Dr. J.F. Erdmann Residence

Item of the Week From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

Late last month, the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection acquired a curious item from an upstate antiques dealer. The item, an old scrapbook titled “Garden Record Book,” looks like a throw-away. It is tattered and well used, with most of its pages separated from the binding, containing old photographs, magazine clippings, scenic postcards, and other ephemera. The book belonged to Georgiana Erdmann, the wife of Dr. John Frederick Erdmann, who owned a summer cottage on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton known as Coxwould.

Coxwould, named for the Cotswolds region in south-central England, was designed by Harrie T. Lindeberg of the New York architectural firm Albro & Lindeberg. Built in 1913, it is one of only four houses built by the firm in East Hampton, all of which are located along Lily Pond Lane. An outstanding feature on the house was the roof, which possessed an artificial thatch design that was the architect’s trademark. Unfortunately, the roof caught fire in 1927 and was later replaced.

Another outstanding feature of the house was the garden, which was noted for its topiaries fancifully shaped to represent each member of the Erdmann family. Mrs. Erdmann’s garden record book contains a photograph of this, as well as a meticulous layout of the flowerbeds with a corresponding numerical chart, indicating what was planted where. The chart included over 90 varieties of flowers, trees, and shrubs, ranging from parrot tulips and yellow hollyhocks to English primroses and weeping cherry trees.

The garden truly must have been a sight to behold. However, planning the garden wasn’t just a passing interest for Mrs. Erdmann; it was a passion. 

The book continues beyond 1913 into the 1930s, with catalogs from Hicks Nursery in Westbury, instructions on plant care, and receipts for transporting plants from New York. Mrs. Erdmann pasted images of pink roses onto her scrapbook pages, and included images of other gardens that surely served as inspiration.

Gina Piastuck is the department head of the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.