Saturday, May 26, 2007

History of My Town

Linda tagged me to write about the history of my town, East Islip. Long Island in general is full of interesting history. Here's some facts about my town.

East of Islip, as the village was known in its beginning, is part of the 1683 William Nicoll's land acquisition from the Secatogue Indians. The Nicoll family owned property in the area for over two hundred and twenty years and contributed greatly to its rich history and eventual development.

Bayard Cutting Arboretum
In 1936 the Long Island Park Commission accepted on behalf of the State of New York a deed of approximately two hundred acres near the northeasterly boundary of Heckscher State Park. Mrs. Bayard James made this gift in memory of her father, William Bayard Cutting. Mr. Cutting and his brother, Fulton, had started the sugar beet industry in this country in 1888. He was a builder of railroads, operated the ferries of New York City, and developed a part of the south Brooklyn waterfront.

Mr. Cutting started the development of the property in 1887 in accordance with plans made by the well-known landscape architect, Frederick Olmstead and carried forward by Mr. Fred Sparks, a resident of Great River until his death in the summer of 1968.

The Great River Estate, known as "Westbrook" originally consisted of over one thousand acres. Only part of this area was deeded to the State of New York. In 1938, Mrs. James donated an additional three hundred eighty-two acres, and her mother, Mrs. William Bayard Cutting, established an endowment of over $1,000,000 for the maintenance of the arboretum.

I shoot photos for my auctions here alot, asit is so beautiful and peaceful.

Hecksher State Park

at East Islip.

It was the subject of actions in every possible court from the County Court of Suffolk County to the Supreme Court of the United States and involved twenty-five separate appellate proceedings.

It was the cause of a special summer session of the State legislature.

It held up the expenditure of park funds throughout the entire state for nearly a year.

It was instrumental in changing the route of a parkway more than thirty miles away.

It was the subject of mass meetings printed pamphlets, newspaper campaigns and finally, it was indirectly responsible for the making of a new political figure.

The property involved in the controversy having these far-reaching results was formerly the George C. Taylor Estate of 1500 acres on the Great South Bay in the Town of Islip. It was wild and picturesque property with a wild and picturesque history.

George C. Taylor, who assembled this large tract had been an unusual and eccentric man of considerable means. In 1886 he built there a large and ornate country home. He then erected about 30 other buildings, such as carriage barn, stables, dairy barns, greenhouses, and quarters for his employees, etc. The wooded areas of the estate he stocked with deer and game-birds.

For proper effect he had __cocks and a herd of elks wandering about the lawns of the mansion. Inside he displayed seven cupid-like statues of himself, supposedly representing the seven ages of man.

The George C. Taylor estate of 1500 acres was the site of the original Wm. Nicoll Manorhouse.

George C. Taylor's life at his Islip Estate was far from what the good people of the local community considered normal. He isolated himself on the estate with a common-law wife. Their daughter was rarely seen off the private grounds. They hired special tutors and instructors for her and when the bicycle craze came along, they imported a bicycle instructor from England, who brought with him all available models of English-made bicycles. They had also constructed a special bicycle house for storing and repairing' the newly acquired equipment. The outcome of these activities was that the girl who had been so zealously guarded unexpectedly ran off and was married to her bicycle instructor by a local Justice of the Peace.

This may or may not have contributed to George C. Taylor's eccentricities. In any event, he and his companion became heavy drinkers according to local residents. At times the winding staircase in the three-story mansion became hard to navigate so he had an elevator installed. Other tales relate how he built a log cabin not far from the mansion where he kept his liquor stores and where he slept after one of his frequent quarrels with his wife.

This wild gossip which had kept the locality excited for so long a time came to an end in 1908 when George C. Taylor and his wife died within a few days of each other.

Brookwood Hall

This is probably the most interesting piece of history in my town. I shoot my photos here alot.

Brookwood Hall - Site of:
Stellenwerf's Lake House (1856-1894)
Knapp Estate (1903 - 1929)
Thorne Estate (1929 - 1942)
Orphan Asylum of Brooklyn (1942 - 1965)

In the mid 1800's the summer boarders swarmed to the South Shores of Long Island. Although the Southside Railroad Company did not reach Islip until 1868, rail service had been in available from Suffolk Station (Brentwood) since 1841, and from Thompson Station (Brentwood) since June 24, 1842. Horses and the stage coach were the principal means of transportation.

The Lake House on (present day) Knapp's Lake was opened in 1856. It had bath houses on the lake and was known for its excellent cuisine. Amos R. Stellenwerf was the proprietor. Amos Stellenwerf's daughter Louise was married to Thomas Worth, a noted artist with Currier and Ives.
"The Lake House owned and managed by Amos R. Stellenwerf since 1856 is a cozy, old fashioned house, where good cooking, comfortable rooms, civil attendants and cleanliness are the rule. By the house is a large trout pond, with row boats and a bathing house for fresh water bathers. Stabling for 20 horses"

The 41-room present-day mansion was built in 1903 by Harry K. Knapp of Manhattan, one of the city's many millionaire businessmen who chose the South Shore of Islip Town as a summer retreat for themselves and their families. The original site was over 100 acres, extending to the East Islip railroad station on the north and Route 111 on the west. With its stately columns and overhanging porticoes, the main building was a perfect example of Georgian Revival architecture and Harry Knapp's elegant, cultivated taste.

The elder Knapp left the building to his son, Theodore Knapp, a sportsman with little interest in running an estate, especially in the years just before the Great Depression. Knapp sold the estate in 1929 to Francis B. Thorne, a wealthy stockbroker and brother of the philanthropist Langdon K. Thorne.

Francis Thorne Sr. was never a businessman and had bought the estate at the worst possible time. The family fortune went steadily downhill, so that from having 29 servants in 1929, Brookwood Hall was maintained by only three just ten years later.

Despite severe financial problems, Thorne maintained the estate as somewhat of a cultural center to augment the education and training of his children - especially Francis Thorne Jr. Young Francis, who was to become an eminent musician and classical composer, was seven years old when the family moved to the mansion. The child had four sisters and a brother, many of them also musically gifted. The life Francis described was one of great gentility, combining frequent musical gatherings and the requisite social events. In 1930, when his oldest sister made her debut, the servants set huge candleholders along the walkways going to the lake. At an appointed moment, the electricity was turned off and the servants carried the candles in a twinkling parade through the lush greenery to the ballroom and the waiting guest.

The Thorne ownership, and the golden era of the estate, ended in 1942 with Francis's departure for the city and the sale of Brookwood Hall to the Orphan Asylum Society of Brooklyn which had been displaced from its building by the Navy's war needs. The Orphan Asylum operated the Brookwood Hall Orphanage for as many as 72 orphans for the next 23 years. The wards grew all their own produce on the grounds and were often mentioned in newspaper accounts during the war years because of their elaborate Victory Gardens.

In 1965, the Orphan Society sold the property to Alfred and Fred Wimmer, who in turn sold it to the Town of Islip on January 6, 1967, for $385,000.

And there's some history about East Islip.

Now it's my turn to tag someone. Show us your town Erin!

1 comment:

  1. wow girl you did some MAJOR research of your town. I love LI, epsecially the hamptons! I was like the hamptons queen for many years...LOL

    where is east islip off the LIE?



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