June 5, 2014 by fifi + hop
I recently took a non-fiction writing course, with the final week’s genre being “travel”. The assignment was to write about a place in your home town. I decided to write about my favorite spot in Larchmont – Larchmont Manor Park on the Long Island Sound. I thought I’d post it here, for anyone interested:
Serenely beautiful and picturesque, with sweeping views of both water and shoreline, Larchmont Manor Park feels and looks like a private oasis, but it is actually one of the few stretches of land along the Long Island Sound accessible to the public. This 12.5 acre park, which extends about 5,000 feet along the shoreline, is the pride of Larchmont, a small suburban village located 20 miles north of New York City.
To get to Manor Park, as the locals call it, one has to drive through the “Manor”, a residential neighborhood lined with prominent homes, many of them Victorians, each one with its own charming landscape and character. It is an architectural feast for the eyes, so much so that coming upon the waterfront for the first time it can almost come as a surprise. Tucked away behind the large billowing trees and the meandering grass slope of Manor Park, the subtle sparkle of water comes into view in snippets, a little foreshadow of what is to come. Drive a little more and the expanse of the Sound, sailboats near and far, come into full sight. Beyond the boats one can see in the distance Long Island, a narrow strip of land far enough away, yet also close enough that the eye at times is not sure whether to focus on water or land.
Once in Manor Park and walking along, there is one main pathway that curbs around the shoreline, with smaller paths that break off. Some go to the promontories – there are three of them – with their magnificent vistas, and some go deeper into the park, into the trees and grass lawns or to one of the many boulders and rocks that also shape the terrain. The land is flat in some areas, and curvaceous and hilly in others, pure adventure for a little child, or somewhat secret for someone who wants to read their book alone with a view of the Sound. The shoreline itself is quite stunning as it is made up of a series of rock formations that twist and turn above and throughout the water. Originally a part of the Appalachian Mountains over 600 million years ago, the glaciers melted and left behind the rocks you see today. They are big and multi-leveled, craggily in most places, with some jetting further out into the shore than others. A favorite place to gaze or climb around, in many spots there are stone steps and benches carved into the landscape in which to escape, hidden from the rest of the park. If you want your own secluded view, you can have it.
The history of Larchmont Manor Park and the village of Larchmont date back to the 17th century when British and Dutch settlers first purchased the land. Having gone through different owners in the 18th century, by the 19th century a man named Thomas J.S. Flint bought the land and established the Larchmont Manor Company, with plans for suburban development. During the 1870’s he set aside 6 acres of waterfront land and named it Larchmont Manor Park. At first a summer colony to many wealthy New Yorkers, by the late 1800’s Larchmont began to attract permanent year-round residents. The park is currently owned by about 280 residents of the Larchmont Manor neighborhood (specifically, property owners on Map 610 in the Westchester County’s Registrar’s Office) and maintained by the Larchmont Manor Park Society ever since the Society became its caretaker in 1892. The owners have generously kept it open to the public: “Rather than restrict it as a private and exclusive reserve”, says the Society’s website, “the property owners, since 1872, have shared the park and waterfront with their neighbors and visitors from all over the metropolitan area, subject to a few basic rules designed to preserve its natural beauty and assure tranquility for all.”
Larchmont Manor Park is one of those rare gems along the Long Island Sound for people from all over to enjoy. Flanked by beach and yacht clubs on both sides, and the homes surrounding them, it is the only place in the village where the public can go to take in the scenery and walk along the water. To the north into Connecticut and to the south closer to the city, the shoreline is dotted with homes and private clubs, with just a few public entryways (and usually with a fee), but most would say none as pretty as Manor Park. Sitting on the rocks, nuzzled in between boulders and far from the main pathway, listening to the clinking of the sailboats, it sure does feel like my own private haven.