers to Shelter Island, this week donated his 1737 Manor House, its grounds and barns to the nonprofit farm and educational center located on the property. It is one of the largest gifts of land in the history of eastern Long Island, and brings the total land donated to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to 225 acres. The nonprofit originated in 2009 when Ostby and his nephew Bennett Konesni were brainstorming the future for this historic property.

The property had remained in the private hands of its original Colonial family since 1651, and was through history a provisioning plantation, a working farm, and a weekend home where notable intellectuals such as the poet Longfellow summered. It is now owned by a local nonprofit committed to cultivating and preserving the land, and sharing Sylvester Manor and its history with the public.

This unprecedented gift to the community, which ranks among the most significant outright gifts of land and cultural assets on Long Island, was many years in the making. It follows Mr. Ostby’s 2012 donation of 83 acres of historic fields and pastures, which are preserved forever as farmland through town, county and federal conservation programs. Mr. Ostby also donated a 22-acre conservation easement to the Peconic Land Trust in 2009; preserved lands comprise 103 of the nonprofit’s 225-acre total.

Mr. Ostby said, “My thanks to the many people at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm and the Peconic Land Trust and to the people of Shelter Island who have worked to carry Sylvester Manor into a new era.  My family is proud to make the Manor a public resource with the founding of the Educational Farm and with this gift to the organization.”

Board member David Kamp, a principal of the international landscape architecture firm Dirtworks, offered his thanks to Mr. Ostby: “Thank you for your vision, your generosity, and your trust.  The next chapter in the stewardship of this extraordinary land and history begins.”

The transfer was culminated during a closing at the Manor House on June 23, 2014.




• The land gift totals 141.09 acres on 4 tax map parcels, including waterfront along Winthrop Road (see map) and brings the total lands of the non-profit to 225 acres.
• Had Mr. Ostby developed the property rather than give it away, as many as 95 homes might have been built at Sylvester Manor.
• Continuing the family legacy on Shelter Island, Mr. Ostby will retain 11.7 acres of woodland on a creek.
• With ownership, our nonprofit is eligible for historic preservation grants, which are greatly needed to restore the house. Registry as a National Historic Landmark is being explored.




Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island’s 1652 homestead and the most intact plantation remnant north of Virginia, is now a nonprofit 501c3 educational farm. Its mission is to cultivate, preserve and share Sylvester Manor’s lands, buildings and stories, inviting new thought about the importance of food, culture and place in our daily lives. Through school field trips, history tours, arts performances farm-based education, festivals, CSA subscribers and our farm stand, thousands of people have explored Sylvester Manor and we hope to welcome many more.




Sylvester Manor Map

Map showing the June 23, 2014 property gift in yellow. Green areas indicate lands preserved in 2012 and 2009. The white polygon along Gardiner’s Creek indicates land retained by Mr. Ostby. The white rectangular areas with buildings are the private homes of Alice Fiske’s daughters’ families.


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