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The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Mac Griswold's The Manor is the biography of a uniquely American place that has endured through wars great and small, through fortunes won and lost, through histories bright and sinister—and of the family that has lived there since its founding as a Colonial New England slave plantation three and a half centuries ago.
In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowin
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published June 18th 2013)
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3.23  · 
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 ·  279 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm kind of torn about this book. It had a fascinating premise and was on my wish list for quite a while. Northern slavery has been ignored for so long and the notion that the biography of a "slave plantation" in the Northeast had been written really drew me in. But while this book touches on many interesting topics, the pages that actually mention the experience of the slaves on the Sylvester property are few and far between. What is this book about? Well, it's about Charles II, and it's about ...more
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
I loved the history in this book but the author's self-righteous indignation was annoying. The family invited her in, opened their home, their land and their records and heirlooms to her. I thought she could have been a little more gracious and less judgmental. The facts speak for themselves. I wonder if her life could survive that kind of scrutiny.
Aug 09, 2013 rated it liked it
What a dream come true--being rowed by a friend who knows of an overgrown Long Island inlet sheltering a mysterious old house, then persisting in contacting the owners until they invite you to visit. And since you're a recognized landscape historian, they give you a tour and allow you to look in the "vault" --a spacious closet filled with archives and momentoes going back to the ancestor's founding of the estate in 1652. Thirty years later, the friendship with those owners, work with archaeologi ...more
Caitlynn Schare
Jan 31, 2014 rated it did not like it
Too much conjecture and personal judgement went into Griswold's book and not enough solid academic research. Griswold continuously mentions her background as a landscape historian (which seems irrelevant to the type of history that she is trying to write) yet she has no qualms about bashing the study of archeology, calling archeologists "a skeptical lot" who "chafe under what they perceive to be the unfair primacy of history as a discipline." She posits herself as a champion for the untold story ...more
Michelle M. Young
I stopped reading this book about 25% through it as I couldn't follow it anymore. I lacked the patience required to read more about European history to get to the heart of the story which is somewhere in this book. It's a great book for history buffs but too cumbersome for mere mortals like myself.
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book for persons interested in New England history, slavery in New England and elsewhere, archaeology, genealogy, architecture-- a skillfully researched and comprehensive story. Sometimes a bit too dense for me but there was so much beautiful writing and so much interest in the ongoing research that I kept on reading.

When I handle original documents, perhaps two or three hundred years old, I am thrilled by the knowledge that I am reaching back through time-- touching what
Margaret Sankey
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
The popular-audience product of eight seasons of archival work and archaeological survey on the only northern plantation house still intact, this is an engaging narrative account of eleven generations of a family and their possession of Shelter Island. The book concentrates on the pieced-together world of the 17th and 18th century Atlantic, with the Sylvesters' Dutch, Royalist English, Barbadian and Quaker connections leading to many instances of it's not that simple, when George Fox and shelter ...more
Jay Hamiavatos
Jan 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Could have been such an interesting book - a wasted opportunity. Author fills this book with their sanctimonious and historically color blind opinions where they have no place. Ascribes motives and thoughts to people whom a good author (and a good person) would have at the very least questioned her subject (or kept their opinions to themselves). Trashes historical figures even when the evidence shows they handled a situation in the exact opposite manner that she condemns (because she FEELS they ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
It has a good large section dealing with the colonial era, both historical stuff and bits of archaeology, but then later years are covered more quickly and unevenly... although it seems the family only lived there erratically, which is why the house survived as-is for all those decades. Also, despite the constant reminders of racial inequalities, we never hear anything from the various black and Indian people themselves. There are a few brief sections dealing with the historical records of a few ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I'm torn about this book. I appreciate that it brings light to northern slavery as this is a part of our past that has been hidden for quite some time.

However, it's just kinda dry. I read A LOT of non-fiction, and I am particularly interested in the history of slavery, but this one couldn't grab my attention in the ways some other ones could (like SLAVES IN THE FAMILY, for instance.)

Couldn't stay awake to finish it, although I appreciate the research.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book, especially for me as Nathanial Sylvester was my 7th Great Grandfather. What a treasure for my family to have someone do all of this research! I would love to visit The Manor to see it and the land around it in person.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Loved this book! Very interesting that this home on Shelter Island, NY has been in the same family for so many years. Also, the fact that this was a Northern home that had slaves was fascinating.
Bob4973 Wilson
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Amazing account of slavery in my own backyard. Equally amazing is that the manor on Shelter Island has been owned by the same family for 350 years.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
LOVE LI history! I miss the East End!
Bill Johnson
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you love colonial history, you will want this book on your want-to-read shelf: Mac Griswold's "The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island". In it, Griswold has documented a disciplined approach to a new historic find, but more than that it, reads like a field guide for history hunters. If you have a curious mind and heart about who the first European settlers in America, some of the First Nation peoples they encountered, and about some of the first enslaved Africans in Am ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Honestly, I didn't get very far into this book before I gave up. The premise of the book sounded interesting, but just giving short history lessons about every topic there was a document for really wasn't doing it for me.
Patricia Johnson
Jun 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Unable to finish this book. It seemed to just ramble on and on....couldn't stay focused.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A well written history. My only complaint is that there seemed to be a fair amount of conjecture involved in order for her to fluff out the story and make it flow.
Mrs. Hooper
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a great written book on history. I liked hearing what the archeologists found and how they connected it to the different plantation owners.
Dana Dinowitz
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was expecting a story instead I got a dissertation. Really, really hard to get through. Very dull. Chapters 4 and 13 are really the only ones worth reading and it’s truths will disturb you.
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kathy by: Book Pages
Fascinating account of the history of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, off Long Island near Rhode Island. The author wasn't looking for a history project when she discovered this property, she was interested in it as a landscape historian, and then found that the house was a treasure trove of historical documents and other artifacts. The place had been in the same family for 11 generations, since 1651. Originally the Sylvesters had owned the whole island, and farmed it to supply their plantati ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating piece of microhistory focused on a single family farm in Eastern Long Island. The Sylvester Manor, as it's now called, was first settled by an English-Dutch family in 1652, and the current house dates to the 1730s. And yet was still being lived in as a normal family home! Griswold, the author, literally stumbled over the house while rowing around Long Island and made friends with the current owners, eventually even convincing them to allow multiple seasons of archaeological excavat ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed many things about this book. The author is clearly madly in love with everything connected with Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island and has had a blast researching every aspect of it: the family's lengthy and continuous history in that location, their origins in England and Amsterdam, the Puritans' persecution of the Quakers in the colonies, the family's role in the Atlantic slave, rum, and tobacco trade, their changing religious views, the archaeology and landscape history of the Sylves ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
The almost-intact survival of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island off Long Island after three centuries is quite remarkable, for America, at least. 300 years in Britain would almost be considered modern. But it is not just the age of Sylvester Manor that marks it out, but the fact that is a rare example of a Northern slave plantation. So often the words 'slave plantation' conjure up images out of Gone with the Wind - the South, cotton fields, Southern belles - it is easy to forget that whilst slav ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was the Long Island Read this year, so I read it with every other library book club patron in our two counties. A few years ago the author, Mac Griswold, stumbled on a house on Shelter Island where a family had maintained ownership for THIRTEEN generations and had an entire vault dedicated to family history documentation. She built such a relationship with this family that she eventually brought archeologist to dig for artifacts from the Native Americans, early colonial settlers, and their ...more
Zangba Thomson
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
“The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island” by Mac Griswold is a pretty informative book that had me highlighting lots of interesting facts that I found to be valuable. I live on Long Island, so there were high moments where I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the book, and also, many low moments that didn’t interest me at all. The high moments, for me, were of course preference–based, as I found interest, only in things pertaining to slavery, the life and times of indigenous p ...more
This is a nonfictional accounting of life on Shelter Island from the mid-1700s to modern time. The author was taken on a canoeing trip to view this particular house and became enthralled with the house and its’ grounds. A landscape historian, this book is written using her investigations of the grounds, archeological digs that occurred on the property and by going through the multitude of original documents held in the house’s vault. This book details the grounds and the house but a vast majorit ...more
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was both fascinating and frustrating; the author energetically attempts to reconstruct the history of an ancient (by US standards) mansion on Shelter Island, from its origins as the home of slave-owning Quakers, to the present. It's a wonderful story, and she has been exhaustive in her use of historical fragments, legal documents, archeology, garden history, and family accounts, to create a compelling account of the Silvester family, and their home. She also tries to gather much as she ...more
Carol Ann
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I appreciate the pain it took to put this exhaustive (and exhausting) historically researched book together, but I felt "The Manor" really needed some editing. The narrative is all over the place and not told in a chronological way that was helpful (at least to me). The twists, turns and detours the reader must take to embark on this journey, I found to be tiresome. There were some interesting facts and details, but the book I was expecting to read was about a slave plantation on Shelter Island. ...more
Rosemarie Watkins
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Those looking for a history of northern slavery may well be disappointed. Yes, this manor owes its existence to slavery, both for its initial financing and continued success, but, either because it was taken for granted or its owners just didn't want to dwell on the fact,the slave part of this history has to be unearthed, teased out and extrapolated from clues left, for the most part. Well, that and the fact that slaves and their descendants didn't leave much of a written record vs. the current ...more
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Mansfield Public ...: The Manor Review by Julia Joseph 1 7 Jul 17, 2013 11:01AM  

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