A History of Three Cultures at Sylvester Manor

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Our exhibition this season will examine the three cultures that came together at the time of the establishment of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island in 1651: the Indigenous Native American Manhansett Tribe who made the island their home for a millenium, the European businessmen who bought Shelter Island to provision their Caribbean sugar operation, and the Enslaved Africans brought from the West Indies as the island’s labor force.

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Artifacts uncovered during the archaeological digs conducted by teams from the University of Mass/Boston in the early 2000’s will be on display within the Manor house along with photographic prints of artifact pieces hung on the walls. The accompanying exhibit catalogue and tour will highlight the stories and descriptions behind the artifacts and will tell the early history of Shelter Island and stories of the Sylvester family and descendants who have lived on this property for 11 generations. With documentation from wills, census and town records, the tour will also include information about the enslaved people of Sylvester Manor.

During the month of June, a Native American wigwam structure will be constructed on the Manor grounds by David Bunn Martine, a Shinnecock Nation Tribal member and artist. The wigwam, a traditional domed saucer shaped dwelling will be constructed out of collected reeds and wooden poles from the property and will remain in place throughout the season. Manor tours and programs will highlight the culture and traditions of local native peoples concentrating on their existence at Sylvester Manor. The Native Wigwam construction is open to the public and free to observe.

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Public guided house tours are approximately 75 minutes and start on the hour. Guided tours will be held on:

Saturday, June 15th: 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
Saturday, July 6th: 12pm (guided); 1pm (self-guided); 2pm (self-guided); 3 pm (guided)
Saturday, September 7th: 12pm, 1pm, 2pm
Saturday, September 28th: 12pm, 1pm, 2pm

Tickets prices are $25.00 per person. 

A portion of the guided tour will be walking outside on the lawn; please wear appropriate footwear.

Self-guided tours take approximately 30 minutes and no reservation is necessary. Tours are $10 per person and are offered on the following days:

Thursday, June 20th, 11am - 3pm
Friday, June 21st, 11am - 3pm
Saturday, June 22nd, 11am - 3pm

July and August
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11 am - 3 pm, through Labor Day weekend. Self-guided tours will be available on Thursday, July 4th. Saturday, July 6 will have a 1pm and 2pm self-guided tour available (guided tours at 12pm and 3pm will be available).

Private guided tours are available on weekdays through November 15. Reservation required. Subject to availability. A private tour is $150 for up to 5 people or $30 per person for groups of 6 or more. 

To book a private tour or find out more, please contact Curator-Archivist, Donnamarie Barnes at