Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Pratt Oval

 The Pratt Oval, the administration and service buildings to 'Dosoris Park', the entire complex of Pratt family estates in Glen Cove.  These photos were taken by Eddie Crowley before the complex was demolished (minus the clock tower).  Click HERE for more on the Pratt Oval.


ChipSF said...

Zach -
great pictures of this building! any idea of the functions in this building? Were some of the other four buildings stables? Was it an oval because there was a sort of race track & infield insice the outer road?
thanks for posting!!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Contemplating the fates of old building can sometimes drive someone half made with frustration. Here was a complex that was just begging for creative adaptive re-use, that could have been an ornament to the community---a complex of buildings around a green anchored by the clocktower---and see what happened instead.

In an article in today's Times Home Section, a decorator is quoted as having worked for a guy who tore down a house 'that didn't really need to be torn down'...

The Ancient said...

The Pratt Mausoleum!i=807347793&k=Abtms&lb=1&s=A

The Ancient said...

There must be photographs of the Pratts at polo practice in the Oval.


archibuff said...

While Glen Cove has been at the forefront on Long Island regarding the adaptive re-use of large estates, (not as if they have much competition) with their acceptance of condo and townhouses conversions, commercial and institutional acquisitions, this was one case when they dropped the ball and let a unique complex slowly be demolished. Even the developer who ultimately built the subdivision where the main building stood couldn't figure out what to do with the spectacular clock tower so he just left it as a useless garden folly sitting in the backyard of an ordinary house.

magnus said...

Wonderful photos of a building I remember well. And it reminds me of a whole host of questions I have long wondered about:

What, exactly, was the Oval used for? It is reflexively described as "The central dairy and administrative facilities of the Pratt Estates". Yet each of the Pratt properties had their own superintendants and garden staffs, so who worked at the Oval, and what did they do?

The four buildings flanking the main building were originally described as stables, with two families sharing each building. What were they converted to as the automobile was fazed in? Each of the Pratt houses also had garages, some rather extensive, so conversion to garages so far from the main houses doesn't seem like it would have made great sense.

When did the Pratts cease to use the Oval? I have read that substantially all of it was sold in 1941. I have also read that it was only formally closed in 1950.

Every flower show in Nassau County throught the 1920's and 1930's took place in the main building of the Oval. how was that building configured? There must be photographs, but I've never seen any.

If anyone knows any of this, please write. It is simply amazing to me how little remains, even in memory of this fascinating and highly unique family project.

The Ancient said...

It could be that the Oval stables were used primarily for the Pratts' polo ponies.

Patricia said...

There's a bunch of NY Times articles on the flower shows but you had to buy them so there may be photos. The headlines alone conjure up what must have been unbelievable beauty. When we get our time machine working, this annual flower show has to be one of the stops.
From 1933:

FLOWERS SHOWN AT PRATT ESTATE; Courtyard Transformed Into French Mart for Exhibit of Long Island Clubs. 1,500 ENTRIES ARE LISTED North Country Garden Group Wins Sweepstakes Award -- Rock Garden and Pool Featured.

From 1939:

MORGAN FLOWERS CAPTURE 16 BLUES; Also Take Prizes for Largest Chrysanthemum and Best Exhibit at Nassau Show SUAREZES WIN 11 FIRSTS Mrs. Phipps Gets Awards for Roses--Big Crowd Sees the Displays on Pratt Estate

The competition among the gardeners must have been fierce.

Anonymous said...

On a house tour back some 25 years the information was that the oval was chiefly used for the large scale dairy, farming and maintenance operations that serviced over a dozen or so family estates, which included later descendants and their family homes. The surrounding buildings contained offices and workshops to service the many buildings on the adjoining estates, housing carpentry shops, metal smiths, automotive repair shops, storehouses and stables. When you consider the enormous requirements to run the Pratt properties from fixing broken toilets, repairing roof leaks, collecting vegetables or changing a vehicles oil, the oval had to operate like a small town.

The Ancient said...

Prattfalls --

''In 1931, the combined assessment value of the Pratt properties totaled $4,765,148, making the Pratts among the country's largest taxpayers. The properties included gardens, many auxiliary buildings, a cemetery and a mausoleum. Most of the 1,100 acres that made up the Pratt compound centered on Pratt oval, which housed the cars and a central telephone exchange that serviced 30 extensions.

''It has been estimated that 150 Pratts lived in the 18 houses that were scattered around the compound. There were herds of Jersey and Guernsey cattle, carpenter and plumbing shops and the oval's administration building. Each house had its individual staff in addition to the men and women required to look after the oval, the 20 miles of private roads, the private water works that pumped 30 million gallons of water each year, the gun club, the bathing pavilion and the outdoor tennis courts.''

Many Preserved Estates Find Uses in Glen Cove

The following is a partial listing of mansions in Glen Cove:

Killenworth -- Constructed circa 1912 by the architectural firm of Trowbridge and Ackerman for George du Pont Pratt, son of the Standard Oil magnate Charles Pratt; now owned and used by the Russian Mission to the United Nations.

Elsinor -- Built before 1873, it was the home of Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow, a wealthy railroad lawyer and art collector. The estate was acquired by E. R. Ladew, owner of the Ladew Leather Belting factory in Glen Cove in the early 1900's.

The Manor -- Constructed in 1910, it was the estate of John and Ruth Pratt and designed by Charles Adam Platt; it is now the Harrison Conference Center.

Pembroke -- Built by Joseph Raphael Delamar, who made millions in gold and silver mining. After Delamar's death in 1918, it was acquired by Marcus Loew, operator of a national chain of movie theaters and one of the founders of MGM Studios.

Cobble Court -- Constructed in 1927 for Louis and Kate Luckenbach. It has a commanding view of Long Island Sound. It is privately owned.

Poplar Hill -- Built in 1917 for Frederick B. Pratt, son of Charles Pratt; designed by William and Jeffery Platt, son of Charles Platt. It is now the Glengariff Nursing Home.

Webb Institute -- Constructed in 1912 for Herbert L. Pratt by the architect James Brite and the landscape architect James Leal Greenleaf. It is now owned by the Webb Institute for Naval Architecture.

Powell House -- Built in 1946 for Francis and Florence Pratt Powell. It is still privately owned.

Bucknall House -- Constructed in the late 19th century for H. W. J. Bucknall.

The Ancient said...

More Prattfalls --


(The water tower as it is today.)

From Gary Lawrance's blog:

(See bottom picture.)

From Nelson de Mille's "The Gate House":

I headed north on Dosoris Lane, a seventeenth-century road that led toward the Sound, and on which some Sutters had lived in centuries past.


Dosoris Lane passed through what had once been eight great estates, all belonging to the Pratt family, and built by Mr. Charles Pratt of Standard Oil for himself and seven of his eight children. Why number eight didn’t get an estate is a mystery to me, but I’m sure Charles Pratt had his reasons...


I passed one of the former Pratt estates, Killenworth, which was used as a weekend retreat for the Russian Mission to the United Nations. When the bad old Commies were around, there were KGB-type guards with guns and mean dogs at the iron gates. Now it looked peaceful and unguarded.

The ultimate rite of passage for boys – and even girls – when I was a kid growing up in Locust Valley, was to “cross the border” into the Soviet estate and play a dangerous game of hide-and-seek with the Russian guards and their dogs. The secret, incidentally, was raw ground beef – the dogs loved it.

We were more crazy than brave, I think, and we all had a story about some kid who had disappeared forever behind the Iron Curtain. I don’t think any of those stories were true, and most kids who vanished from the neighborhood were later discovered to have moved away with their families on a corporate transfer or gone to boarding school.

The Russian guards, I’m sure, thought we were incredibly daring, resourceful, and courageous, and I’m certain this was reported back to Moscow and led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War. Like most Cold War heroes, however, I and my idiot friends remain anonymous and unsung. Maybe someday the world will know what we did here, but until then, the Glen Cove Police will continue to carry us on their incident reports as unknown trespassers, vandals, and juvenile delinquents. That’s okay. We know.

Kellsboro Jack said...

The Ancient, that image link is such pitiful juxtaposition of architecture. Please tell Mike Brady his California colonial should get off my lawn ;>

Zach L. said...

I can't remember where I heard this...probably on here...that visitors to any of the numerous Pratt estates would have their cars brought over to the Oval by an employee to be washed and gassed up for the return ride home.

If only our friends would wash and fill up our cars when we visit nowadays.

The Ancient said...

KJ --

Just be glad the Brady kids haven't set up a slide from the tower to the pool immediately below.

Zach --

I wonder if they were above-ground gas tanks. I know of several LI estates that had enormous underground tanks installed in anticipation of gas rationing during WWII. I seriously doubt they were ever removed.

lil' gay boy said...

An interesting side note to one of the links Ancient so kindly provided:

A 158-acred Muttontown estate owned by George S. Brewster is a recent rescue effprt. The Hoffman Foundation, set up by Maximillian Edwin Hoffman , a foreign-car importer, and his wife Marion, bought it in 1995 from the Resolution Trust Company, which took it over from its former owner, Robert Meyer, who went bankrupt. The foundation plans to maintain the site as a preserve, a wildlife museum and an educational center.

Max Hoffman is well known for being a client of Frank Lloyd Wright's, having commissioned the famous Mercedes-Benz showroom on Park Avenue in Manhattan, as well as one of the largest, most luxurious FLLW houses even built, on North Manursing Island in Rye:

NYarch said...

Have always believed the Hoffman Foundation made the purchase after the Hoffmans passed away and the foundation set up the preserve in their honor which has been a very wonderful success, rescuing the mansion and property from certain destruction. They hold periodic lectures and collaborate with the Roosevelt preserve and Audubon Society in restoring and maintaining the grounds as a wildlife preserve.

Anonymous said...

I feel the Hoffman Center is a's never open, and phone calls are never returned. When can one honestly tour the grounds or the mansion?

Anonymous said...

It's a protected property and primarily a nature sanctuary. Being available for tours is secondary at this time.

Zach L. said...

I called them once in 2008 and asked if I could take photos of the exterior. The response I got was something like this...

"Why do you need to take photos of the house when photos of the house have already been taken before?"

Well alright then.

The Ancient said...

This is a little dated, but it tells a story ---


"The Hoffman Foundation, based in West Hartford, was founded by Marion O. Hoffman and her sister Doris C. Chaho in 1983 and is currently run by Chaho´s daughter Marion Barrak."

Anonymous said...

"It's a protected property and primarily a nature sanctuary. Being available for tours is secondary at this time."

Sounds to me that somebody figured a way to get tax exempt status to live on an estate that seems to be a private residence.

Doug Floor Plan said...

Anon 8:45am -- a truer word was never spoken; hopefully, someone reading Zach's blog has a government connection that can look into this because tax exempt status is given for a reason & anyone abusing that status is robbing all of us.

There, I'll step off my soapbox now.

Anonymous said...

Conspiracy Theories? The tax return limks are quite interesting to see how it is possible to retain an enormous amount of wealth and be able to pass it onto your family members so they can enjoy the salaries, benefits and deductions throughout their lives thanks to the non-profit status of their family foundation. All this occurs while being fully protected by the tax laws. Theyre not the first nor will they be the last to set up a foundation like this and reap the rewards.

The Ancient said...

DFP --

Anyone can file a complaint about a tax-exempt entity, and if the complaint is accompanied with adequate documentation, it will be looked into by the IRS.


Let's just assume the worst -- that the Hoffman heirs are a bunch of witless left-wing brats abusing the tax code to provide nice digs for one of their family members. (This, I must stress, is just a hypothetical -- despite the links above.)

If the Hoffman heirs felt their ownership/personal use of the property was imperiled, what's to keep them from dumping it on the market?

And how might that be better?

Doug Floor Plan said...

Ancient, you are correct -- if anyone with a historic piece of property & a questionable tax exempt status (I'm also thinking 'Lynnewood Hall') feels threatened there is nothing to stop them from selling to a developer who will do that thing we all hate to see done; but you seem to propose that it is preferable to be blackmailed by the owner in order to preserve the property ... & maybe it is ... I honestly don't know ... but I do know I hate being blackmailed.

Anonymous said...

Ancient you have a point....the more I think of it, I'd rather hundreds of other families claimed tax exempt to keep not only the houses but the land attached. Then maybe Long Island, (and Newport, Philidelphia, etc.), would all have remained intact, I guess in the long-run, I'd rather that.

....but they could offer OLI regulars a nice tour....(hint,hint)

Anonymous said...

So people with 65 million in assests like the Hoffman Center's family foundation can preserve their nest egg and their property while everyone else pays their share of the tax burden that provides town services, clean water, garbage pick up, police, fire protection, etc? Yeah, that sounds fair.

The Ancient said...

Anon 9:22 --

There's an old saying among economists that money gets transferred from the rich to the poor "in a leaky bucket." Now some buckets are obviously more leaky -- and thus more inefficient -- than others. But equity and efficiency are traded-off against each other all the time in public policies of all sorts, and "fairness" -- which is an amorphous concept -- is *never* the only criterion that gets applied.)

If the community (or the state) value environmental conservation and historic preservation, but are unwilling or unable to pay for it directly, what would you have them do?

Anonymous said...

If the state or county grants tax exemption status for a foundation then someone should be monitoring exactly what public benefit is provided by the loss from receiving those considerable taxes. It probably costs Nassau County over a 100k per year. For no payment into the County and State coffers, but getting all the services, to live in a palatial home and 158 exclusive acres, I would expect specific and regulated access to the property, public meetings and lectures regarding the progress that is being made in preserving this land and scheduled site tours of the property for the tax payers benefit who are graciously allowing this place to exist for the sole benefit of a well off family and their offspring and oh yea, for a few birds, turtles, fox and squirrels. Sounds like a complete scam as someone else has mentioned. Want land preservation? The family can donate it, as was the start of many of the preserves in the area, Coffins Woods, Muttontown Preserve, etc. not pretend it is a conservation zone and restrict all access to it for their own enjoyment.

The Ancient said...

Anon 1:55 --

I agree with all that.

But does the county or state have the ability to require it now, after the fact? For example, are there agreements regarding the exemption that need to be periodically renewed? Did the foundation ever warrant actions having to do with with public access that may not have occurred? I just don't know.


Anonymous said...

From Newsday:


WHEN | WHERE 1-2 p.m. Saturday, 6000 Northern Blvd., East Norwich. Continues first and third Saturdays of the month. For ages 10 and older. (Meet guide at entrance at 12:50 p.m. Gate locked when tour begins.)

INFO 516-922-3290


Anonymous said...

LOL...what a strange coincidence, this appeared in Newsday 1 day after the first comment, must have been some sort of cosmic consciousness thing going on at OLI.

Doug Floor Plan said...

Zach, I look forward to seeing your photographs & hearing about your experience.