United States of America, New York, Westchester, Rye
Bird Homestead (Rye, New York)
Located on the banks of the tidal Blind Brook estuary, lined with salt marshes, Bird Homestead was the home of Henry Bird (1869-1959), a prominent entomologist and president of the New York Entomological Society who specialized in the study of moths. The landscape and garden was of a modest size and represents a unique combination of a small self-sufficient farm with ornamental perennial beds, shrubs, and roses plus fruit trees that combined both beauty and utility, along with specific plants grown for entomological research. The Greek revival style house, outbuildings, picket fence and stonewall all date to the 19th century, a rarity on Westchester County's Long Island Sound Shore.
The garden features date primarily from the 1920s and 1940s, with additions in 2012 for educational purposes. The Bouton-Bird Erikson family owned the property for five generations from 1852-2009. The non-profit Bird Homestead Preservatio trust now operates the property as a historic, environmental, and educational site.
The Greek revival style house built in the 19th century, white oak trees shading the house, the remains of earlier gardens, and outbuildings including a barn, a workshop and chicken coop. The small family farm was self-sufficient until well into the 20th century, raising chickens and growing fruits and vegetables. The property is being restored by the Bird Homestead Preservation Trust and is used to teach children about the natural environment including organic gardening in four raised beds on the site of an earlier large cold frame. A cedar arbor for grape vines was recently hoisted back to stand vertically in the garden after many years of leaning at a severe angle. Surviving shrubs near the house include lilac, wisteria, roses, azalea, mock orange and beautybushes, and a bed of ferns is undisturbed by neglect for many years.
Henry Bird encouraged the use of beneficial insects in the garden rather than spraying pesticides and maintained a small garden area with plants that would attract the insects he wanted to study. Bird also was a proponent of native plants and established a large natives garden at 'Bye-Wood' on the Mr. and Mrs. William J. Knapp estate, which led him to write "A Proposed Type of American Garden" with Louise Allen Knapp, published in 1929 in ASLA's "Landscape Architecture" journal. Daughter Alice Bird Erikson (1903-1993) was an artist and trained as a landscape architect at the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture. In 1942 she illustrated Trees of the Countryside (Alfred A. Knopf) by Margaret McKenny, who had been a classmate.
Persons associated with the garden include Henry Bird (former owner, 1959), Alice Bird Erikson (former owner and landscape architect, 1903-1994); City of Rye, New York (2009- ).
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The Little Garden Club of Rye facilitated the submission of this garden's documentation.
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles.
Garden has been featured in "The Rye Sound Shore Review", January 29, 2010 and August 2, 2011
Garden has been featured in "The Rye Record", March 1, 2013 and April 5, 2013
Smithsonian Gardens, Smithsonian Institution, PO Box 37012, Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506, Washington, DC 20013-7012