The lovely and historic community of Old Field South, located in Setauket, NY, was founded in 1929 by Frank Melville and the grounds designed by the illustrious landscape architecture firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.
The Old Field South Property Owners Association was formed and still exists to unite the property owners in a spirit of good will and cooperation to advance the civic development of the neighborhood, to preserve the area and its environs and parks, and to ensure the continued compliance with the covenants and restrictions run with the land.
By Chris Maffia
The Suffolk Improvement Company, with its executive office on Fifth Avenue in New York City, was the owner of the 250 acres that would comprise Old Field South. The prospectus stated, “This is not primarily a commercial affair, nor should it be, in any shape,considered a real estate development. The aims and ideas back of it are of a very different order.” With Frank Melville as the President, and his son Ward Melville as the Treasurer, the Melvilles sought to create a barrier south of Old Field. They accomplished this through the
creation of Old Field South. With “each owner being master of a miniature estate” and “every owner completely protected by highly restrictive covenants running with the land.”
The original literature promoting the formation of the “shore community of Old Field South” along “the southern side of the village of OldField,” “on the famous North Shore of Long Island, is a long established community of country homes owned by prominent gentlemen.”states the brochure. The “desire was to provide for the growth of the neighborhood along congenial lines and to preclude the possibility of undesirable encroachments.” This was going to be accomplished through the exclusion of ethnicities and religious affiliations deemed undesirable along with protection “from bungalow development and the many objectionable features that crowd into less exclusive
Touting that the “situation is unique” as “Old Field South provides an English country atmosphere, for summer or year-round residence, within practicable commuting distance of New York.” Listing many advantages of living in this newly established community such as, “golf and tennis, excellent bathing on sandy beaches, Long Island Sound yachting, unusual riding (established hunting and polo), complete club facilities and assurances of a high standard of neighbors.” However, all these amenities created “ a remarkable opportunity which is available to those who are accepted as members of this community.”
Old Field South was described as having “wooded land on Long Island Sound, including sandy shores, meadows, high bluffs and oak forests all with winding roads connecting homesites of a half acre and upwards with the beaches and waterways, and the several parks. Itwas designed and landscaped by Olmsted Brothers of Boston.” “A newly built large tidal bathing pool… deep waterways for boating and mooring…sailboat, sailboat and yachting facilities” were never realized along with several parks aforementioned in the literature.
The Old Field Club was built “to a restricted membership” and that prospective buyers had the “assurance that no one not in every respect satisfactory to the membership of Old Field Club will have the privilege of either joining the Club or buying the property.”
Other amenities included the Stony Brook train station’s close proximity “with its commuter trains running directly into Pennsylvania Station” with “the express train time one hour and forty minutes.” A footnote explained “quicker train service is expected’. “But the pleasant trip in club cars”… and… “by the fact that it aids in keeping away certain undesired element” was also noted in the literature.
Attention to detail was noted in the creation of this area. Landscape design by the Olmstead Brothers, sons of Fredrick Laws Olmstead of Central Park fame. The original plans of Old Field South can be viewed online at the Olmstead website; the project was for the Suffolk Improvement Company and the job number listed as 09019. The following link shows the map of Old Field South:
“Available building sites, well-wooded and with restricted set-back lines, give the impression of greater area than the actual acreage. In this way, Old Field South matches its surroundings which are made up of large estates.” The homes were designed to appeal to those wishing summer or year round residence. “Both the Cape Cod cottages and the larger Colonial homes have been designed by a well-known architect and fit properly into the landscape. Stress is laid upon securing the most complete privacy for every home.”