Friday, December 6, 2013

Inisfada's Demolition

As we learned today the demolition of 'Inisfada' has begun (and possibly concluded).  Click HERE for the Newsday article on the issue and HERE for more on the estate.

41 comments:

Kyle Peterson said...

That's a damn cry and shame. This is very sad news. A magnificent piece of architecture and history, I wish it had been preserved. Life goes on though.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think some blame should lie with the Jesuits? They're the ones that set the asking price so high, that no body but a developer could have purchased her. Long Island has no sense of history or culture.

Anonymous said...

So disheartening to see this outcome. My last visit was in late 2012 and inisfada was magical.
As a resident the Jesuits are certainly to be blamed from the beginning. They knew exactly the kind of outcry that they would cause by selling to a developer intent on demolition and that is why they kept mum about the details, didn't comment, packed up and moved out as fast as they could and basically abandoned the local communities who provided so much support and money over the years. Reverend Vincent Cooke should be called out for his actions. Just because he hides behind the good book doesn't make him any better than a greedy business man concerned more about filling his own wallet than caring one bit about those who donated their time, energy and money over the years. A damn shame. All the teachings about caring, love, spirtuality, kindness, was just a bunch of whooey from his mouth. I never witnessed a church group abandon a community the way the Jesuits did to the greater Manhasset area. Development was also inevitable except the village could have and should have worked with the new owners to preserve the mansion, but from the start they also were unsympathetic and uninterested.

Chares said...

To see this happen in 2013,when we thought that we were more enlightened to the preservation of our past, is a real tragedy. We signed petitions, wrote letters, passed the word, etc, but to no avail. How could people be so callous to the beauty and majesty of this home that can never ever be replaced? I am grateful that I was able to spend time here before the loss. What a sad sad day...

Kyle Peterson said...

Bunch of GREEDY MOTHERFUCKERS: http://www.manhassetpress.com/inisfada-demolition-underway/

Anonymous said...

Kyle..you took the words right out of my mouth. But lets not forget the Asshole Marvin Natiss mayor of North Hills. If ever there was an ignorant moron he confirms it each time he speaks, stating that the building was a health hazard and this is progress. What a first class jack ass he is.

Anonymous said...

Aside from the Manhasset Press, more local news regarding the demolition. Take a look in the mirror Long Island because this will happen again and again if we dont do something to educate people about the history in their own backyards. Shocking how few are aware of what exists here. Archibuff

Boy that mayor is a first class jerk

http://www.theislandnow.com/news/article_50ac3cb8-5dee-11e3-bf30-0019bb2963f4.html

Zach said...

http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/almost-half-of-st-ignatius-retreat-house-demolished-1.6556957

http://www.theislandnow.com/news/article_4644ef10-52cf-11e3-bb9b-001a4bcf887a.html

Doug Floor Plan said...

The next time the Bing satellite rolls around this won’t be there: http://binged.it/18tnEtU

Anonymous said...

Speaking of satellites, who else spent too much of their Sunday playing I spy with the new google maps update?

A. Nonymous from Newport said...

Off topic - in the Blemton Manor (the property of August Belmont)posting on May 24, 2011 "magnus" commented with an inquiry.
To answer magnus, who wrote "Off topic but related: Does anyone know the history of the Belmont family ownership of Belcourt in Newport?"
This ancient party looked through copies of all the Newport Social Index publications available at the Newport Library and found that Perry Belmont was the family member who summered at Belcourt the longest - from 1910 to 1931, uninterrupted. Prior to that he summered at his parents' estate, By The Sea. From 1932 to 1935 Perry Belmont is not listed, though Belcourt itself, in the named estate-listings pages, is indicated thusly, "(Belmont)"
In 1936 Perry Belmont is indicated as spending the summer at the LaForge Cottage on Touro Park West; owned by Maddelena M. LaForge who ran a Tea Room and Candy Shop at 186 Bellevue Avenue - now the location of the LaForge Restaurant in the Casino building.
From 1937 to 1946 Perry summered at Elm Lodge at 32 Old Beach Road; the stone wall remains but a modern ranch house now occupies the site. Perry Belmont died in May, 1947. Belcourt, itself, was sold to the Waterman Corp. in 1940 but stood idle until bought by the Tinney family in October, 1956.
A visit to Newport City Hall to search the old tax records, as to who actually owned Belcourt during these years, would require the assistance of whatever public servant one would encounter. In which case the notion that they could be of any assistance would be an affront!

Anonymous said...

Criminal! Criminal! This is probably the most important loss of an American historic landmark since the demolition-crazy 1960's. It was one of the ten largest houses in the US, one of THE greatest landmarks of the Great House Era. Perhaps this will be the big wakeup call for historic preservation on LI. Thinks of what the demolition of Penn Station in 1963 led to - NYC's Landmarks Preservation Law of 1965. In the city you can have individual landmark designations and historic district designations for entire neighborhoods. Demolition is illegal with regards to both types of designations. Now is the time to start campaigning for such laws on LI - do it before the outrage subsides. It took two years after the Penn Station debacle to get NYCs law passed - there is no time to waste. Think of how Newport is so much better preserved than the Gold Coast. The last Newport mansion to be deliberately destroyed (except for one that had been gutted by fire and remodeled into a quasi-modernist style)was taken down around 1974. Nearly two thirds of Newport has historic district designation - you can't even alter a house in those districts without the city's approval. The battle over building a visitor's center at The Breakers sparked a war this year that made the NY times - all that was historically threatened was the landscape. By the way, Palm Beach now has a similar town ordinance. If Oyster Bay and Huntington townships - plus the Village of Sands Point - had laws like NYC, Newport and Palm Beach the march of destruction could be halted. Let's hope that this travesty will light a fire under the mayors and officials of the Gold Coast. It's up to them - and the voters - as to whether the surviving grand enclaves of the Gold Coast will survive as another Newport or morph into an upscale version of Levittown.

Titanic Bill

Anonymous said...

This demolition had better get local groups like SPLIA off their lazy butts and into doing something constructive to demonstrate to local municipalities how to embrace preservation and enact landmark laws within their incorporated villages. Advocates across Long Island, Manhasset, the town of north hempstead and nassau county could do nothing, we were at the mercy of a gang of fools running the village of north hills. They enabled the developer to destroy this landmark and have overnight diminshed this countries history. Shameful, criminal and ignorant beyond any realm of the imagination.

Anonymous said...

SPLIA and all of the local "Historical Society Organizations" are a joke. They all sat on their asses and did nothing. They should all get new board members, they all failed.

van said...

What a terrible loss! It is incredible that this should happen. What a shame! I am very saddened by this news.

Kyle Peterson said...

Good Luck getting new people on those boards! Observe, this is probably one of if not the foremost information source for Long Island mansion news. It probably draws more traffic than most other sites on the subject. An 80,000 sq ft pristine mansion is torn down. The reaction in 14 comments, most of them anonymous.

To say that I am not optimistic about the Gold Coast's preservation over the coming decades would be a very fair statement. We will likely see the retaining wall for Spring Hill pushed over next. Hell, they already filled in the servants quarter and hidden wine cellar-arguable one of the coolest things I've seen in my travels of the North Shore.

Kyle Peterson said...

Here's another one with half of the back ripped off: http://hamptons.curbed.com/archives/2013/12/09/another_gatsby_era_mansion_bites_the_dust.php

Zach said...

To me, at the end of the day, this isn't about people on boards or information or action....it is about money, plain and simple.

The Jesuits were in need of money, hence their reasons for closing their houses and selling them off. If they were more interested in preservation they would have come to some arrangement with some group. But they weren't...so they put it on the open market. SPLIA doesn't have $49 million to buy the house. It's not really fair to place blame on people who couldn't have bought the house if they wanted to. Some guy from Hong Kong came up with the money. The house and property were tax exempt as they were owned by a religious institution. The Mayor of North Hills, who we all despise, saw the deal as not only reclaiming land that can add tax dollars to North Hills but also the ability to add a large number of homes that add even more tax dollars for him to play with.

Until the United States comes up with something like they have in the U.K., the situation will remain somewhat hopeless. The land is too valuable, the price will always be too high for preservationists but not for developers, and at the end of the day the highest and best use (as much as we may disagree) is almost always development.

Landmark laws would be close to impossible to enforce (or enact) on homes that sit in seclusion on private property not accessible by the general public. It's a crappy situation no matter which way you turn. Unless you've got $49 million laying around.

http://www.hha.org.uk
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Anonymous said...

Kyle you are so right. Inisfada was in immaculate condition, probably the best period preserved mansion on LI. Just a senseless demolition. Villages like Mill Neck, Cove Neck, Old Westbury, etc want nothing to do with preservation, space planning, cluster zoning or landmarking which would save many remaining large homes. This will happen again. Next up Spring Hill and then Crossroads, the Grace mansion and then Knole which has looked abandoned and empty since the sketchy news it was sold to some religious order. Don't believe it for a minute. A close neighbor sees no activity on the property

Speaking as another anonymous commentator, but for good reason, I have found that SPLIA is a preservation group in name only, consisting of an internalized social group of like minded mostly North Shore elites who like to think they do good, attend new museum shows in Cold Spring Harbor, throw lavish house parties in a members home, usually an architecturally significant house on the North Shore, but have absolutely no influence on Long Island preservation. They cant even get their members up in arms about this demolition, but I am sure they will all gather at their next cocktail hour and bemoan the loss and then praise what each other's wives are wearing that night. They entrenched themselves in Cold Spring Harbor and have seen nearby Rosemary Farm crumble and burn, the Eberstadt mansion demolished and Burrwood obliterated. SPLIA has become a useless, insignificant fluff preservation organization.

A former and greatly disappointed SPLIA member from Locust Valley "jessie"

The Down East Dilettante said...

Zach nailed it.

Kyle Peterson said...

I agree with Zach completely. If the SPLIA wants to accomplish anything, they're going to have to start acting like hardened financiers or some other aggressive professional. We won't win a war for preservation by holding up signs - protesting is almost completely useless unless you have a few million people.

Look at the model that the pverty fighting charity "Robin Hood" uses, its a bunch of hardcore hedge fund guys who have their head (and wallet) in the right place. If the SPLIA would rally people with the power instead of the public they would be a much more effective tool. I'll tell you one thing, if that mayor or that development company received an email from a Carl Icahn or a Lloyd Blankfein/Jamie Dimon type person, that house would still be standing.

Anonymous said...

The key is sensible development. You don't have to come up with $50 million to save a property. On Long Island we can't afford to be anti-development, but had North Hills been open to work with the developer to utilize the house for condos that would have been all that was necessary to save Inisfada. The developer could still have made millions working with the existing structure, but the village went out of their way to do nothing. They would not allow multi-family usage of the building and only would approve a single family, half acre subdivision plan or continued commercial/institutional usage. That kind of hard nosed, irrational approach is simply wrong.

Powerful preservation groups do exist, just look toward Charleston, Alexandria, Savannah, Newport, NYC, etc. and they are successful without having to purchase every single house in danger.

Regarding SPLIA they need to teach and educate local municipalities and demonstrate to chambers of commerce and citizen groups that preservation does benefit ones own town, doesn't lower property values and doesn't mean that some preservation Nazi is going to come knocking on your door if you paint your shutters green.

Long Island villages have this deep seated fear of losing their precious 1 and 2 acre zoning and "quality of life" if they entertain thoughts of clustered zoning or condos. To preserve what open land remains we need to change this thinking.

Until local attitudes are enlightened, nothing will change. SPLIA preaches to the choir, like this blog. The real hurdle is getting the message out to others.
Archibuff

Zach said...

Inisfada was listed with Massey Knackal for $49 million. That was the price the Jesuits wanted.

Forget about the possibility of North Hills working with the developer, how do you know the developer would be interested in working with North Hills?

if the developer was from Hong Kong as has been said in Newsday, why do you think he has any interest other than maximizing his investment return in the development, regardless of what we all want?

To say that was all that was necessary to save Inisfada is best case scenario (and highly unrealistic in my opinion).

Zach said...

Think of it like this.... from the developer's standpoint lets say hypothetically with the house there he could build 30 houses and without it 50. Keeping the house standing means he loses 20 houses to sell. He now has to spend the money to convert this huge old mansion into a bunch of apartments that will be difficult to sell, and he loses the ability to sell 20 houses that would be easier to sell. This is assuming the developer is thinking purely from an investment standpoint and not a preservation one.

I agree in a perfect world the developer who purchased the house would have wanted to save it. But that didn't happen...that person in shining silver armor didn't show up.

Kellsboro Jack said...

I have to agree with Zach's remarks completely. It was an unfortunate, but predicable, set of circumstances that painfully lead towards the outcome.

Rather than trying to coming up with $49M (an impossible task) I would suggest that efforts should've been more focused on finding and loudly backing a developer partner. A developer with preservationists ties who would've made this a type of Waves (Newport) condo.

Win - win with the property's facade intact, money made from redevelopment, and taxable base of residential units. Maybe such a developer wouldn't have paid the top dollar the HK group did but at least a more viable option than trying to slap 'do not touch' laws on property. That only alienates almost every landholder from such a cause.

Has there been any word as to where the stripped out architectural details (not furnishings) went after the brief salvage work?

Anonymous said...

Successful conversions have been accomplished on Long Island and should be an option available to interested developers. Look no further than Roslyn or Glen Cove to see a large residence converted to condos, but oddly the one property in north hills that wasnt zoned for condominiums or multi family units was the Saint Ignatius property. Go figure? Its highly plausible had the village relaxed their zoning restrictions when the property was for sale, maybe other buyers would have expressed an interest in saving the building while still maximizing their return but it was not to be. A stubborn village board and an eager developer anxious to demo the structure as quickly as possible after the Jesuits departed made this an uphill battle. There are alot of good comments here but unfortunately the area's incorporated villages will continue to maintain their rigid zoning regulations leaving no other option than single family homes on standard lots, endangering most every existing large mansion still standing on some acreage. Cracking the restrictive zoning embedded throughout Nassau County wont happen in my lifetime. Unfortunaely we lost one of the better ones in this battle. RT

Anonymous said...

Just one observation from someone who family visited Inisfada regularly over the past few years: say what you will about the Jesuits wanting to maximize the profit on the sale of the house - their business on earth is caring for people's souls, not their real estate -- during the tenure of their ownership, the house was loved, well-maintained and opened to the public. (cf: Spring Hill, Harbor Hill, etc.) Despite its size, it was made to feel as an intimate house and the resident Jesuits took exquisite care of it. If you had spent any time in the house, the loss is all the more painful, and inexlicable. However, Mrs. Brady was wise to leave the home to the Jesuits and we are richer for it.

Zach said...

I never suggested the Jesuits wanted to maximize their profit on the sale of the house....I suggested the developer would with his development. Nor did I ever suggest they didn't care for the house. The Jesuits could have listed Inisfada for whatever they wanted...they settled on $49 million. That was theirs and Massey Knackal's decision. I don't know what it actually sold for but I assume it's north of $40.

Neither of which have anything to do with or takes anything away from their mission on earth.

Tyngsboro said...

Sad as it is that Inisfada was lost, alas, I'm glad that it existed and that images of it remain to fascinate us ! The question remains, why did a childless, middle-aged, couple need so many and so large rooms ? Were they in so love with their childhood that they built a storybook castle, complete with storybook characters carved in stone to adorn its facades ? Were those same carvings lost in the rubble, or perhaps saved to eventually adorn someone's garden ?
We can only be content that cellar to rooftop photographs of this spectacular house are available through the thoughtfulness of John Foreman on his Big Old Houses Blog !

Anonymous said...

If you look at the demo photos carefully you will see gouged out places on some of the gables where the carvings were removed. However you also see how much of the exterior stonework, leaded glass windows and vaulted living room ceiling beams are still in place, partially demolished, awaiting total destruction. Shameful.

I would again recommend reading the fantastic book "Saving Large Estates" by William Shopsin. written in the 1970's (We have clearly not learned anything since) it demonstrated that if towns are open to a variety of land use options, large estate properties can be preserved successfully, buyers make money, towns collect their taxes and it also attracts the kind of preservation minded developer like KJ hoped for. RT you are correct, with stringent unflexible zoning, as exists on Long Island you only get the kind of unuimaginative developers like the Hong Kong buyer of Inisfada, only concerned that he can build what the village allows him to build. Until zoning change and planning flexibility comes to Long Island's incorporated villages, this scenario will play out again and again. Odds are that the Mayor of North Hills is not alone in his clueless and ignorant thinking. Maybe every Long Island town needs a copy of "Saving Large Estates"?

archibuff

Kellsboro Jack said...

Regarding the price - per "The Island Now" from Aug 8, 2013:

"Rev. Vincent Cooke, who is overseeing the sale of the 33-acre property for the Jesuit order, said the sale was completed by the Manhasset Bay Group Inc. for $36.5 million."

In my haste over the last few days I forgot about the assorted articles this summer which did suggest multiple alternative groups who wanted to acquire the property and keep it "as is".

Community Wellness Centers - who were using the facility since the exit of the Jesuits - per one article said they were willing to match the developer's offer.

Also there was all-cash bid of $36 million by Synergy First International (vis-a-vis Dr. Eli Weinstein) which wanted to retain the property as a retreat. Further a prerequisite was that the Jesuit order restore part of the chapel it had deconstructed.

One suspects that both of the "retreat" offers either had too many strings attached or the funding wasn't as firm as suggested. As such the HK developer offer was just that much more enticing.

I still am one to believe that if they were going to raze the structure that everything of value from the slate roof to the intricate carvings on the facade should've been properly removed and salvaged.

Zach said...

Well that would explain why no one looks at North Hills as a model of historic preservation.

Zach said...

I second archibuff's recommendation of 'Saving Large Estates' by William Shopsin,

You realize the ultimate irony there is that that book was published by SPLIA right? That's actually where I obtained my copy of it.

Anonymous said...

"You realize the ultimate irony there is that that book was published by SPLIA right?"

And William Shopsin was actively involved with SPLIA back in the day and was an architectural history professor at Pratt Institute's School of Architecture.

I bought my copy decades ago and thought this is just the beginning, historical preservation is finally coming to the forefront and was carried high by the emotions, passion and fervor after the Bicentennial. How wrong I was. archibuff

Anonymous said...

Random thought: the developer, having paid a high price for Inisfada, quickly removed the mansion. I'm not a planner, but I doubt the developer had time to even consider alternative plans which would include retaining the house in a manner which would still maximize his return. No such analysis was done. He simply wanted not to scrap the property of the house and avoid any risk that efforts would arise that would thwart his options. In his line of business, time is money. Justice would be well served if concerned citizens carefully watched the development process and challenged each discretionary approval when grounds for such challenge exists. The Long Island Pines Barrens Society employed such a process in the early 90s as a means of bringing the developers to the table to stop piece-meal development of the pine barrens. This was an unnecessary destruction of Long Island heritage by a barbarian without the slightest hesitation. One good turn deserves another.

Anonymous said...

Correction: "He simply wanted to scrap the property of the house ..."

Kellsboro Jack said...

Worth reading are the very sharp and yet on-point remarks by Richard Bentley, the president of the Council for Greater Manhasset Civic Association.

His use of the phrase "Gang of 3" isn't off the mark.

The Island Now, Dec 12, 2013 - "Wrecking ball takes down Gold-Coast-era mansion"

http://www.theislandnow.com/great_neck/article_c58db4f2-6344-11e3-877d-0019bb2963f4.html

I must say for such an event as the razing of a mansion on that size the volume of pictures capturing the carnage is exceedingly thin. In the era of smartphones, instagram, twitter you'd think the message of what destruction (and loss) transpired would echo through images. Alas barely a peep ...

Zach said...

His quote sums it up succinctly (and echoes the points I made three days ago):

“We all experienced the Jesuits retrenchment into virtual silence after they made their decision to, instead of working with preservationists to salvage for the local community at least some of its historic value, put Inisfada on the chopping block,” Bentley said. “Many still can still not fathom the recklessness of the Jesuit cash-in by its entertainment of the sale to Hong Kong developer who from the start gave no public expression of any interest in saving Inisfada, and the only municipality with jurisdiction, the Village of North Hills, stood at the crest with Mayor Marvin Natiss seeing no historic value in Inisfada while apparently lamenting in anticipation of counting the new coins in village coffers of yet another new large housing development.”

Anonymous said...

I just found out about this today and am sickened. This is an absolute tragedy.

If the Jesuits had stayed faithful, this would never have happened.

Inisfada will never be replaced.

Lorra

Anonymous said...

I know I'm very late to the game here, but I just came across this page. This is so heartbreaking. I no longer live on Long Island but I was very familiar with Inisfada. I used to take yoga classes there years ago or visit just to walk the grounds. It was such a unique, beautiful place-- a real work of art. Amazing how with all of the money and power on Long Island that this couldn't be preserved and repurposed as Oheka, the county museum in Rosyln and Westbury Gardens had been. Sounds like the Jesuits didn't exactly have to sell it to a Hong Kong-based developer, either. There are a lot of old properties including churches that have been refurbished into condos. I guess this assumption is that Long Islanders prefer cookie-cutter McMansions?

Anyway, back to the Jesuits. As someone born and raised a Catholic, the importance of community always seemed to be one of the key foundations of the Catholic Church. Strange that the Jesuits would sell out something that was not only a source of community pride, but brought the community together. While I'm not a practicing Catholic, attending functions at beautiful Inisfada was one of the few things that still drew me back to the church in a round-about way. I didn't attend church much, but I still participated in activities at Inisfada.

Such a loss... this did not have to happen.

On a similar note, is it true that the Our Lady of Grace retreat center off Shelter Rock Road (former Vanderbilt property) was also torn down?

Lori Nastro said...

As someone who was looking forward to retreat here, I only found out about this today. I am a native Long Islander who moved to Brooklyn, 7 years ago. To hear that greedy developers demolished a well preserved piece of history, as well as a spiritual sanctuary is UTTERLY DISGUSTING! I am so heartbroken about this, as Inisfada was one of my spitual escapes during my down times. I remember attending their family Christmas mass and dinner around the year 2002-3, when I was at a low point in my life. I felt immediately welcome with open arms. Oddly enough, that date was also Dec. 5. Is NOTHING sacred anymore?! What's next?!