Picture a 16-acre natural paradise with various manifestations of art and more flowers than you can imagine in every corner you look. Luckily, this wonderland isn’t a fairytale out of a children’s book. The LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, New York is a refreshing, meditative experience that invigorates the senses. However, LongHouse offers more than just a day-time adventure, including educational programs for children, scholarships for students as well as summer and winter benefits honoring artists.
In 1975, the reserve founder Jack Lenor Larson acquired the property, which used to span 25 acres. His home, LongHouse, was originally built as a case study examining a creative, artful way of living in modern times, according to the LongHouse Reserve website. The 91-year-old is internationally known as a textile designer, author and collector and is still very actively involved in LongHouse’s evolution as a natural reserve. He developed the first ten acres of the property that became RoundHouse, which President of the Board of Trustees Dianne Benson said represented Larson’s “African tribal mode.” He later sold that property but was developing LongHouse, a shrine in honor of Ise, Japan, in the meantime.Benson said Larson is leaving the property to the board of trustees, who will continue to showcase its beauty. Additionally, Larson’s house will become a museum, since it’s not open to the public at this time.
“The main thing he’s leaving to LongHouse, besides everything, is his stamp of his taste and that is our sort of guiding principle,” Benson said.
Every time a visitor returns to LongHouse for a new season they immerse themselves in something fresh, as walkways are altered and art is removed and replaced. However, several immobile statement pieces always remain at the reserve. LongHouse features art by Yoko Ono, Willem de Kooning, Dustin Yellin and more.
Benson described the splendor that is the LongHouse Reserve.
“It’s a botanical wonderland, it’s not any old garden. it’s filled with wonderfully rare things, its a garden that has a real character.”
Guided tours can be arranged in advance, otherwise, visitors can tour the natural sanctuary themselves or listen to Larson’s inimitable voice describe the various spaces on their phones.
Benson explained that LongHouse is a unique, tranquil experience that should be taken slowly for true engagement.
“There’s many moods in the various gardens, people say it’s soothing to go to LongHouse or it’s meditative. Going at your own pace and really not rushing through it, enjoying each thing as it is, I mean I think that’s really the key,” Benson said. “The garden is more about the way Jack and we see a garden, which is this combination of art and gardening, being sort of inseparable from one another.”
According to Benson, there are five standing committees: Garden, Education, Newsletter, the Junior Council and the International Advisory Board. Together, they work 365 days a year to continually progress LongHouse in its artistic and natural being.
“My favorite part about longhouse is the idea that we never stop moving,” Benson said. “I guess my favorite part is keeping it moving and watching it evolve.”
About 3,000 young students a year visit LongHouse either with their school or on their own. If kids K-12 are moved by LongHouse’s nature and beauty, they are encouraged to submit a work of their inspiration to the Education Committee. If their work is chosen by LongHouse, they are invited to the Student Annual, which is an event that has honored student work for about a decade now. Students may submit their art, poetry, pottery, dance, music or any other creative project.
As for LongHouse’s scholarship program, the reserve offers various scholarships for high school graduating seniors and one for individuals seeking to pursue graduates studies or “experiences exemplifying the mission of LongHouse,” according to its website. Applicants simply must have previously submitted work to LongHouse during their high school career and write a small essay.
LongHouse also offers what they call “insider tours,” which are travel programs that show people things they ordinarily couldn’t access as a tourist. For example, the tours take place in private homes, in museums during off-hours and more thanks to LongHouse’s worldwide connections. This service began about ten years ago and has taken visitors to Japan, Cambodia, India, Croatia and more. The usually take two trips per year, the latter being a destination within the United States. Domestically, the insider tours have ventured to Texas, Chicago, Palm Springs and more.
LongHouse Reserve delights about 15,000 people per year.