A historical marker commemorating William Cullen Bryant’s influential role as a journalist was dedicated at his Cedarmere estate on Saturday.
The marker was commissioned by the Press Club of Long Island, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, as part of its ongoing program to mark historic sites in journalism history.
The unveiling was done by PCLI President Chris R. Vaccaro, Town of North Hempstead Historian Howard Kroplick and John Dawson, president of Friends of Cedarmere.
The roadside marker joins an existing sign at Cedarmere commemorating Bryant’s life and residence.
The waterfront Roslyn Harbor home of Bryant (1794-1878) was a magnet for artists and writers who traveled there in the mid-1800s to consult with Bryant, a well-known poet, editor, writer and critic. The new marker celebrates Bryant’s role as editor of The New York Evening Post from 1829 to 1878. As editor, Bryant pushed for the abolition of slavery, champions American art libraries and parks and supported Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause during the Civil War.
The wording of the marker is as follows:
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT
NEW YORK EVENING POST EDITOR 1829 – 1878.
SUPPORTED ABOLITION, UNION RIGHTS, AMERICAN ART, PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND PARKS.
Press Club of Long Island
“We are so proud to continue our journey of recognizing historic journalists and journalism sites on Long Island with historic markers like the one being placed in Cedarmere,” Vaccaro said. “It’s been a mission of the Press Club of Long Island to pay homage to local journalism history, and we will continue to be advocates for the past, present and future of journalism on Long Island.”
“This is a wonderful occasion as we celebrate some of the history Nassau County has to offer,” Mangano said. “I thank the Press Club of Long Island for their dedication to commemorating important sites in journalism history with historical markers. William Cullen Bryant left his mark on society, and we remember him for his contributions to poetry, journalism and our community.”
PCLI has previously arranged for placement of historical markers in Huntington at the site where Walt Whitman founded The Long-Islander and in Hempstead at the site of the former garage where Newsday was first published.
Considered the foremost American poet of his day with poems such as “Thanatopsis,” “To a Water Fowl,” and “The Battlefield,” Bryant was also an attorney, newspaper editor and civic leader. Born on November 3, 1794, in Cummington, Massachusetts, Bryant was the son of a poetry-loving physician, Peter Bryant. His mother, Sarah Snell, was descended from a Mayflower family who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. At the age of 16, in 1810, he entered Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After distinguishing himself in language and literature, Bryant withdrew from college to study law. After three years of preparation, he was admitted to the bar in 1815. Bryant practiced in Plainfield and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, but he was more inclined to literature than the law.
The international acclaim received by Bryant’s poem “Thanatopsis” in 1817 led him to abandon law. In 1825, he became editor of the New York Review and moved to New York City. The following year he joined the New York Evening Postand subsequently became editor-in chief and part owner from 1829 to his death. This position afforded him enormous influence on national affairs, and his early support for the fledgling Republican Party in the 1850’s helped insure the party’s success. In February 1860, Abraham Lincoln wrote: “I have seen what all the New York papers said about that thing of mine in the Cooper Institute with the exception of the New YorkEvening Post and I would like to know what Mr. Bryant thought of it…. It is worth a visit from Springfield, Illinois, to New York to make the acquaintance of such a man as William Cullen Bryant.”
Cedarmere was originally a farmhouse built by Quaker Richard Kirk in 1787. William Cullen Bryant purchased the estate in 1843 as a country retreat from New York City and changed its name to Cedarmere. Bryant wrote much of his later romantic poetry in Cedarmere’s library. Prominent in social, charitable and civic endeavors, Bryant’s last literary venture was a translation of Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey into English blank verse (published from 1870 to 1872).
Cedarmere was a magnet for writers and artists seeking Bryant’s company. Prominent visitors to Cedarmere included; actors Edward Booth and Edwin Forrest, author James Fenimore Cooper, inventor Samuel Morse, poet Richard Henry Dana, artists Thomas Cole, Daniel Huntington, Robert Weir and Asher Durand, sculptor Horatio Greenough, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and many political leaders of the day. Bryant died in Manhattan in 1878 and was buried next to his wife in the Roslyn Cemetery near his Cedarmere home. The property was left to his two daughters, Mrs. Parke Godwin and Julia Sands Bryant. The entire property eventually passed into the hands of Parke Godwin’s only surviving son, Harold Godwin.
On November 15, 1902, fire destroyed the upper levels of the house. Most of the valuable books and furnishings were saved and all original first floor framing still remain today with a major part of the original flooring. Harold Godwin restored the building and continued to live there until his death in 1931. The estate was inherited by his daughter, Elizabeth Love Godwin. She lived there until her death on July 6, 1975. Elizabeth Godwin bequeathed the home and property and a gifted a $100,000 trust fund to Nassau County. A museum was opened in 1994 by Nassau County in honor of the 200th anniversary of William Cullen Bryant’s birth.