Robert Morris Copeland
Despite the fact that they did not own all of the land on the peninsula and the Brooklyn group had not yet incorporated, the pressure was on: by early 1872 plans for the hotel, the focal point of the new summer colony, were in process, and building would commence as soon as the weather broke. The opening for the 1872 season was planned for early July.
At the same time, Eben Horsford was also working with developers, led by Erastus P. Carpenter from Boston, to create a summer family hotel and colony on his land across Dering Harbor from the planned Prospect House, the focus to be the Manhansett House which would open for the summer season in 1873.
Landscape architect Robert Morris Copeland had come to Shelter Island to survey the Shelter Island Park project, at Carpenter’s request, and ended up working with the Brooklyn group first. He had recently completed the project for Carpenter at Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, an extension of Wesleyan Grove. (See 1872 Copeland Design, Illustration 4.)
According to the 1993 registration to the National Park Service from Shelter Island Heights for a designation as a Historical District, which was compiled by Patricia Ryan, Copeland was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1830. He first practiced landscape architect with Horace William Shaler Cleveland, brother of President Grover Cleveland, establishing their partnership in about 1855 in Boston. They advertised themselves as able to “furnish plans for the laying out and improvement of Cemeteries, Public Squares, Pleasure Grounds, Farms and Gardens, as well as for the construction of every species of Building connected with Agriculture, Horticulture, and general rural improvement.” This partnership was dissolved during the Civil War years.
Copeland was a contemporary of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and was competing for commissions.
Copeland’s writing on landscape architecture was prolific. He was familiar with the popular planning convention of Methodists camps in the mid-nineteenth century of the “hub and wheel” layout in which the central element, the prayer grove, was surrounded by concentric rings of streets that were bisected by diagonal routes. He emphasized the controlled, picturesque settings for planned landscapes. This was a reaction to industrialization and urbanization. The picturesque movement sought to emphasize the bucolic and restorative qualities of nature and home life.
In these planned rural landscapes nature was manipulated for aesthetic purposes. Typically, the often hilly topography was accommodated by serpentine roads and paths which were organized to enhance already scenic views.
By mid-year 1872, Copeland and Charles H. Bateman, his surveyor, had completed their design for the development and lots were numbered.
The Copeland map shows the grand plan of the Brooklyn developers. It encompassed the entire peninsula and included winding roads with over 1,000 lots, mostly very small, some average, and some quite large. There was a boat wharf and a yacht wharf in Dering Harbor and Squire Chase’s wharf was to be the steamer wharf for ferries from Greenport and from all over the near eastern seaboard. There are public parks throughout, the most prominent one being the open air amphitheater for a major activity of the resort, religious exhortation.
For this was not only to be a safe place for Brooklyn middle class families in the summer, it was to be a Methodist religious experience as well. Not only was the consolidator a minister, the name of the founding organization speaks profoundly of the purpose: Shelter Island Grove and Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The 1872 map filed with Suffolk County on December 31, 1872, only shows the roads laid out and lots to have been auctioned in the summer of 1872: the northern portion of the peninsula. Actually lots outside of this filed map were also sold.