Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Charles Steele Estate

The estate of Charles Steele, originally built for J.F.D. Lanier c. 1891 by James Brown Lord in Old Westbury. Above is the house as it looked in Lanier's time and below is how it looked after Steele completed his fairly significant renovations. In between the time Lanier and Steele owned this house, W.C. Whitney resided here while his house was being constructed around the corner. Click HERE for more on the Charles Steele estate.

Potcards from the Gary Lawrance collection.


magnus said...

That is SOME house- It looks like a hotel in the "before" photo and a really big summer resort hotel in the "after" (think "Greenbriar"). When I hear the phrase "White Elephant", this is the mental picture that I conjur up. Do you know what became of it?

magnus said...


Ignore my last question. With your usual thoroughness, you've already answered it when I click through the links.

Funnily enough, I know the house that was built on the site- a large, but not frighteningly large brick Georgian, very Delano and Aldrich, although I'm not sure who the architect is. Property has, sadly, been broken up, with banal, development houses much too close.

Zach L. said...

I thought the same thing when I saw the place from the front...looks like a hotel. I'm trying to figure out the details on its original builder, J.F.D. Lanier. He clearly inherited quite a fortune from his grandfather, founder of Winslow, Lanier & Company. He was roughly 32 when he built this place (as one of the first in the area) and was rid of it soon after.

The Down East Dilettante said...

A perfect example of might doesn't mean right

Turner Pack Rats said...

OMG - not again. except for one thing, this is a great place. the one thing being that skinny little asymmetric chimney (?) sticking up in the front. i'm crazy about the towers in the lanier iteration. i don't think steele improved on them but you guys don't know from nothing. a nice huge early definition of ESTATE

security word def -"pledlyer" - a guy who may not quite have told the whole truth in court

Anonymous said...

I try to avoid these debates but the cumulative critiques of some of these places got me to my keyboard. I have to agree with TPR (although I also love many of the Long Island farmhouse estates that survive) that houses such as Steele are fantastic and delightfully whimsical. I noticed people were also critical of Harbor Hill which was one o the greatest estates of all time-including the interiors, particularly the Armor Hall.
While the pictures posted on this amazing site can't always capture the true greatness of the properties, I always assume that the active bloggers are also familiar with the houses from many other sources and/or their own recollections.
I think that elsewhere in the US (with a few notable exceptions ) our most criticized estate would be considered a local treasure. We just have so many (though not enough survivors, of course) that we can afford to be (sometimes overly) critical snobs.

That said, I am continually thrilled that this great site exists and that there are so many well informed people who are so passionate about our unique heritage.


The Down East Dilettante said...

As one of the people that anonymous apparently considers a critical snob, I'm sorry he feels that way. Snob I'm not. I love all these old places, good or bad, unequivocally, and blog myself about some real old monsters of dubious design quality myself. That said, I think aesthetic criticism is a valid exercise---to train one's eye to what is good and why it is good, objectively and not subjectively. It is interesting to compare the works of various architects, and to watch how their designs progressed---the mightiness of Harbor Hill, with its obvious splendors (and the facade, btw, is beautifully designed, compared with the intensely imaginative and ground breaking houses McKim, Mead & White were doing only a decade earlier. Through this sort of discourse we trace cultural and social history, and give things context, their place in the scheme of things, as it were. That, to me is one of the great things when a spirited discussion, from several viewpoints, is underway.

And as far as personal taste is concerned, we're all certainly entitled to that too, are we not?

Anonymous said...

I probably came off as more critical than I intended. Spirited debate is great and I have nothing but respect (possibly even love and affection) for everyone who cares enough about these places to be here.