Few areas in the United States have as long and as colorful a history as Lloyd Neck. Encompassing approximately 3,000 acres and known originally as Caumsett, Loyd Neck is an emerald neck of land extending into Long Island Sound between Cold Spring and Huntington Harbors. It was originally purchased from Matinecock Native Americans in 1654 for a few pieces of clothing and some tools. In 1670, the area became the property of James Lloyd of Boston, who had his son, Henry develop the area as a manor in the English tradition, where tenants paid so much for the privilege of living and farming there. The Lloyd Manor House was built in 1711 but shortly burned down and was replaced 1714. It was occupied by Benjamin Thompson, who designed the nearby Fort Franklin that was built on the very site of the present Fort Hill House. Lloyd Manor had the unique distinction of housing the Duke of Clarence (later to become King William IV). During the Revolutionary War, Fort Franklin, perched on a bluff high above the water, was a strategic part of England’s defense of her war ships moored in Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay. Revolutionary forces tried many times to take the fort but to no avail. For centuries, cannon balls, shot and coins have been unearthed by gardeners throughout the Neck.
The Lloyds forfeited the land around the fort to England’s military, and it was subsequently purchased in 1879 by Anne Coleman Alden. Alden commissioned famed architectural firm McKim, Mead & Bigelow to build her a summer residence on the site. In 1900, William John Matheson, a brilliant chemist who founded a dye and pigment company that merged with J. P. Morgan’s Allied Chemical, purchased the 330 acre estate from Mrs. Alden’s heirs. He commissioned Boring and Tilton, architects who designed the Ellis Island buildings, to create a sprawling brick and limestone structure over the McKim house in a Tudor style with castellated parapets, colonnades, and ramparts overlooking the water, paying homage to its predecessor, Fort Franklin. One remnant of both the Alden house and former fort can be seen in the quadrangle courtyard. Here, a semicircular wall formed from the original fort earthworks diplays a curved built-in seat designed by Charles McKim and a headstone taken from the pasture that pays tribute to a fallen English soldier. Matheson later added an indoor squash court, a porte cochère, ballroom, and acres of formal gardens.