Monday, April 25, 2011

'Deer Range Farm'


Today's photos and write up come from author Ray Spinzia. Sarah Ives Plumb (1840-1877) purchased 'Deer Range Farm', the 400-acre estate of Edwin Augustus Johnson, Sr. in 1872 in East Islip. After her death, her husband James Neale Plumb (1834-1899) inherited the estate and altered the house to the pictured structure (c. 1884). Upon his death, his son James Ives Plumb inherited the estate. In 1903 he sold the estate, which over the years had increased to 700 acres, to George Campbell Taylor who merged it with his adjoining estate to create a 1,500-acre estate. The Plumbs and Taylor continued to call the estate 'Deer Range Farm'. With Taylor’s death in 1907, the combined estates passed to the Taylor/Pyne family corporation which in 1909 demolished the Plumb mansion, portions of which were incorporated into buildings in the Islip and Bay Shore area (seen below). The remaining Taylor mansion and 1,500 acres remained in the family corporation until 1924 when it was confiscated by Robert Moses and became Heckscher State Park. August Heckscher, Sr. gave Moses the money to acquire the land, hence the name of the East Islip park and parkway. Moses subsequently demolished the Taylor mansion.


24 comments:

La Petite Gallery said...

Thank God there are still some photo of a wonderful History. I just treated a friend to NYc we had 4 days and I just turned 74 can't whip around like I used to but I took her to the Waldorf to see Cole PPorters Piano, befor Anythig goes. It was awesome. Don't miss it a feel good show. yvonne

magnus said...

No THAT'S a house-

Security word of the day: Quier: "It's a quier sort of house, but rather appealing, though I'm not quite sure why."

The Down East Dilettante said...

Once again, Magnus took the words right out of my mouth. What an over the top affair---looks like a set design out of a Tim Burton movie.

Fascinating story, too--utterly. I also think that it answers part of Magnus's question as to what happened to the South Shore as a fashionable location.

I spent a moment thinking that there is a lot that is oddly pleasant about the house, then I thought about the annual painting bill, which could support a small nation---end of fantasy.

Ray Spinzia said...

I agree, the South Shore estate area seemed to disintegrate of its own accord. Oddly, Moses had little or no influence on its demise. I am aware of only two mansions he acquired and demolished -- Taylor's and the house on Nursery Stud Farm, the 1,500-acre estate of August Belmont, Sr. in North Babylon. Portions of Belmont's estate are now Belmont Lake State Park. The allee of huge evergreens in the center median of Southern State Parkway was the original entrance to Belmont's estate.

The Devoted Classicist said...

The Robert Moses Plus and Minus lists are both long, are they not?

magnus said...

For a fascinating and measured account of the career of Robert Moses, I highly recommend Robert Caro's The Power Broker. It goes beyond Moses to explore the good and bad in fashions in urban planning prevalent during Moses' lifetime. These ideas underwent a dramatic change as Moses aged and left him looking very much the villain at his death. I think that the current view is more balanced. The book is a "must" for anyone interested in urban planning issues.

Ray Spinzia said...

Without question Moses' career is highly controversial. Caro claims that Moses' animosity toward the estate owners stemmed from being rejected during his college years by the WASP elite. But, then again, his cousin Otto Kahn had the same problem during his lifetime. Supposedly that is why Kahn chose to build on Long Island.

Zach said...

And regarding Kahn, doesn't the story go something like he constructed the hill that 'Oheka' sits on so he could "look down upon" all his neighbors.

And that he was responsible for the building of a small oil terminal at the foot of Snake Hill Road so Walter Jennings would have to watch rival oil companies floating their ships into Cold Spring Harbor passed the rear of 'Burrwood'.

Judy Spinzia said...

Actually, we really have good old Rosalie Gardiner Jones to thank for that atrocity. She, who drove around the neighborhood with her goats in the car and wintered them in the ballroom of Jones Manor.

The following is from my article on General Rosalie Gardiner Jones and is posted on our website -

"The oil storage tanks at the mouth of Cold Spring Harbor are another 'Rosalie.' With intent or just by unfortunate oversight by Walter Jennings and the Board of Governors, Rosalie was the only member of the Jones family not invited to join the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club, established on the spit at the foot of Snake Hill at the site of the Glenada Hotel Casino. Rosalie bought the parcel of land next to the club property in 1927 and sold it for use as an oil depot to Jennings' former partner-turned-competitor Herbert Lee Pratt, Sr., who resided at The Braes in Glen Cove and, then, headed Socony Oil. Jennings, vice-president of Standard Oil Co., lived at Burrwood on Shore Road in Lloyd Harbor. His property atop Snake Hill overlooked the harbor. Although he died in 1933 and, consequently, did not have to endure the storage tank landscape long, the rest of us have just had to get used to it."

Zach said...

Judy, thank you for the clarification. I can't remember who had told me it was Kahn...I think a real estate developer.

lil' gay boy said...

Zach, I'm not sure about the timing but the "king of the hill" contest was an oft-told story at Nana's, especially given the location of her house in Norgate, just outside the walls of Harbor Hill.

Mackay's site was the highest natural point on Long Island, and Kahn spent almost TWO YEARS trucking in landfill in order to raise the height of Okeka (an aerial shot of which appeared as the fabled Xanadu in Citizen Kane) to exceed that of Harbor Hill.

As a victim of the prevalent anti-Semitism of the time, Kahn always pushed back most cleverly (i.e. the Metropolitan Opera); given that Mackay had forbidden his daughter to marry Irving Berlin (a Jew ––– Oy vey! She married him anyway) there could have been some motivation there to push back yet again, but I'm not sure the dates of said events would support that supposition.

Security word - dogia: the porch of a kennel.

The Down East Dilettante said...

although ugly anti-semitism undeniably existed, Kahn doesn't seem to have been as major a victim as urban legend would have it. He was simply too rich, and too cultured, and too important in the international financial world. His comings and goings at major WASP events and resorts can be found in even the most cursory of glances through social archives, as can those of others of his strata, the Warburgs, the Schiffs, etc. Not to say it didn't exist, but merely pointing out that Kahn was not nearly as excluded as some, or as previous discussion would have it.

And he would hardly be the first rich man to desire a higher hill for his house, and to truck in the soil to do so.

Ray Spinzia said...

LGB's post started me thinking. I have a question for the younger generation computer geeks. Could satellite map imaging answer once and for all who had the "highest" estate, Mackay or Kahn?

For those interested in Kahn's acceptance problems, see Robert B. King, "Raising a Fallen Treasure: The Otto H. Kahn Home, Huntington, Long Island, New York." pp. 24-25.

lil' gay boy said...

Ray, historical topographical maps would undeniably be able to put to rest the question of "whose is bigger" ––– I seem to recall somewhere that Kahn's dictate at the time was that his site should exceed Mackay's by at least 200 feet. Just because he had the wherewithal to purchase the highest site on the Island did not mean he was able to, and I seem to recall a tale, probably apocryphal, of Mackay beating out Kahn for the choice site.

DED, no one can deny that the rarefied air Kahn's extraordinary wealth enabled him to breathe did more than just ease any "inconveniences" that being a Semite at the time might have imposed.

But lest we forget history, separate but equal is still not equal; regardless of whatever your wealth could buy your way out of, around, or over, to be denied anything, be it access to a club, facility or business on such a basis was and is still unconscionable.

Certainly a man of color could have slaked his thirst at a separate fountain, but the indignity of it did still sting.

lil' gay boy said...

BTW Ray, Google Earth provide a feature that indicates elevation to within less than an inch in height, as I recall.

Security word - nessiona: all are asleep in upstate NY.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Total agreement with what you say, LGB, but that wasn't my point: The point was that many of the stories about Kahn one-upping the WASPS are nothing more but repeated gossip grown to urban legend, and that in fact he was one of the men who most effectively broke down the old barriers---more an agent of change than a victim----for an objective, level account, cf "Our Crowd" by Stephen Birmingham, chapter 39 in particular.

Bigotry is ugly in any form.

Anonymous said...

I still think Robert Moses is evil incarnate. And for all of everyones opinions of the demise of the South Shore estates.......I still don't get it....they had the acreage...and the Great South Bay. I wish some of these of homes from the late 1800's still stood...such a great piece of architectural history gone forever.

lil' gay boy said...

I hear you, DED, and much has been made of the bigotry Kahn was supposedly subjected to, and how deeply it may have run. My only point is that no amount of money can remove that sting ––– alleviate it, yes, but never remove it.

Here it is as promised; the last installment of the Planting Fields Trilogy; a compilation of my "rambles" that take in the vistas & flora, as opposed to the architecture and formal landscaping ––– courtesy of Nikon, Mother Nature, and an unexpected tango from Albeniz.

Security word - untati: the lost art of rejuvenating antimacassars.

Doug Floor Plan said...

I agree with DED regarding just the maintenance costs of such a place. To me this is what a house designed by committee might look like – everyone gets to add something that no one else can take away. Difficult to believe (for me at least) there was a day when ‘Deer Range Farm’ might have been considered attractive.

My guess is the color photograph with the tattoo parlor is the portion of the house in the first black & white photo Zach posted, the portion directly to the left of the tower – the cut-back eaves on the dormer windows match. Too bad they didn’t keep the third-floor balcony; it would be a lot better looking than those tiny windows & fake shutters that are there now.

LGB – thanks for sharing ‘Planting Fields.’

Anonymous said...

Kahn was clearly aware of the distinction between being allowed to participate and actually being accepted. One great quote attributed to him was the following:

"A Kike is the Jewish gentleman who just left the room".

NSP

Judy Spinzia said...

I have always thought that the piece of the house identified by DFP is that which became the tattoo parlor. In the picture with the "neo-neo-neo-Georgian columns with the Gothic arches," which was added by Plumb after Sarah's death, that section would be behind that columnar addition. A whole other wing of that house, not seen in this photograph has the same window structure (yes, several architectural features of this house are consistent) but that wing is capped by a mansard roof.

The picture of the piece of gingerbread that Zach posted was taken from the back of the present building in Bay Shore so that detail would probably have been on the back of house.

Ray has always been amazed that Plumb lived in that house by himself after his wife's death and after his estrangement from his children. Previous posts have been concerned with eternal maintenance costs, I've always wondered how much staff it took to clean the place . . . think of the number of corners to clean . . .

Turner Pack Rats said...

this is my absolute favorite of all time (excepting Laurelton Hall, of course, which nothing could ever match). absolute fantasy for the Victorian house lover. looks like the architect got going and couldn't stop (must have been drinking qualog). dusting and painting aside, a roofers nightmare. at least when he lived there alone, he didn't have to worry about boredom - he could live in a different room every day of the year.

and then - the ultimate Moses insult - to put the allee of trees of the entrance drive to an estate down the middle of one of his f-ing freeways. That's like peeing in the holy water font (not that i ever did)

LGB - dogia - the best since trango (DED def)-a South American dance for cross-dressers

security word def - "prinally" - the feeling that overwhelms one at this time of year and while watching LGB's photogravures.

Susan said...

I grew up in East Islip and whenever we returned East, the smell of those evergreens by Belmont State Park meant we were almost home. Thanks for the bit of history, I never knew that.

To this day, I roll down my car window to smell their scent when I pass them on my way home to visit family who are still in E.I.

Susan said...

Can anyone tell me exactly where Deer Range Farm stood on the present day Heckscher property? I know every inch of the park, so I'd love to know. Also, what year was it demolished?