Old Westbury Gardens
The Phipps Family And Westbury Garden
Before the formal gardens sprawling at Old Westbury Gardens, there was the Phipps family. It all began with Henry Phipps Sr., born in England, and relocated to Pennsylvania, with his family in 1845. Henry Phipps Jr. was a boyhood buddy of Andrew Carnegie, whose own mother helped tie Henry’s father’s shoes. The kids would often congregate in the shop to discuss their future plans.
The expanding riches of the Carnegie Steel Company which Henry was in partnership, realized his adolescent expectations. In 1881, they returned “in grandeur” to Carnegie’s boyhood home in Scotland, with Andrew’s mother sitting next to them to celebrate their accomplishment.
Henry got married to Annie Shaffer in 1870, and their eldest son, John Shaffer (Jay), was born in 1874.
Jay would eventually marry Margarita (Dita) Grace, of Grace Shipping Line family, after attending Yale and graduating from Harvard Law School. Following the sale of the Carnegie Steel in 1901, Henry resigned and entrusted the administration of the family funds to Jay in 1904. During this period, Jay authorized sketches of designs for a new residence on almost 200 acres he had just acquired on Westbury, Long Island, by London designer George Abraham Crawley.
Westbury House was built after their first child Ben was born, in 1904. The grounds and roadways were built out at the same time, and the gardens of Westbury Garden were planted.
Westbury Family Life In The Long Island Country Estate Era
Jay, Dita, Ben, one-year-old Hubert, and baby Peggie moved into the mansion in March of 1907.
“On November 17, 1906, I was born. I moved to Westbury at the age of two months and have lived here ever since. The house and I are twins, having both been founded in the same year” – Peggie Phipps
With the birth of Michael in 1910, the family was complete.
Life at this beautiful place was busy with their expanding family of three boys and a girl. Costume parties, rose-covered sandboxes, swings, dogs and horses, log cabins, and a half-timbered thatched home with vivid flowered borders were among the many attractions. The little home, which was a tenth birthday present for their daughter, became a popular venue for children’s parties. There were polo grounds by the house, and the youngest son, Michael, became a 10-goal player and a member of the United States Polo Team in international competitions.
“We all called Westbury House home. Though we spent the winters at Palm Beach and the summers in England, Scotland, Canada, or New England, we had our roots and grew up in Westbury.” – Peggie Phipps
The deaths of Dita and Jay within a year at the end of the 1950s drastically changed the trajectory of life at the mansion. Mrs. Etienne Boegner’s daughter “Peggie” (Mrs. Etienne Boegner) had been overtaken by the idea that all of this loveliness and the pleasure it afforded the family would be gone forever on a day in June 1956, during her mother’s sickness. With her husband’s support and her brothers’ generosity, a means was found to build “Old Westbury Gardens” — a location to enjoy a glimpse of the past while also enriching the lives of future generations.
Old Westbury Gardens, one of the few surviving complete country houses and most beautiful gardens from Long Island’s elegant estate period, was formally opened to the public in 1959.
The former country estate of John S. Phipps, his wife, Margarita, and their children, this property is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The spectacular Charles II-style home is located within a couple hundred acres of the gardens, manicured lawns, forests, ponds, wooded paths, and lakes, and was completed in 1906 by English designer George A. Crawley. The family’s mansion is adorned with priceless antiques and ornamental arts dating back more than fifty years.
Today, Old Westbury Gardens allows visitors tours of the mansion, formal gardens, school visits, kid’s programs, events, family outings, museum exhibits, classical and pop concerts, lectures, and workshops, Scottish Games, botanical arts and gardening classes, and Master Gardener and Educator-led talks and tours on topics related to gardening and gardening.
The property is made up of:
Old Westbury Gardens spans 200 acres and includes a 44-room English manor home and classic, gardens. Many films, including Cruel Intentions, North by Northwest, American Gangster, Hitch, Arthur, The Muppets, and Love Story, as well as scores of television shows, have featured the magnificent house.
Through the careful preservation and presentation of its landscape, sparsely lit gardens, walled garden, flowers, architecture, amazing nature, woodlands, great lawn, old structures, and priceless antiques, the estate aims to inspire appreciation of the early twentieth-century American country home.
The property is located at 71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY 11568. It is open from April 1st through October 31st every day (except Tuesdays) from 10am to 6:00pm. The house itself will close from 1:00pm to 1:30pm.
General admission is $14, ages 62 and older is $12, students $12, children ages 7-17 $8, and children under age 6 are free. If you have a membership, entry is free. If you are interested in purchasing tickets, please visit the Admission Tickets page.
If you happen to visit this elegant estate and beautiful gardens in Nassau County, make sure to bring your camera.
Old Westbury Gardens
71 Old Westbury Road
Old Westbury, NY 11568