Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Derelict Greenhouses of 'Welwyn'

Recently uncovered from a couple of decades of unabated plant growth are the greenhouses to 'Welwyn', the Harold I. Pratt estate in Glen Cove. The main house was originally designed by Babb, Cook & Willard c. 1906 but Delano & Aldrich gave the house an extensive makeover in the 1920s. Click HERE for more on 'Welwyn'. The weeds around the greenhouses were cleared to create the 'Welwyn Farms Project', a future sustainable farm helping to feed the hungry. Click HERE to visit the 'Welwyn Farms Project' website. Click HERE to see the greenhouses on bing.

The path that leads down from the house to the greenhouses.


Turner Pack Rats said...

have they unearthed them because they're going to use them or because that growth was spreading to the house? you don't have kudzu on li, do you? except for no glass, they look to be in pretty good condition.

security word def - "cletsha" - yiddish for operators of large mansions that don't keep up their greenhouses.

Zach L. said...

A local group has plans to develop a small sustainable farm alongside them I believe.

The Down East Dilettante said...

LOL, yeah, except for no glass

That's kind of a great graffiti wall---as for the rest, it's just fascinating----skeletal remains in the jungle---If you had told me these phoots were in southeast Asia, I would have believed you

The Down East Dilettante said...

Zach's reply to Turner showed up only after I posted this---great idea, sustainable farm

Zach L. said...

You should have seen what they looked like before they were cleared. The very first time I went to Welwyn I wasn't even able to find the greenhouses let alone access them. When I finally did find them I discovered a forrest of poison ivy. The other walls in the rear of the greenhouses are covered in graffiti as well.

magnus said...

I have lived down the road from Welwyn for more than 40 years. When we first moved to the area, Mrs. Pratt was still alive- the last of the original Pratts left, and the place was relatively well kept up (although by a skeleton crew of 4 gardeners). The greenhouses were even operational. After Mrs. Pratt's death, Nassau county purchasaed the property- originally to use as a landfill (I kid you not). More sensible heads prevailed, and it is now a passive park preserve. But it is disgraceful to see how it is kept, and astonishing to see how quickly nature reclaims what is hers: Almost nothing of the once famous gardens remain.The ruined greenhouses are almost the least of it.

Anonymous said...

and the wonderful playhouse/indoor tennis court -

Did you go there?

magnus said...

Yes- it was still very much intact, although I don't believe that it had been used for many years.Monica Randall who wrote a book on the great estates of Long Island claims that the tennis court was badly damaged by fire during the filming of "A New Leaf" to whose film crew, according to Randall, Mrs. Pratt had leased Welwyn. I am fairly certain that "A New Leaf" was filmed several years after Mrs. Pratt died, and I am also equally certain that the devasting fire at the tennis court didn't occur until a good number of years after that. The building was relatively intact during my youth.

Anonymous said...

Your list of Playhouse/Indoor Tennis Courts is growing. Don't forget about Harbor Hill and Greentree. The Pratts were so organized I'm surprised they didn't have a playhouse/tennis court at the Oval for shared use - or did they?

Anonymous said...

Yep - Harbor Hill

I'll include Greentree, all thou it looks nothing like it did in the Monica Randal book -

Brookmeade -

Here's a property that needs more attention -

I have this Pratt complex for John, someone says it should be George???????

So thats two Pratt complexes, no sharing there. Maybe more that I'm not aware of. The hunt goes on.

Zach L. said...

I don't know who designed it but 'Spring Hill' had an indoor tennis court that burned down years ago.

magnus said...

I am told that the other Pratt complex was the George Pratt "Playhouse" ajoining Killenworth. It's now the Glen Cove "Y".

And Bogheid certainly is deserving of more study. In it's current incarnation it is a huge Delano and Aldrich Georgian house, with the indoor tennis court attached to the house itself. I believe that it was built at the tale end of the "mansion" period (mid-late 1930's, I think), by Helen Porter Pryibil to replace an earlier house on the property built by her father, William Porter, an early JPMorgan partner. I've never seen a photo of this earlier house, but it must have been breathtaking in size to have been replaced by the enormous hose that is there now. By the way, in the late 1970's, the house was all but abandoned and I spent many hours combing through the place, it's basements, subbasements, bowling alley- still with pins and balls- and wine cellar still filled with champagne bottles, all, alas, empty.

magnus said...

oh- and another glorious playhouse, still intact- The Vietor- Lynch playhouse at Cherrywood in Locust Valley. It is owned by a Lynch descendant and still kept in amazing condition.

Turner Pack Rats said...

i saw these greenhouses on bing before they started clearing. you were right, zach. what a jungle and if thats all poison ivy - what fun clearing it. roundup is about the only thing that kills it well.
this place is such a contradiction. a previous post show a big plaque ballyhooing the childrens garden but they let the gardens and the greenhouse complex get consumed by the jungle and the tennis complex - what a place to let it sit and rot. i hope the sustainable farm takes off and they put a farmers market in the tennis complex.

security word def - "begendig" - request field gleaners make to truck farmers.

Anonymous said...

Cherrywood -

It looks very well kept.

This one not so much -

I was way off on Greentree -

Especially at Bing the place looks exactly like it did in MR's book.
I was looking at the spacecraft to the west of the house.

Zach do you know where the Spring Hill complex stood?

I've seen a few interior shots of Bogheid. It just seem so Delano and Aldrich. Fine scrolled moldings over the doors with black/white checkerboard marble floors if I remember right. Paneled walls in on room. Magnus did you take photos????

James said...

hphs: i was at bogheid during the winter,have some exterior shots and one me: , i can send to you..James

Anonymous said...

great work all of you, this is the collegial spirit i mentioned when HPHS was being called out last week. i do have one question, or perhaps a request: can you create links for those of us who live for this tremendous site but are either time or typing skills deficient when you cite and site these wonderful locations you dig up.
keep up the great work, this site is a joy to go to

Anonymous said...

You life just got a little bit easier if you never knew about CUT, COPY,PASTE. {I say this because after years of hard copying everything I was turned on to this wonderful time saver} I thought I was doing better about this from the last request by spacing the http text. I can't add the link like Zach does because... well this is his site. All you have to do is "highlight" the http text in the posts by using your mouse - position the cursor at the end of the http://www. text etc. - pressing the left button on the mouse should highlight the text in blue - holding left button move mouse to "highlight" the full link - you can release left button and text should remain blue - press right mouse button - "copy" option is at top of display box - below you'll get "go to http://www the link in question" use your mouse to position cursor over "go to" click/enter as normal. The "go to" option will bring you to the site. I hope this is helpful AND what your talking about.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - so I don't feel to stupid because of my wordy message regarding your typing/time problem, can you tell me if this helps?

Anonymous said...

HPHS just saw your response, sorry that i did not get back to you earlier. i am sure that it will fit the bill and i will give it a workout when next at home this evening and report back to you asap.
more importantly thank you for your help, i appreciate that effort the most ....... you were not wordy.
what are your thoughts on my Pratt estate/s idea?

magnus said...

Half Pudding/Half sauce: funnily enough, I was taking a course in photography at the time and won a couple of prizes for my photos of the abandoned Bogheid. You're right: Quintesential Delano and Aldrich- great proportions, wonderful Georgian detailing with just a slight art deco twist. By the way, several years ago I purchased a copy of the auction catalog of the contents of Bogheid held after Mrs. Pryibil died, in the late '60's- early '70's. As there are only really three degrees of separation in the world, a very close friend of mine (a friendship developed years after I left college), is a son of Mrs. Pryibil's God-daughter, and his apartment contains a number of wonderful Georgian pieces that his mother bought at the Pryibil auction. Another friend has an apartment in a New York townhouse on East 69th street that had originally belonged to Mrs. Pryibil: His living room- beautifully proportioned and detailed, with french windows letting on to a balcony overlooking the garden had been Mrs. Pryibil's dining room (The NY Historical Society has the Mattie Edwards Hewitt archives which contain a photo of the room). She clearly loved Delano and Aldrich georgian renditions- and who doesn't?

Zach L. said...


I'm not entirely sure what you mean when you say your Pratt idea but I have 57 individual entires on here for the Pratt family covering all of their houses.

Anonymous said...

OK - since I've been released.......
For anonymous - No need to apologize. I wouldn't expect an immediate answer. If you were trying to reach these links by manually typing the text{as I did for years} this shortcut could be remembered as life changing{WHAT no crazy Bravenet-like icons to choose from?}

James I emailed you. Look for Thanks

For those that don't understand where I get the odd screen name - {I'm prompted by this American Stables book I mentioned} - La Bagatelle by Thomas Hastings " Mr. Hastings built a family residence for himself in Old Westbury, in the Meadowbrook country, called La Bagtelle, to serve as a summer home and hunting box. Completed in 1912, and partially rebuilt in 1916 after a destructive fire, it follows, in plan, the architect's metaphorical dictum 'one half for the pudding, the other half for the sauce' " This was his advice to clients - divide the budget in two equal parts, half for the house, half for the rest.

For Magnus - They have to be rare inside photos.
The next question would be - will we see them?????????? Funny you should bring up Mattie Edwards Hewitt. I'll soon upload something on YouTube about "Rose Terrace" the Anna Dodge estate outside of Detroit designed by Horace Trumbauer.

Its will be similar to the Winfield Hall stuff I did. I have a video from the 70's taken right before the house was emptied. World museums came to take her Duveen supplied furnishings away. Anyone been to the Getty? Plus I was given access by the Detroit Institute of Art to the Mattie Edwards Hewitt photos she did of Rose Terrace. What a story for this lady - Millions in income that was tax exempt, Mizner designed Palm Beach palace Playa Rienta, partied with the Stotesbury's of Whitemarsh Hall, Yacht Delphine

Then she commission Trumbauer to do Rose Terrace

Paraphrasing whats been said about the place - the finest French classical revival residence in the United States, compared as equal with the famous houses of France. Look for this soon.{I hope}

cattychick from Chicago and fans of Charles Platt designs. Have you heard about "Vila Turicum"?

magnus said...

aahhh- Rose Terrace. Now that's a house. Can't wait to see them. And yes, I'll ne happy to post the photos of Bogheid - when I find them. i'll have a look-see this week-end

Anonymous said...

thank you and the others ( HPHS) for all of your kind words, in regard to my dislike of typing when i can do a shortcut.
you are correct in regard to the number of great photos and detail on the Pratt"s. i was thinking more on who had the idea of the Oval ...... i mean it is a big departure from the standard estate farm group. other than the picture of the existing tower maybe there are more pictures of the Oval.
lastly there maybe some detail on why it was developed in such a funny way, it looks like a combination of warehouse, homes and whatever.

Max Cheney said...

I see that this post is long dead, but if anyone still happens upon this incredible blog, I have some info on the original post that might be interesting to some.

To start off, although I am only 16 (14 at the time those pics were taken) I am happy to say that I was one of the many people that lifted that project off of the ground.

Those pictures were taken just after we officially opened the project. A bobcat was used with a monstrous looking blade on the front, to clear the pestering poison-ivy and thorny vines.

The plans for the project are as follows:
-After a thorough inspection by a structural engineer, we determined that the buildings(for the most part) are sound.
-The greenhouses are also sound and plans are set to have them refurbished complete with glass(not plexi-glass mind you).
-The farm will occupy a total of 5 acres, these are still somewhat identifiable by google earth(it is the light green area around the greenhouses).

As for other remaining parts, we have found a cobblestone road running almost to the edge of the plot of land, but even then it runs into a mound of dirt so it could potentially go further.

Another interesting find that we unearthed one day while swinging our machetes at savage weeds, was a set of cold frames made of concrete, as well as a pedestal with a fountain hookup.

After some research we also found images of the original garden.

I realize that this post is incredibly long, but this last part needs to be mentioned.

Soon after the official opening, Tom Suozzi, our leading benefactor, was voted out of office. The Welwyn Farms initiative received many objections stating that it is a preserve therefore we can't remove plants that are growing naturally there (even though they are invasive species that are killing vegetation...even trees). So in effect, just days after the opening, our permit was pulled, and as far as I know, no work has been allowed to proceed since.

Anonymous said...

Actually the group of 300 or so people, opposing this project, that was gathered within one business week after learning of the illegal clearing for this "farm" put in requests to the county offices and found that no permit was ever issued. Ever. The bobcat was operating on county land without a permit, and all that were involved in that shady project could still be prosecuted if they were to continue. The clearing is all on video tape, along with witness testimony and police reports.

I must say yes it is a great idea, but not in a county preserve that has this history. And not by people who have not a clue about running a sustainable farm.

Welwyn will live the way it has for many years to come... well past any of our lifetimes.