Monday, April 11, 2011


'Thornham', the Landon Ketchum Thorne estate designed by William F. Dominick c. 1928 in Bay Shore, with landscaping by Umberto Innocenti and Ferruccio Vitale. Thorne was president and partner of the banking firm of Bonbright & Co. among many other positions and was at one time the commissioner of the Long Island State Parks Commission. His granddaughter, Julia Thorne, was the first wife of Senator John Kerry. The house was demolished in 1976. Click HERE to see where 'Thornham' stood on google earth.

Photos from the Library of Congress.


HalfPuddingHalfSauce said...

Remnants of "Thorneham" still can be seen -

Links to books and more photos...

I found this in a Google search - no clue on if its connected -

magnus said...

I know that I ask the same question every time you post a house in the Bay Shore- East Islip area, but I have never gotten a fully satisfactory answer: What caused this particular place, which seemed to have everything going for it as a summer resort, to completely "drop off the map" from a society standpoint. Other areas close by were able to soldier on through the Depression and 2nd World War and thrive again (think Locust Valley-Oyster Bay to the Northwest and "The Hamptons" to the East). Bay Shore/East Islip seem to have begun their slide off the resort charts in the 1920's and never recovered. I'd love to know the reason.

Anonymous said...

Interesting podcasts about this area...

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Thorne, or relation of, that lived at Brookwood Hall in East Islip?

Ray Spinzia said...

In response to Magnus' question -

I have a theory as to why the South Shore estate area virtually vanished. I want to emphasize that this is pure speculation. If you consider the South Shore estates to be those found in the Towns of Babylon and Islip, these estates were principally located from just north of Montauk Highway southward to the Great South Bay (a distance of approximately 1 mile). They extended from the Village of Babylon to the eastern border of Bayport (a distance of roughly 16 miles). Thus, the South Shore estate area encompassed 16 square miles. When you compare it to the Island's North Shore estate area, which extended from the Queens/Nassau border eastward to Centerport (approximately 25 miles) and some 15 miles from the Long Island Sound to just south of the present site of the Long Island Expressway, there is a huge difference. The North Shore estate area was about 375 square miles. It's a matter of numbers; the North Shore simply had more estates, it could lose more estates and still remain a viable estate area.

A second factor that came into play is that many of the heads of the prominent families died 1900-1920s. Most of their children sold the estates and relocated. We all know what happens when a developer gets his hands on estate property and we all know what happens when zoning is changed to accommodate a developer.

A third factor is that a majority of the South Shore estate homes tended to be modest and were very old by this point.

Thorneham trivia -

Landon Ketchum Thorne, Sr.'s granddaughter Julia married John Forbes Kerry at Thorneham. He is the United States Senator from Massachusetts and, of course, was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2004.

In response to Thorne family relationships -

Both Landon Ketchum Thorne, Sr. of Thorneham and Francis Burritt Thorne, Sr. of Brookwood were the sons of Edwin and Phoebe Ketchum Thorne II of Okonok in West Islip. According to Francis Burritt Thorne, Jr., the name of his parents' estate was Brookwood and that it was renamed Brookwood Hall by the estate's later owner, the Orphan Asylum Society of Brooklyn.

magnus said...

Ray- that is the most plausible explanation that I have heard and makes a great deal of sense. In a small area, it doesn't take much to change the entire character of a neighborhood and once started, social decline (in people and places) is all but impossible to reverse. Again, I have posted about it on several occasions, but the history of the Jay Carlisle house at East islip is a microcosm of the entire area: built in 1917 and "improved" throughout the 1920's, it was one of the area's showplaces. Yet when the Carlisles died in 1937, no attempt was even made to sell the property "as is". The contents were sold and the house demolished.

Doug Floor Plan said...

Magnus, is it possible Jay Carlisle wanted his house torn down after his death? I remember the Charles F. Brush mansion on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland is a noted example of a house being torn down per instructions in a will. Brush died in 1929.

Thornham looks very nice – understated comfort; & the estate grounds certainly gave this family privacy & easy access to the sea.

I also appreciate Ray Spinzia’s theory about Bay Shore – East Islip … makes sense.

Ray Spinzia said...

I agree that the Carlisle estate, Rosemary, was truly impressive. I have the Parke-Bernet Galleries' 1938 auction catalog for the entire contents of the house. The catalog also has several very nice pictures of the furnished interior -- really tastefully decorated. The house was demolished c. 1940. The idea of a will directive is an interesting thought. It may be on file in Riverhead. However, I don't imagine that money was a concern; his wife was a Pinkerton and his son married the daughter of the president of Standard Oil and resided in Brookville.


The Ancient said...

Ray --

I also think your explanation is really quite astute. The north shore benefited from increasing returns. The south shore found itself, well, Netscape.

We had relatives with a large house on the south side of the island in the teens and twenties. They abandoned it in the early thirties -- partly because it was inefficient (seven separate furnaces!), but also because they decided to live on the north shore where so many of their Manhattan friends had settled over the previous fifteen years.

But I also think something else was going on -- which I haven't thought about enough to quite explain. People were choosing sides. Some people wanted to spend their summers in the Hamptons, others in the Adirondacks, still others in Maine. Gradually, there was a sorting out. Part of it was arbitrary (friends and family), and part of it was deliberate (what it meant to be one place rather than another).

(I did say I couldn't coherently explain this.)

Ray Spinzia said...

I do think Ancient has a point. There was, as he says, a "sorting out." However, acceptance has to be considered. People chose to move to the "right place" but also to move to a place where there were "like" people. Case in point - on the South Shore in the early days there were "Brooklyn streets" and "Manhattan streets." This practice even extended to the rentals. Although I can't speak to the demographics of other sections of the country, I have done some research on the ethnic and religious demographics in the estate areas on the Island. See my website - Southampton sample - introduction.


ChipSF said...

Thorne figures prominently in the fascinating book:
A Wall Street Tycoon and
the Secret Palace of Science
That Changed the Course of World War II." by Jennet Conant

Anonymous said...

There seems to be some remnant's of the old days in Islip.

Anonymous said...

Thorneham was sold for development in 1976 and although the main house is no longer in existence, several original buildings are still on the property. It is currently The Admiralty, a homeowners association in West Bay Shore. I am a resident there and currently hold a position as Director of Landscaping. We have maintained and restored much of the property and original gardens. You can find pictures of the gardens at Archives of American Gardens of The Smithsonian institution at this site: