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Daniel Gale | Sotheby's International Realty

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A Brief History of Groton Place, Old Westbury, New York

Winter 2009

Spring 2010

The original owner of the current Groton Place property was John Titus 1672-1751 who was the son of Edmund Titus "The Immigrant" - one of the original founders of this Quaker settlement in Westbury (named after his native town in Wiltshire, England). His son John Jr. built his house, which still stands today, here on this property was passed on to future generations of Titus and Hicks until it was purchased by Beekman Winthrop in 1896.

Titus house still stands today in pristine condition at the main entrance on Post Road. The next seven deed holders through out the 1700's and into the 1800's were owned by various Titus and Hicks families by way of marriages. At this point in time land all over this area of Long Island was being deeded to Quakers for their farming.

Around the latter part of the 19th Century the successful families began to come this way to buy up the smaller Quaker farms to create their vast estates for a sporting country lifestyle. This was known as the "Estate Era". They came to Old Westbury because its rolling hills of unspoiled terrain were dose to the city and a perfect setting for the sports they loved. We now see this love of open space and need for such sports vanishing by the seconds!

It was in 1895 Robert Dudley Winthrop, the banker and Wall Street figure purchased over 500 acres that was the original "Groton Place" in Old Westbury. These are the descendants of John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts. R.D. purchased the land from Jacob Hicks. 

In 1896 R. D. Winthrop commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design his house and stables. The house passed to his brother, Beekman Winthrop, the lawyer and one time Governor of Puerto Rico, around 1912 and due to high taxation the house was sadly torn down in 1948. Some of the outlying buildings remain today.

Throughout the early Winthrop era Groton Place was a working farm producing eggs that were sold and Guernsey dairy cows for milk and R. D. Winthrop raised bull dogs — today all that is left of the kennels are the low stone walls that supported wire for the runs. There was quite an extensive vegetable garden with several root cellars. Just last summer a large horseshoe from a plow horse worked its way up through the earth and is now hanging in the old barn. This barn that is still very much in use today, originally used to house the oxen and work horses. A shed still remains, also in use today, by the big barn that housed the early wagons and tools. The brick dairy barn was a state of the art structure for the Guernsey cows- built around 1904.

The present house, which was built to the south in 1932 along with the stable group, was designed by Henry Renwick Sedgwick for Robert Winthrop, Robert Dudley and Beekman Winthrop's nephew who was considered the finest amateur shot and fly fisherman in America and joint master of the Meadow Brook Hounds for ten years with Mrs. James A. Hewlett in the late 1940's and 50s. The house that Sedgwick created is a fine example of Georgian design on Long Island, the building's lack of ornamentation, crisp lines and pleasing scale were noticed by Fraser Nairm who published the house in the February 1934 issue of Country Life in America, praising its "dignified maturity".

The landscaping was a masterpiece designed by Umberto Innocenti. The almost a mile long driveway graciously winds up to the main house through meadows and open fields passing under the remains' of a magnificent copper beach tree grove and going by the old stone root cellar grouping and vegetable garden. To the sides and behind the house are horse paddocks, a cedar alley leading to the stable group. Incorporated in the stable structure are horse stalls, attached cottage and a squash court. There is a smaller stable that also houses chicken and dog runs. The backside has a "ha ha" which allows an unobstructed view of the fields and 700 acres that were once Ambrose Clark's property. 400 acres of the Clark land is preserved as open space where there is still trail riding, polo, fox hunting and cross country skiing.

In the early 1950's Mr. Winthrop's wife, Meg, brought back Innocenti (who, by then, joined forces with Webel to create the firm Innocenti & Webel) to add the two terraces, various trees, and the grand serpentine hedge.

To the opposite side of the house from the stable is the whimsical serpentine taxis hedge leading to the pine grove with a large old swimming pool and pool house with pagoda roofing. The area behind the pool house has a magnificent grouping of early spring blooming red "Tarus" rhododendrons . A bit beyond is a tennis court and a children's playhouse with running water and a proper working fireplace. As one walks further into the wooded area there is a pet cemetery and beyond that are the riding trails open to community riders. In the large wooded area one can find many native plants and trees and on a winter's day an eye stretching view of Manhattan from the wood's highest point.

In August of 1968 R. W. sold approx. 250 acres to Glen Oakes to establish their current golf club. The remaining 108 acres left the Winthrop family in 1997 after 102 years of ownership and is now in a conservation easement to protect it for perpetuity.

The legendary Tom La Fontaine painting in a backdrop of the Groton Place fields.

The Stable Group

Winthrop Property Ownership History

  • 1600's: William Willis- first known deed holder: (quaker) from Westbury England

  • 1672 - 1750: John Titus, John Titus, Jr. - built existing white house James Titus

  • 1751: Joshua Titus- west section added

  • 1768: Joshua Titus, JrMary Titus (married Jacob Hicks)

  • 1800's: Robert Dudley Winthrop purchases land from Jacob Hicks

  • 1860: Beekman Winthrop (uncle of Robert W. Winthrop)

  • 1870: Grenville L. Winthrop (brother of Beekman), Robert W. Winthrop — given 60 acres of S.W. area from his uncle Beekman

  • 1943: Robert W. Winthrop inherits remainder of land from his uncleGrenville

  • 1948: The original mckmead white house was torn down (now Glen Oaks Club clubhouse is in its location)

  • 1968: (aug 20th) R. W. sold approx. 250 acres to Glen Oakes Club

  • 1997: Current owners purchased the remaining 108 acres