Experience the History of the Humes Preserve

Humes Property

The Schmidlapp-Humes Estate, now known as the Humes Preserve, has a long history that dates to the Matinecock Indian tribe’s occupation of the area. It includes 17th century boundary disputes between the Dutch and English and milling and farming from the 18th to 20th centuries. Its transformation to a country estate began in the early 1920s, during the second wave of the Country Place Era. This was a time when wealthy New York City families sought a retreat from city living and commissioned prominent architects and landscape architects to create their country estates.

Articles in The New York Times and The New-York Tribune document Carl J. Schmilapp’s real estate transactions from 1924 through 1927 that resulted in an 83-acre estate complete with buildings designed by Peabody, Wilson & Brown, gardens by Ellen Biddle Shipman and Vitale and Geiffert and two stocked trout ponds and trout streams. The oldest structures we see on the property today – Rumpus House and Tavern House – served as primary residences for the Schmidlapp and Humes families for nearly a century.

The transition from a single country estate to two distinct family complexes began in 1952 when Frances and Carl Schmidlapp hired architect Alfred Shaknis to design a remodeling and expansion of the two-bedroom Tavern House (located on the west side of the property along Oyster Bay Road). A year, later Frances and Carl gave their youngest daughter Jean Schmidlapp-Humes three acres of land, the now four-bedroom cottage and a garage with parking court. In 1954, Jean hired Kasso and Luce to build a children’s playhouse where the remodeled tennis hut now stands.

Two years later, with a fifth son on the way, Carl Schmidlapp sold two more acres of land to the Humeses, bringing their land holding to just under 6 acres. This transaction marked the beginning of the development of the Humes family compound. The building campaign they initiated under Alfred Shaknis and guided by Innocenti & Webel’s landscape design lasted from 1954 to 1962. Projects included a second-floor addition to the Tavern House, an expansion of the garage to accommodate guest quarters, a new garage and entrance drive, a tennis court and adjoining rose garden for Jean. They also included the creation of an entertainment area complete with a swimming pool, fountain, pool house and patio with a built-in barbeque that served as the centerpiece of the property. It was outdone only by the addition of a curved stairway that led to the wine cellar constructed below a new greenhouse with a fountain and potting shed. The last major landscape undertaking was John’s Japanese Stroll Garden which was inspired by his business travel to Japan and interest in Asian culture. After his purchase of a tea house in Japan in 1962, the Tavern House back yard and pond were transformed over the next three years into a stroll garden under the direction of Joni and Douglas Defaya.

When the Humes Preserve officially opens to the public, a series of photographs depicting the property’s history will be housed in the former tennis hut. The exhibition will include aerial photographs, designs from Innocenti & Webel’s archives and images from what remains of the Humes family photo albums. The tennis hut/exhibition space was recently restored through a generous grant from the Paul and Maxine Frohring Foundation.

Please stop by to learn more.

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