Captain Kidd and his Buried Treasure

Capt. William Kidd

 

William Kidd, also known as Captain Kidd was born c. 1645, at Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland and died on May 23, 1701 in London. He was a 17th century British privateer and semi-legendary pirate who became celebrated in English literature as one of the most colorful outlaws of the time. Fortune seekers have hunted his buried treasure in vain throughout succeeding centuries.

It is believed Kidd went to sea as a youth. After 1689 he was sailing as a legitimate privateer for Great Britain against the French in the West Indies and off the coast of North America. In 1690 he was an established sea captain and shipowner in New York City where he owned property at various times. He was hired by Lord Bellomont, who was then governor of New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to rid the coast of enemy privateers.

In London in 1695, mainly on the recommendation of the prominent New Yorker, Robert Livingston, Captain William Kidd received a royal commission from the British King, William III, to apprehend pirates who molested the ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean. Kidd’s ship, the “Adventure Galley,” was fitted out at the expense of several notable Englishmen, including Richard Coote, earl of Bellomont.

Kidd sailed from Deptford on Feb. 27, 1696, called at Plymouth, and arrived at New York City on July 4 to take on more men. Avoiding the normal pirate haunts, he arrived by February 1697 at the Comoro Islands of East Africa. It was apparently some time after his arrival here that Kidd, still without having taken a prize ship, decided to turn to piracy. Under the term of a privateer’s contract, no pay for captain or crew was provided unless prizes were taken.

In August 1697 he made an unsuccessful attack on ships sailing with Mocha coffee from Yemen but later took several small ships. His refusal two months later to attack a Dutch ship nearly brought his crew to mutiny, and in an angry exchange Kidd mortally wounded his gunner, William Moore.

Kidd took his most valuable prize, the Armenian ship “Quedagh Merchant,” in January 1698 and scuttled his own unseaworthy “Adventure Galley.” When he reached Anguilla, in the West Indies in April 1699, he learned that he had been denounced as a pirate. He left the “Quedagh Merchant,” at the island of Hispaniola where the ship was possibly scuttled. In any case, it disappeared with its questionable booty and he sailed to New York City in a newly purchased ship, the “Antonio” where he tried to persuade Bellomont of his innocence.

In an attempt to avoid his mutinous crew, who had gathered in New York, Kidd sailed 120 miles around the eastern tip of Long Island, and then doubled back 90 miles along the Sound to Oyster Bay. He felt this was a safer passage than the high-trafficked narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Kidd arrived in Oyster Bay on June 9, 1699, and anchored offshore. Justice White and Doctor Cooper helped to transmit a message to Kidd’s wife in New York, without exposing Kidd and his location. This secrecy was in vain, however, for his location in Oyster Bay was revealed, and just over a month later he was imprisoned in Boston before Bellomont shipped him back to England for trial.

On May 8 and 9, 1701, he was found guilty of the murder of Moore and on five indictments of piracy. Important evidence concerning two of the piracy cases was suppressed at the trial, and some observers later questioned whether the evidence was sufficient for a guilty verdict.

Although Richard Coote, the Earl of Bellomont, had been instrumental in securing Kidd’s commission as a privateer he later turned against Kidd and other pirates, writing that the inhabitants of Long Island were “a lawless and unruly people” protecting pirates who had “settled among them.”

Kidd was hanged at Execution Dock, in Wapping, London on May 23, 1701 where his body was placed in a cage and left to rot for all to see along the River Thames and to serve as a warning against other pirates. Actually, he was hanged two times. On the first attempt, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd survived. Although some in the crowd called for Kidd’s release, claiming the breaking of the rope was a sign from God, Kidd was hanged again minutes later, this time successfully.

Some of his treasure of gold and gems which he buried on the island was recovered from Gardiners Island at a spot now marked by a bronze plaque. John Gardiner, Lion Gardiner’s grandson, cooperated with the British in surrendering the booty, which some accounts placed at 20,000 pounds sterling, which would be worth millions of dollars in the late 20th century.

Pirate Captain William Kidd’s ship, the Adventure Galley, was anchored off Treadwells Neck in the 1690s, according to reports at the time. Proceeds from his effects and goods taken from the “Antonio” were donated to charity.

In years that followed, the name of Captain Kidd has become inseparable from the romanticized concept of the swashbuckling pirate of Western fiction. Some old maps indicate a point marked as Kidd’s Money Hole. But rumors that some of Kidd’s treasure remains buried on the beach at Fort Salonga have never been substantiated.

 

Sources:

Britannica

Long Island, People and Places, Past and Present

Hometown Long Island by Newsday

 

 

A Cannon from the Civil War ship USS R.R. Cuyler in Oyster Bay

Cannon from RR Culyer

Photo Credit – ldoysterbay.com

At Derby-Hall Bandstand in Townsend Park in Oyster Bay, there are three cannons. One of them situated at the foot of the stairs of Derby-Hall Bandstand is a circa 1861 Civil War trophy gun from the ship USS R.R. Cuyler.

On June 26, 1903, in front of the Town Clerk’s office on Audrey Avenue, President Theodore Roosevelt unveiled a Civil War parrot gun from the cruiser USS R.R. Culyer. It is a 30-pound Parrott rifle and weighs 3,510 lb.

The gun was originally given by the Navy to the Oyster Bay High School to be placed in front of the school. The school was then on the corner of Weeks Avenue and Anstice Street, but the Board of Education felt that the gun would be more appropriate in front of the Town Clerk’s office. The Town Board and the Navy both agreed with the change. The gun is still in Oyster Bay but now faces to the north in Townsend Park, a few yards away from the Town Clerk’s office.

Roosevelt’s participation in the ceremonies had been very hastily arranged at the last minute to coincide with his planned arrival in Oyster Bay, and the President was reported to have made only the briefest of remarks before he left with Mrs. Roosevelt for Sagamore Hill.

The Cuyler was a 1202-ton screw sail cruiser and had been launched in 1861 in anticipation of the upcoming hostilities. She carried several guns of the type represented here in Oyster Bay, and she was among the fastest ships in the navy.

At the outbreak of the war, the Confederate Army was planning the capture of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and one of the treasured relics of the Navy, the USS Constitution. Admiral Robley Evans, who was the commander of the Atlantic Fleet at the time Roosevelt dedicated the gun, was then a young cadet at the Naval Academy in 1861. Evans recalled in later years how federal troops from the 1st Rhode Island, the 8th Massachusetts and the 7th New York were brought in to defend the Academy from the attacks by the Confederate from Baltimore. The Commandant of Midshipmen, Christopher Raymond Rodgers suggested to the War Department that the academy be moved along with the treasured “Old Ironsides”. Robley Evans and several other midshipmen climbed into small boats and made their way to the Constitution to begin the journey. The Constitution was towed all the way from Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island by the Cuyler. The Constitution and the Naval Academy remained at Newport for the duration of the conflict.

Source: Oyster Bay Remembered by John E. Hammond

Knollwood: The Estate and Its Owners

 

Knollwood 1

Knollwood with Garden Facade

“Knollwood”, one of architects ‘Hiss & Weekes’ most beautiful country-house commissions, was owned by a number of interesting personalities. It was built between 1906 and 1910 for Charles I. Hudson, a New York City stockbroker of the Gilded Age, at Muttontown on Long Island’s North Shore. The 60-room mansion had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling with towering Ionic front columns with terraced garden and a dairy farm to satisfy his passion for raising Jersey cattle.

The house was palatially scaled and elegantly faced with smooth-dressed Indiana limestone, with design details borrowed from a variety of sources, including palaces and country estates by Palladio and Vignola built for Italian princes, and royal residences erected in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Inside, the house contained 30 rooms with paneling imported from England and marble fireplaces brought from Italy, as well as coffered Renaissance-style ceilings, much in evidence in the first-floor reception rooms.

Knollwood 2

Knollwood’s Interior

Viewed from the north, the most striking feature of “Knollwood” was its colossal entrance portico, balustraded across the top like the main block of the house and supported by four giant Ionic columns. In most other aspects, the north and south elevations were similar. At the ends of the two-and-a-half story main block of the house were single-story wings containing Palladian-style motifs such as arched French doors flanked by lower rectangular openings. Each of the wings, in turn, opened onto a deep loggia.

Knollwood 4

View from the North with Main Entrance Portico

Viewed from the south, the houses appeared to rest on a high basement, extending forward beneath the wide terrace at the back which overlooked the formal gardens. The terrace was reached from the gardens by grand staircases.

Knollwood 3

Landscape Design by Vitale & Geiffert

The formal gardens to the south of the house incorporated historical European precedents as well, especially in the grand scale and pronounced axiality. The landscape architect was Ferrucio Vitale. Like the great country houses of the British Isles and the villas of Northern Italy, the 150-acre estate devoted a large part of its land to commercial farming and pasturing. A stuccoed combination stable and garage building included space for 12 cars and apartments for chauffeurs, grooms, and gardeners. A poultry building and a hog house were also located on the estate, as well as an additional stable that housed farm horses, wagons, and implements. Accommodations included a boarding house for farm laborers, a cottage for the farm superintendent, and an additional cottage for agricultural workers. The presence in this farming complex of a large dairy barn for 140 head of cattle was not surprising in view of the fact that Charles Hudson took a lifelong interest in the breeding of fine Jersey cattle. A white-shingled guest cottage on the estate, designed in the Colonial Revival style, came with its own garage and stables.

Charles I. Hudson was successful and well-respected. He was elected to two terms as governor of the New York Stock Exchange. His tenure as head of C.I. Hudson & Company was not without its difficulties; the company was once sued by the brother of John D. Rockefeller and Hudson himself had his exchange seat suspended for a month following the assault of an exchange telephone operator.

Following Hudson’s death in 1921, Knollwood was sold to Gustavia Senff, widow of Charles H. Senff, director of the American Sugar Refining Company (later Domino Sugar). Mrs. Senff continued the philanthropy of her late husband, donating land in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills for Mount Tom State Park and erecting Senff Gate at the University of Virginia (she was a native Virginian).

Charles Senff McVeigh, an attorney and co-founder of the New York law firm of Morris and McVeigh, inherited Knollwood as trustee following the death of his aunt in 1927. Besides his law practice and philanthropic causes, McVeigh was an avid sportsman. He helped to establish the American Wildlife Institute which, in part, aired radio programs about land and wildlife conservation. McVeigh sold Knollwood to King Gustav S. Zog of Albania in 1951 for approximately $102.800.

Zog bought the estate to establish a kingdom-in-exile for himself, his family and 120 members of his royal entourage staffed by Albanian subjects. But the fact is that Zog never set foot on the estate and caused disdain among his Long Island neighbors by refusing to pay property taxes. Legend has it that the king bought the estate for a “bucket of diamonds and rubies” and Zog’s riches were hidden in the mansion. Vandals ravaged walls in the mansion searching for gems hidden by King Zog. The mansion fell into total ruin.

The estate’s final owner, Lansdell Christie, had a hand in many enterprises before World War II. Christie attended West Point and began his own marine transportation business. As a transportation office in North Africa during the war, he learned about extensive iron ore deposits in Liberia. Following the war, he made a fortune mining iron ore by securing concessions to mine ore in the region, seeing to it that Liberia benefited from the development as well. Progressive in terms of racial views, he befriended Liberia’s president William Tubman and helped to found the Afro-American Institute. Christie was also involved in Democratic politics. He was the largest single Democratic donor for the 1956 Stevenson campaign and a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

By the time Lansdell Christie purchased Knollwood in 1955 from Zog’s parliament, the estate had suffered from years of neglect and vandalism. The terraced gardens were overgrown; the farm buildings were in disrepair. The local county works department of Oyster Bay pulled down the ruins of the home in 1959 for safety reasons. A garden pavillon remained for many years, progressively vandalized, until it was razed to its foundation, also for safety reasons. The most visible remains at the present time are the remnants of a double staircase to the old formal gardens, where traces of landscaping remain; some walkways disappearing under fallen litter and leaves, some columns, and the gate structure at the old entrance to the grounds. Seeing these remnants of this once magnificent mansions will certainly pique a hiker’s interest in the people who once lived there.

King Gustav S. Zog of the Albanians gets way too much credit and press for having owned the Knollwood Estate, the ruins of which are now part of the Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich with the gated entrance located on Jericho-Oyster Bay Road on Route 106.

All photos are from L.I. Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940.

 

References:

Newsday Home Town

Wikipedia

The Freeholder, quarterly newsletter of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, Winter 2009

Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1860-1940

 

 

Muttontown, NY and the Muttontown Preserve

Muttontown is an incorporated upscale village in northern Oyster Bay Township with a total area of 6.1 square miles and family income is one of Long Island’s highest. The area borders Brookville to the south and west, East Norwich to the north and Syosset to the east. It does not have its own post office and residents of Muttontown have 5 different zip codes – 11791 (Syosset), 11753 (Jericho), 11732 (East Norwich), 11771 (Oyster Bay) and 11545 (Glen Head). Based on the zip codes, Muttontown also has 4 different school districts – Jericho, Syosset, Locust Valley and East Norwich-Oyster Bay. From 382 people residing there in 1950, the population has grown to 3,497 in 2010 census.

Muttontown traces its name to the early English and Dutch settlers in mid 1600s who found the rolling hills ideal for the thousands of sheep that grazed there, providing mutton and wool. The first mention of Muttontown in town records occurred just after 1750, identifying it as a “former great sheep district” between Wolver Hollow (later called Brookville) and Syosset.

Around 1900, wealthy families from New York City established large homes in Muttontown as part of Gold Coast fever. There are three mansions worth mentioning when talking about Muttontown.

Nassau Hall

Delano & Aldrich, the prominent architect of the ‘20s made his first commission in this area. His first commission is the Christie House on Muttontown Rd. whose exterior wall was modeled after Mount Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington. This mansion is now called Nassau Hall owned by Nassau County. Nassau Hall was built by Delano & Aldrich for the Winthrop family and was known originally as the Egerton L. Winthrop Jr. House or Muttontown Meadows. The estate was purchased in 1950 by Lansdell Christie who had made a fortune mining iron ore in Liberia and called the place Christie House. His widow, Helen Christie sold the house and its 183 acres to Nassau County in 1969.

It is now the home of Nassau Parks Conservancy. At some point, I was on the board of Nassau Parks Conservancy when I had the Nassau Hall Rose Garden Restoration as one of my projects.

Sandy, Pat and LM at Nassau Hall

Here I was with the baseball cap with two of my volunteers. As you can see from the photo, the garden was overgrown with brambles and such and it was a big challenge when we started the project. We were able to restore three beds on the parterre when there was a reorganization of the Conservancy and the volunteers gave up the cause. We had no funding. I was buying supplies – soil, compost, fertilizer and roses to fill up the empty spot out of my own pocket. It was overwhelming. We were able to save some of the old roses.

While we were restoring the garden at Nassau Hall, the curator took me on a tour of the ground and pointed a wonderful huge statue hidden behind some trees as we walked down the driveway. The place was neglected for years. We walked around the property toward the pine grove. He told me Mr. Winthrop was a big collector of pine trees and Nassau Hall has one of the biggest collection of various species of pine trees in the country. We walked to an area where they still have the chicken coop, the gazebo which the Boy Scout was trying to repair and other neglected gardens in the premises. I could imagine the beauty of the place in its heyday. It’s sad to see a beautiful place not maintained properly. Nassau Country does not have the fund to restore the place.
Chelsea 2

The Chelsea Mansion

 

Chelsea 3

Looking across from the front of the mansion.

Nearby is another mansion located on the beautiful Muttontown Preserve. Chelsea Mansion with a French Normandy style architecture was built for Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Moore in 1924. Mr. Benjamin Moore’s great, great grandfather was the author, Clement Clark Moore, who wrote the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, otherwise known as “’Twas The Night Before Christmas”. Chelsea Mansion was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. One special feature of this property is the moat around the mansion, an Oriental influence favored by Mrs. Moore after a trip to China on her honeymoon in 1921. Chelsea is also owned by Nassau County and used now for various charity fundraising events and concerts in the summer. Locust Valley Garden Club moved our meeting place to Chelsea Mansion while I was president and our meeting place, Bailey House at Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown was undergoing extensive renovation.

Chelsea 4

The parlor where the Locust Valley Garden Club met.

Benjamin Moore was the first mayor of the village of Muttontown (1931-1938). Mr. Moore’s died in 1938, and 17 years later Mrs. Moore married Robert McKay, a life-long friend. Mr. McKay died in 1958. In 1964, Mrs. Alexandra Moore McKay began donating portion of the property to Nassau County and over a period of 10 years, nearly 100 acres were donated to the County.

The county at various times purchased a total of about 430 acres from Christie for the preserve. With this acquisitions plus the Christie House, Nassau County created the 550-acre Muttontown Preserve which is open to the public. Muttontown Preserve is one of the most beautiful preserves in Long Island. An Equestrian Center for those who love horseback riding can also be found on its premises and is accessible at Route 106 entrance. During the early part of the 20th century, this area was a horse country. Fox hunting used to be a favorite pastime by the upper class. For people who love nature, there are miles of nature trails where you can go on foot or ride your horse.

Another mansion was Knollwood, a 60-room mansion erected by Wall Street tycoon Charles I. Hudson in 1906-1907. It had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling, with towering Ionic front columns. It is part of the Muttontown Preserve. It was sold in 1951 to King Zog I of Albania. King Zog never lived in it. He was supposed to rule his kingdom while on exile at Muttontown. He sold the place in 1955 to Lansdell K. Christie. The mansion was razed by Christie in 1959 after extensive vandalism. You can still see some of the ruins of the mansion.

Muttontown Preserve Ruin 2

From Flickr.com

Muttontown Preserve Ruin

From Yelp.com

Because of the way village boundaries were drawn when Muttontown was incorporated in 1931, the landmark Brookville Reformed Church, completed in 1734 and historically linked with Brookville, found itself situated a short way into Muttontown, at Brookville and Wheatley Roads, where Brookville, Upper Brookville and Muttontown converged.

One of the mansions in Muttontown found its way into my book, ‘The Wentworth Legacy”. It became my inspiration to write a book about the North Shore. I was invited to tea at one of the big estates in Muttontown after I got married. The owner is a friend of my husband and he and his wife wanted to meet me. It was a big treat for me and I remembered all the details of the house when I was given a tour of the first floor and the garden. The place was located at the highest point in Muttontown and there was a long, winding drive to reach the mansion. It was quite impressive.

Sources:

Hometown Long Island by Newsday; Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940, edited by Robert MacKay, Anthony Baker and Carol A. Traynor; Wikipaedia and various conversations with the curator of both Nassau Hall and Chelsea Mansion.

 

Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.

Rosalinda

 

 

 

 

 

Oyster Bay – A Pearl of a Place

TR statue in OB 2

Oyster Bay, a small picturesque town on a peninsula on the North Shore of Long Island is a destination.  During the summer time, you will see plenty of cars heading north on Route 106 and you wonder where all these people are going.  But it is not a surprise that people flock to this tiown because Oyster Bay has a lot to offer the residents and visitors alike.  Besides the beautiful beaches, Oyster bay has magnificent parks, arboretum, museums – Raynham Hall and Earle-Wightman House of the Oyster Bay Historical Society and the Oyster Bay Festival in the Fall is one to be reckoned with.

Oyster Bay is rich in culture and history.  Back in 1639 when a Dutch navigator named David DeVries decided to settle here, he found an abundance of oysters and maybe that is the reason they decided to name the community Oyster Bay.  Another theory is because of the shape of the Oyster Bay Harbor as it was shown in a 1674 map of Long Island.  While DeVries is credited with the naming of Oyster Bay, an English settler named Peter Wright made the first purchase of land in Oyster Bay in 1653 from Chief Mohanes of the Matinecock Indians in what was known as Town Spot which is where the village of Oyster Bay is now.  It is also interesting to know that George Washington “slept here” during his tour of Long Island in 1790 as a guest of the Youngs family in Oyster Bay.

OB 1910

South Street, Circa 1910

Downtown OB Today

South Street Today

The town of Oyster Bay is Teddy Roosevelt town.  Everywhere you look, there is a footprint of Teddy Roosevelt.  There is a park called Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park and the elementary school is named Roosevelt Elementary School.  Teddy Roosevelt had his summer White House here at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay Cove from 1902 to 1908; he worshiped at Christ Church in Oyster Bay; he had an office at the Moore Bldg (the building on the right of the photo with a turret) in Oyster Bay and received phone calls at Snouder’s Drug Store (the store on the left with the awnings).  He participated at the Fourth of July parade here on South Street and rode the Long Island Railroad in Oyster Bay.

Sagamore Hill

Sagamore Hill, the summer White House during TR’s presidency.

As you enter the Village of Oyster Bay, you are greeted by a statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback by A. Phiminster Proctor across from the Boys and Girls Club of Oyster Bay.  There is also a bust of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the Town Hall.

TR statue in OB

With the migration of people from New York City to the Town of Oyster Bay, the town is changing but there are still plenty of old Victorian homes in the village which keep the small, quaint town atmosphere.  Oyster Bay is one of the most attractive places to live, work and play in Long Island, New York.