Wednesday, June 20, 2012


'Sunshine', the Henry Bramhall Gilbert estate designed by Little & O'Connor c. 1900 in Kings Point.  Gilbert was married to Lilla Brokaw and was brother-in-law to Clifford Brokaw of 'The Elms' and Florence Martin Satterwhite of 'Martin Hall' (which was next door).  'Sunshine' was demolished in the late 1950s but click HERE to see where it stood on bing.

Click HERE to see a 1954 aerial with 'Sunshine' still intact before the property was subdivided and developed.  Photos from American Homes and Gardens, 1911.


magnus said...

Great architecture? Maybe not. A heck of a lot of fun? You betcha. Give me a Pompeian Court in Great Neck any day. That, a perhaps over exuberant wall fountain and the name "Sunshine" and my day is made.

The Ancient said...

I'm with magnus.

(That waterfront side just screams out, "Toga.. Toga... Toga.")

Zach L. said...

Ancient...I was hoping you might have some better luck digging up something on Gilbert.

I wasn't able to find a whole lot pertaining to the man himself...though there is a bunch on his wife and children.

Doug Floor Plan said...

I’m surprised this house was torn down in the 1970s – the exuberant style would have fit right in with the times; my guess is by then a house built c. 1900 needed some major upgrades. Interesting to compare ‘Sunshine’ with ‘Martin Hall’ [the in-laws’ next door place] – both designed by Little & O’Connor. Both built at the same time, both exuberant, & both having a double-curved staircase around the front door – I wonder if the respective owners liked that look or if the architect sold it to them? I also wonder what the C. V. Brokaw Sr. family at the stately, refined “The Elms” [Charles A. Platt, c 1912] thought when the went to call on their exuberant in-laws?

archibuff said...

Lots of bold over the top design with the hand maidens supporting the dining room mantle and an early version of the now legally required double bridal staircase installed in every new mcmansion, but a wonderful place indeed and I agree with the comments about the fantastic wall fountain. Unfortunately it seems to have been an extended family that didnt have much luck preserving their homes whether the classic Elms or the lavish bordello inspired Martin Hall.

Anonymous said...

Holy Laocoon, what IS going on with the fountain - whatever those shapes are, we know exactly where the neighborhood's missing grandchildren had run off to.


Zach L. said...

The 1970s date for the demolition is wrong. Click on the link to historic aerials and you'll notice Sunshine disappears between 1954 and 1966.

The Ancient said...

Henry Bramhall Gilbert (1861 - 1911)

From the NYT:

"[Bramhill Gilbert] died in June, 1911, while at Aix-les-Bains, France, with his wife and family, where he had gone in search of health. He left an estate valued at about $15 million."

There's data suggesting Mrs. Gilbert was 18 when she got married (November 8, 1888, in Manhattan). She died in 1939 in Locust Valley.

The Widow Gilbert

A confusion of labels.

(The Widow Gilbert re-marries.)

(Mrs. Dugmore, as she then was.)

The Down East Dilettante said...

Well, this place is a regular United Nations stylistically. A merry romp through architectural history. Sunny Spain, ancient Pompeii, Merrie olde Englande, you name it.

The Ancient said...

Biographical Directory of the State of New York, 1900:

GILBERT, HENRY BRAMHALL -- Merchant, 97 Bleecker Street, New York City; residence 826 Fifth Avenue. Member Union League, Country, Racquet and Tennis, Suburban Riding and Driving, Carteret Gun and Larchmont Yacht Clubs.

From the NYT, July 5, 1911:

GILBERT -- Funeral service of the late Harry Bramhall Gilbert at his residence, 40 West 57th St., Thursday, July 6, 11 A.M. Interment private.


Down in Palm Beach in 1913, Mrs Gilbert intervenes to spare her two daughters some small bit of infamy:,5464140

(Center column, just before the Scott story, then jumping right.)

Her re-marriage the following year also spawned gossip:

The Ancient said...

Zach --

I still don't know where the money came from. The only reference I've seen to Gilbert's profession is "merchant." But the address given is somewhat problematic. Perhaps it was just an office suite.

Fifteen million was a fair sum in 1911. Perhaps Gilbert was the grandson of an Old New York merchant who invested in property in midtown. That comports well with his list of clubs, but it's just a guess, as I saw nothing about his ancestry.

Anonymous said...

"GILBERT, HENRY BRAMHALL -- Merchant, 97 Bleecker Street, New York City; residence 826 Fifth Avenue. Member Union League, Country, Racquet and Tennis, Suburban Riding and Driving, Carteret Gun and Larchmont Yacht Clubs."

That appears to be it, Ancient. I've even gone through census documents, anything at all to bring this man alive. I can't find a trace of him anywhere, no footprints beyond those of his wife. Just wish I knew more so I could rid my view finder of this Tim Conway-kind of background fellow who died in France while searching for his health.


The Ancient said...

Even tracing Gilbert back through his paternal and maternal grandparents sheds no light whatsoever on the source of his money.

HBG was born in 1862 in Rahway, Union, NJ. His father died in 1865, age 36, in Manhattan. His mother died in 1887, age 43, also in Manhattan. HBG married Lilla Brokaw the following year.

HBG and Lilla Brokaw seem to have had four children: Lilla Brokaw Gilbert (1892 - 1975), Florence Emily Gilbert (1896 - ?), Elizabeth Ward Gilbert (1903 -- 1 September 1969, Palm Beach, FL), and Harry W. Gilbert (1903 - ?).

(Trivia: One of the daughters married someone whose aunt, Lily Price, ultimately became the Duchess of Marlborough.)

Lastly, there is a Harry Bramhall Gilbert Charitable Trust centered on Tidewater Virginia. Gilbert was a naval officer and architect who died a few decades ago. It's unclear to me just how he's related to the founder of this feast. (Perhaps he's incorrectly listed as "Harry W. Gilbert" above -- that's possible.)

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