A collaboration with Tod Williams
Tavern Island, legendary Broadway producer Billy Rose's fantasy island retreat, was in dire need of rescue from an island-wide assemblage of high Italianate "debris" - figurative statuary, balustered railings, herringbone brick pathways, garden beds-as well as disfiguring concrete seawalls and fenced-off pins that once held a herd of miniature deer and, we're told, a number of peacocks.
OUR GOAL WAS TO RESTORE THE ISLAND
Originally two islands with a connective isthmus in between, Tavern Island often flooded in high tides. In order to safeguard the fragile ecosystem, we created extensive natural breakwaters (a more natural version of the now-removed concrete seawalls) by placing large boulders carefully crafted into a sea wall by a barge-mounted crane anchored just offshore.
Tod designed a massive pink granite pool rising out of the shallow water where the two islands meet, creating a protected sandy beach on one side and a tidal marsh on the other.
To restore the original flora, we planted spartina and other grasses in the tidal flats and added native shrubs and wildflowers into the understory. Mature, salt-tolerant black pine trees, found at a nursery on Shelter Island, along with a huge cryptomeria, several 25 foot tall American hollies and four large clump birch, were all trucked to the shore opposite the island and loaded onto a barge which was anchored off the leeward side of the island. In a move which proved to be both efficient and financially astute, we planted all of our large trees by helicopter.