1 Museum Drive, Roslyn, Nassau County, New York

Completed in 1897, for Lloyd Bryce (1851-1917) and his wife Edith Cooper (1854-1916). Considered to be one of the largest and finest properties on Long Island's North Shore, it was designed by Ogden Codman Jr. and was originally named "Bryce House". From 1919, it was the permanent home of Childs Frick who renamed it "Clayton" for Clayton, his childhood home in Pittsburgh. The Fricks employed Sir Charles Allom to make various improvements to the house and Marian Cruger Coffin to landscape the gardens. After Frick died here in 1965, it was purchased in 1969 by Nassau County and since 1974 it has been home to the Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts....

This house is best associated with...

Lloyd Stephens Bryce

U.S. Ambassador & Editor of the 'North American Review' of New York


Edith (Cooper) Bryce

Mrs Edith (Cooper) Bryce


Childs Frick

Paleontologist, of "Clayton" Roslyn, Nassau Co., New York


Frances (Dixon) Frick

Mrs Frances Shoemaker (Dixon) Frick


Lloyd Bryce was described by a contemporary as, "a tall, gentlemanly person of charming manner". He received an erudite education that saw him tour the art museums of Europe with a private tutor before enrolling at Christ Church, Oxford. Returning to America he went into politics as Paymaster-General of New York and briefly sat in Congress. He wrote magazine articles as well as novels, and after the death of his friend Allen Thorndike Rice he became the owner and editor of the North American Review. His personal popularity saw him and his wife added to the ranks of the Mrs Astor's "Four Hundred" and in his last official role he was appointed U.S. Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Mrs Bryce was the daughter of the Mayor of New York City; grand-daughter of the founder of the Cooper Union; and, a first cousin of Peter Cooper Hewitt.

While Bryce was a wealthy millionaire in his own right, it was his wife's family money that made them rich multi-millionaires. In 1899, Edith purchased Upland Farm on 80-acres that had previously been part of the Cedarmore estate (then leased by Perry Belmont), home to the late poet and editor of the New York Evening Post, William Cullen Bryant. Over time, the Bryces added to their estate so that at its peak it consisted of over 200-acres, fronting onto North Hempstead Turnpike and backing onto Hempstead Harbor.

A Classic Example of Classic Simplicity

The mansion was started in 1895 and took two years to complete at the same time that its architect, Ogden Codman, was finishing his classic book - The Decoration of Houses - that he co-authored with Edith Wharton. The book preached classic simplicity over Victorian clutter and Bryce House was as good an example of any of their combined philosophy.

The Georgian-Revival house was laid out on Palladian lines with a three-story central block attached by two single story arcades to a pair of two-story pavilions set forward from the main house. Sited on an elevation overlooking Hempstead Harbor on the garden front, Codman added his trademark preference - arched windows - but stopped off from finishing them with rounded shutters as at The Mount. The refined and spacious interior was kept free of any 19th century frivolities, ie. billiard's rooms, or elevators, instead focusing on formal reception rooms and a library. The Drawing Room that stretched from the front to the back of the house was large enough to double up as a ballroom, and among their well-appointed artwork was "an heirloom painting" by Godfrey Kneller.

Next to the house, Codman laid out parterre gardens and the rich lawn bordered by woodland gradually sloped down to the water. But, otherwise he left the rolling countryside alone to be enjoyed naturally. Aside from the house and gardens, Codman also designed a gardener's cottage, chauffeur's cottage, and numerous outbuildings.

At Home at Bryce House

The Bryces entertained here as they did in New York, "on a large scale". Lloyd Bryce had been an enthusiastic fox-hunter since his days in England and with his well-known steeplechaser, "Resolute," he'd been active with the Queen's County Hunt since its first meet in 1877. In summer, he swapped his steeplechaser for his polo ponies and was an important member of the Westchester Polo Club, captained by James Gordon Bennett.

The English novelist and economist, William H. Mallock, referred to Bryce as his 'intimate' when they studied together at Oxford; and, when he came to New York for a lecture tour in 1907, Bryce made sure his old friend was well looked after as he was conveyed from the port to Bryce House for a stay of ten days to a fortnight:

"... a wireless message reached me on board the steamer saying that his secretary would meet me, and be looking out for me when I landed. The secretary was there at his post. He promptly secured a carriage; he escorted me across the city, accompanied me in the ferry boat from the city to Long Island, and saw me into a train, which in less than an hour set me down at Roslyn... At the station gates there were several footmen waiting, just as there might have been at Ascot or Three Bridges, and several private carriages. One of these - a large omnibus - was my host's. I entered it followed by an orthodox lady's maid, who was laden with delicate parcels evidently from New York, and we were off.

The country, for the time was January, was covered with deep snow, which clung to the boughs of pine trees and glittered on cottage roofs. A mile or two away from the station we turned into a private drive, which, mounting a park-like slope, with dark pines for its fringes, brought us to Lloyd Bryce's house. It was a house of true Georgian pattern - a central block with two symmetrical wings. Its red bricks might have been fading there for a couple of hundred years. Indoors there was the same quiet simplicity. The grave butler and two excellent footmen were English. The only features which were noticeably not English were the equable heat which seemed to prevail everywhere and the fact that half-drawn portières were substituted for closed doors". The only extravagance detected, "was what would have been thought in London the multitude of superfluous footmen."

Fish Wives & Fatal Frolics

Lloyd Bryce was considered to be one of the leading intellectual minds among the "Four Hundred" (who according to Edith Wharton were more often than not culturally insipid) and as such was always a popular addition to any of the more urbane house parties. His only sister was married to another well-heeled Ambassador, Nicholas Fish II, who was himself brother-in-law of one the most renowned social stirrers, Mamie Fish, but of whom Mallock paid high complement: "I have rarely been better entertained than I was by her conversation (and) I was subsequently often at her house". Yet no doubt the tongues of all concerned were wagging furiously in 1902 when Bryce's brother-in-law, Mr Fish, was murdered - struck on the back of the head while leaving a saloon on West 34th Street in which he'd been entertaining two women of well-known dubious repute...

For Frick?

Mrs Bryce died in April, 1916, followed just under a year later by her husband - traditionally the sign of a loving couple. Two years later, their children sold Bryce House for $550,000 to the art-loving steel magnate, Henry Clay Frick. It is popularly told that Frick bought the house as a wedding present for his son. But, his son had already been married for six years and when news of the purchase was released to the press there was no indication that this was Frick's intention, after all, Frick had already given his son $12-million on his wedding day and presented his wife with a check for a further $2-million - quite enough to allow them to do their own shopping. Neither at age sixty-nine could Frick have known that he'd be dead in nine months, dropped without warning by a heart attack. So in all, there is room for speculation that Frick - who was then living predominantly in New York without a weekend retreat - intended the house for himself, and its classical interior as a suitable backdrop for more masterpieces.

Refined Refreshment

Whatever his intentions when he bought it, nine months later Frick was dead and the house became home to his son, Childs Frick, who preferred to extract fossils from the earth rather then fossil fuels, and from here he devoted his life to study and preservation.

Childs and his wife, Frances, hired no less a personage than Sir Charles Allom to carry out various alterations to the house. Allom - who was knighted in 1913 for his work at Buckingham Palace - had just opened offices in New York and was employed by the Fricks to give the entrance façade a makeover, concealing some of the windows and replacing the west entrance porch with a loggia supported by Ionic columns that gave Mrs Frick an ample terrace to step onto from her second floor boudoir. At the same time, he squared off what had been an oval entrance hall, added a breakfast room with further service rooms to the south wing, and fitted the pine paneling in the Drawing Room that was almost certainly salvaged from Stanwick Hall in Yorkshire and dates to the 1730s.

In 1925, Frick turned his attention to making improvements outside of the house: working closely with Frances, Marian Cruger Coffin was brought in for the formal parterre gardens with a circular reflecting pool, central fountain, and arched privet entrance; Innocenti & Webel made various alterations to the landscape; Guy Lowell built the gatehouse; and, the wrought iron gate was the work of Carrère & Hastings. It was also Frick's idea that the village of Roslyn Harbor was incorporated in 1931, the same year that he commissioned the Milliken-Bevis Trellis, said by the American Institute of Architects to be, "one of the most unusual examples of garden architecture in America".

Childs Play

In 1936, Childs built himself a laboratory on the estate that he named the Millstone Laboratory (now recognized as the Education Center) for the massive millstones that he placed around it. He built it opposite the Pinetum where ten years previously he planted over 400-species of conifers from all over the world in order to study their adaptation to the local area - 200 still survive, notably the coastal redwoods. In his laboratory, Frick was free to indulge his passions into the study of fossils and wildlife preservation. To that end, the estate was also home to an extensive and eclectic array of animals: aside from the birds in the aviary, there was a bear pit, snakes, an alligator, a monkey house, an otter pond, and even a pair of peacocks who were free to stroll the lawns and bridal paths.

Childs Frick wasn't just a science nerd, he was also an avid sportsman who loved the outdoors and in addition to the gardens, the estate could be traversed by roughly five miles of bridal paths. By the time he was finished making improvements, Clayton had a polo field, two tennis courts (one grass, one clay), two expansive ponds (hockey and skating in the winter, canoeing in the summer), a swimming pool, shooting range, and perhaps most impressive of all, a ski slope with its own snow-making machine.

Leftover Cottage

Back in 1862, William Cullen Bryant had Frederick Singleton Copley build him a Gothic-Revival guest house for his old friend Jerusha Dewey. The house was included in Bryce's purchase and after renovating it, he used it as a guesthouse too. The Fricks continued the tradition, naming it "Leftover Cottage" and lived here while works were taking place at Clayton. They moved back in during - and for a few years after - World War II, when most of their staff had left, commissioning Innocenti & Webel to build the walled garden.

Nassau County Museum of Art

Frances Frick died in 1953 and is buried here among her beloved gardens. Childs Frick survived her until 1965 and four years later (1969) Nassau County purchased the estate for $3.5-million. Since 1974, it has been open to the public as the Nassau County Museum of Art with 9-galleries and it's still surrounded by 145-acres of its own grounds including Marian Coffin's formal gardens and the Milliken-Bevis Trellis by Northern Boulevard.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 25/09/2022 and last updated on 08/09/2023.
Memoirs of Life & Literature, W.H. Mallock; A Gentleman on Long Island by the late great John Foreman; Clayton, by the Roslyn Landmark Society; Clayton, from OldLongIsland; This Gold Coast... Untapped New York, by Nicole Saraniero; AIA Architectural Guide to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island (1992)


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