Knollwood: The Estate and Its Owners

 

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Knollwood with Garden Facade

“Knollwood”, one of architects ‘Hiss & Weekes’ most beautiful country-house commissions, was owned by a number of interesting personalities. It was built between 1906 and 1910 for Charles I. Hudson, a New York City stockbroker of the Gilded Age, at Muttontown on Long Island’s North Shore. The 60-room mansion had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling with towering Ionic front columns with terraced garden and a dairy farm to satisfy his passion for raising Jersey cattle.

The house was palatially scaled and elegantly faced with smooth-dressed Indiana limestone, with design details borrowed from a variety of sources, including palaces and country estates by Palladio and Vignola built for Italian princes, and royal residences erected in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Inside, the house contained 30 rooms with paneling imported from England and marble fireplaces brought from Italy, as well as coffered Renaissance-style ceilings, much in evidence in the first-floor reception rooms.

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Knollwood’s Interior

Viewed from the north, the most striking feature of “Knollwood” was its colossal entrance portico, balustraded across the top like the main block of the house and supported by four giant Ionic columns. In most other aspects, the north and south elevations were similar. At the ends of the two-and-a-half story main block of the house were single-story wings containing Palladian-style motifs such as arched French doors flanked by lower rectangular openings. Each of the wings, in turn, opened onto a deep loggia.

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View from the North with Main Entrance Portico

Viewed from the south, the houses appeared to rest on a high basement, extending forward beneath the wide terrace at the back which overlooked the formal gardens. The terrace was reached from the gardens by grand staircases.

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Landscape Design by Vitale & Geiffert

The formal gardens to the south of the house incorporated historical European precedents as well, especially in the grand scale and pronounced axiality. The landscape architect was Ferrucio Vitale. Like the great country houses of the British Isles and the villas of Northern Italy, the 150-acre estate devoted a large part of its land to commercial farming and pasturing. A stuccoed combination stable and garage building included space for 12 cars and apartments for chauffeurs, grooms, and gardeners. A poultry building and a hog house were also located on the estate, as well as an additional stable that housed farm horses, wagons, and implements. Accommodations included a boarding house for farm laborers, a cottage for the farm superintendent, and an additional cottage for agricultural workers. The presence in this farming complex of a large dairy barn for 140 head of cattle was not surprising in view of the fact that Charles Hudson took a lifelong interest in the breeding of fine Jersey cattle. A white-shingled guest cottage on the estate, designed in the Colonial Revival style, came with its own garage and stables.

Charles I. Hudson was successful and well-respected. He was elected to two terms as governor of the New York Stock Exchange. His tenure as head of C.I. Hudson & Company was not without its difficulties; the company was once sued by the brother of John D. Rockefeller and Hudson himself had his exchange seat suspended for a month following the assault of an exchange telephone operator.

Following Hudson’s death in 1921, Knollwood was sold to Gustavia Senff, widow of Charles H. Senff, director of the American Sugar Refining Company (later Domino Sugar). Mrs. Senff continued the philanthropy of her late husband, donating land in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills for Mount Tom State Park and erecting Senff Gate at the University of Virginia (she was a native Virginian).

Charles Senff McVeigh, an attorney and co-founder of the New York law firm of Morris and McVeigh, inherited Knollwood as trustee following the death of his aunt in 1927. Besides his law practice and philanthropic causes, McVeigh was an avid sportsman. He helped to establish the American Wildlife Institute which, in part, aired radio programs about land and wildlife conservation. McVeigh sold Knollwood to King Gustav S. Zog of Albania in 1951 for approximately $102.800.

Zog bought the estate to establish a kingdom-in-exile for himself, his family and 120 members of his royal entourage staffed by Albanian subjects. But the fact is that Zog never set foot on the estate and caused disdain among his Long Island neighbors by refusing to pay property taxes. Legend has it that the king bought the estate for a “bucket of diamonds and rubies” and Zog’s riches were hidden in the mansion. Vandals ravaged walls in the mansion searching for gems hidden by King Zog. The mansion fell into total ruin.

The estate’s final owner, Lansdell Christie, had a hand in many enterprises before World War II. Christie attended West Point and began his own marine transportation business. As a transportation office in North Africa during the war, he learned about extensive iron ore deposits in Liberia. Following the war, he made a fortune mining iron ore by securing concessions to mine ore in the region, seeing to it that Liberia benefited from the development as well. Progressive in terms of racial views, he befriended Liberia’s president William Tubman and helped to found the Afro-American Institute. Christie was also involved in Democratic politics. He was the largest single Democratic donor for the 1956 Stevenson campaign and a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

By the time Lansdell Christie purchased Knollwood in 1955 from Zog’s parliament, the estate had suffered from years of neglect and vandalism. The terraced gardens were overgrown; the farm buildings were in disrepair. The local county works department of Oyster Bay pulled down the ruins of the home in 1959 for safety reasons. A garden pavillon remained for many years, progressively vandalized, until it was razed to its foundation, also for safety reasons. The most visible remains at the present time are the remnants of a double staircase to the old formal gardens, where traces of landscaping remain; some walkways disappearing under fallen litter and leaves, some columns, and the gate structure at the old entrance to the grounds. Seeing these remnants of this once magnificent mansions will certainly pique a hiker’s interest in the people who once lived there.

King Gustav S. Zog of the Albanians gets way too much credit and press for having owned the Knollwood Estate, the ruins of which are now part of the Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich with the gated entrance located on Jericho-Oyster Bay Road on Route 106.

All photos are from L.I. Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940.

 

References:

Newsday Home Town

Wikipedia

The Freeholder, quarterly newsletter of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, Winter 2009

Long Island Country Houses and their Architects, 1860-1940

 

 

The American Legion Honoring the Fallen

The Memorial Monument by Victoria Siegel

The Memorial Monument – Photo Credit: Victoria Siegel

The U.S. army never leaves its men behind. They do everything possible to bring the men and women killed in battle home even if it takes decades. They never forget.

In that spirit, Jack Mckie legion member of Post 1285 of the American Legion in Bayville suggested that the Robert Spittel Post begin to honor the men of the community who were killed in action. The first to receive such honor was 2nd Lt. William L. Davis killed on August 7, 1945.

PFC Robert H. Spittel was honored Dec. 8th at 9:00 AM at the War Memorial on Bayville Ave., Bayville. Robert H. Spittel was born April 29, 1923 and killed in action Dec. 8, 1944 on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. The Post bears his name and his father Herman Spittel was its first Commander.

The other brave soldiers to be so honored will be:

Sgt. James A. Harrington – March 28, 1968

Cpl. Frederick E. Scheidt – April 1, 1945

Capt. John R. Minutoli – April 6, 1967

Specialist 4 William R. Sanzoverino – May 7, 1968

Capt. Thomas J. Jozefowski – June 25, 1972

Warrant Officer Donald L. Deliplane – June 28, 1971.

 

“O God, teach us to honor them by ever cherishing the ideals for which they fought. Keep us steadfast in the cause of human rights and liberties, of law and order and true Americanism.” – Part of the prayer offered at each of these ceremonies by Chaplain Richard Kita.

Source: Locust Valley Leader, Dec. 12, 2018 by Victoria Siegel.

 

THE VILLAGE OF MILL NECK, NY – ONE OF THE PRICIEST PLACES IN THE U.S.

 

Old Grist Mill in Mill Neck

The name “Mill Neck” originated from the mill Henry Townsend built in 1661 with a grant from his fellow freeholders. The old saw mill at Mill Neck produced cut lumber in planks as well as turnings for balusters, columns and fence posts until few years before it was demolished in 1890.

The Village of Mill Neck, NY 11765 is located on the North Shore of Long Island in the Town of Oyster Bay. To live in Mill Neck, NY is to live in one of the most expensive addresses in the United States according to some exclusive magazine for the rich and the famous. Although I have my doubt to some extent. Forbes Magazine have listed Mill Neck as the third priciest address in the United States. Most likely because most of the wealthy homeowners are concentrated in that zip code.

I lived in Oyster Bay for 40 years and know the town and the surrounding areas very well. Mill Neck is right next to Oyster Bay and not all homes are in the million dollars price range. I know some friends who live in the area. Some are very wealthy and some are just ordinary folks.

The area that is called Mill Neck is a whole mix of areas. There are few streets very close to Oyster Bay which have a Mill Neck zip code and comparatively speaking have smaller houses on small property. Renville Ct. has a Mill Neck zip code but I will consider those as part of Oyster Bay. It is on the boundary of Oyster Bay and Mill Neck. Then there is the area called Mill Neck Estates which also have smaller lots and close to Bayville Bridge with mid-priced homes. The rest are all located in what I will call the real Mill Neck. These are the Mill Neck properties which get the most headlines as the most expensive homes in the United States having big mansions on huge properties.

Mill Neck is a lovely community with rolling hills and big properties. It overlooks Oyster Bay Harbor to the east, Mill Neck Bay to the north and Beaver Lake flows right in the middle toward the Mill Neck Bay. There is an ice skating rink near Beaver Lake. Shu Swamp Nature Preserve is close by near Francis Pond. Part of Mill Neck borders the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park – a 400 acres state park. There is also a horse farm in the area.

 

Mill Neck Manor

The Mill Neck Manor (Picture above) looks like an English Castle. When my older son went to school in England, I sent him a postcard of The Mill Neck Manor. “Guess where this is? It’s here at home,” I wrote him. The Mill Neck Manor is located on a big property with a 35-room Elizabethan Manor House completed in 1927 for Mr. & Mrs. Robert Dodge. The whole manor house was imported from England and reassembled in Mill Neck brick by brick.

Mill Neck Manor by oldlongisland.com

Part of the ground of Mill Neck Manor in back of the manor house by oldlongisland.com

 

Apple Festival

The Apple Festival at Mill Neck Manor located close to the long driveway to the manor house. On the left is the Apple Festival and on the right is the parking spaces for visitors. The place is huge.

Later, it was sold to the Lutheran Friends of the Deaf in 1947 after Mr. & Mrs. Dodge passed away. It is now called the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf where the annual Apple Festival is held every first weekend in October. The Village Hall is located on Frost Mill Rd. near the Mill Neck Manor.

 

Humes Japanese Garden.jpg

The John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden is located in Mill Neck. It is probably the best kept secret in town. Very few people know it is there. It is open to the public. It used to be owned by John P. Humes, a former Ambassador to Japan who brought the idea of Japanese Garden to his Mill Neck home. Now the garden is a preservation project of the Garden Conservancy.

There used to be a railroad station in Mill Neck which catered to the wealthy residents of Mill Neck during the Gold Coast era. Long Island Railroad closed the Mill Neck train station a few years ago due to the fact that only one passenger took the train from Mill Neck station. Most residents of Mill Neck either take the train from nearby stations in Oyster Bay or Locust Valley which are so close by.

Until next time. Let’s keep exploring Long Island.

Rosalinda

ROTHMANN’S STEAKHOUSE – EAST NORWICH, NY LANDMARK

Rothmann Restaurant

 

 

Rothmann’s Restaurant is a famous landmark in the small town of East Norwich, NY located at the corner of Route 106 and Route 25A. It was originally established in 1907 by the Rothman family of Oyster Bay, NY.

 

However, its long history went back to 1851 when it was built by Andrew C. Hegeman and called East Norwich Hotel. The East Norwich post office was located there at one time, then it became the Town of Oyster Bay meeting place.

 

After the Civil War, the hotel was sold to Halstead Frost and Richard Downing who renamed it the Osceola Hotel. In 1887, they sold the hotel to Henry Acker who changed the name back to East Norwich Hotel. In 1891, it was sold to James Hurrell of Brooklyn and changed the name to Hurrell House. In 1897 Hurrell returned to Brooklyn and sold it to John Nurnberg and changed the name back again to East Norwich Hotel. Nurnberg operated the hotel till March 1906 when he sold it to Peter Hoffman. Hoffman sold it to Charles Rothmann in August 1907.

 

Charles and Franziska Rothmann invested their life saving and opened Rothmann’s Restaurant in East Norwich with Franziska doing all the cooking. They lived on the second floor with their six children. After the first World War, the three oldest boys, Charles Jr, Paul and Peter joined the business and continued the tradition of serving fine food and drink in a setting that was both comfortable yet felt pampered. Their reputation spread beyond East Norwich and celebrities were seen dining there. They attracted a loyal following of notable politicians and well-heeled socialites. Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president used to dine there when he was in town.

East Norwich Inn by TripAdvisor.com

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com

 

After the three boys passed away, the wife of Peter together with the nieces took over. The Rothmann’s family owned the place till 1970 when they sold it to Burt Bacharach, the singer, and his wife, actress Angie Dickinson who began running the inn. They built East Norwich Inn, the only hotel in town that sits behind Rothmann’s Restaurant. There were plans to open a small shopping mall behind Rothmann’s and close the East Norwich Inn. Luckily because of the economic downturn at that time, that plan was put on hold.

 

Burt Bacharach owned Rothmann’s for a few years and then it was sold several times and the façade was changed. The 1851 building was razed in 1995 to build a western style steakhouse. Then a Greek Restaurant emerged. That did not last long either. It was sort of not in keeping with the tradition. Then it changed hands again and another renovation took place. All through these changes, Gloria O’Rourke, one of the Rothmann’s children who was the Editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian, a local paper, kept watch and wrote something about the good times at the Old Rothmann’s.

 

The new Rothmann’s sported a cupola which the old Rothmann’s did not have. However, the food is still excellent as ever though a little bit on the expensive side. I took my children there for their birthdays while they were in high school and broke the bank but it was all worth it. In 2007, while working as a real estate agent at Century 21 Laffey Associates, I won a dinner for two on a For Sale by Owner Contest. I took my husband there. It was a very special dinner and cost my office $160.

 

I remember my mother-in-law used to take my husband and me to Rothmann’s every Sunday night during the summer in the early 70s when she was residing in town. She wintered in New York city. Since we were a regular, we sat on the same table at the corner across from the bar every Sunday. We had this German waiter who used to work at LaGrange Inn in West Islip and attended to us every week. He knew our names, where to sit us, what drink to serve us and what to order. We ate the same thing every Sunday. My mother-in-law gave generous tip to the waiter and always paid cash. She did not own a credit card and did not want one.

As Gloria O’Rourke would say and it was her favorite expression, “Those were the days.”

Sources:

Oyster Bay Remembered by John E. Hammond

www.activerain.com

 

Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.

Rosalinda Morgan

 

 

Leaves of Grass – A Special Edition

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While looking for something to read next, I came across a signed copy of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman published by David McKay (Copyright 1900). On the front matter, there is a picture of him with a handwritten note on the bottom “David McKay from his friend Walt Whitman”.

 

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I browsed through the book and a page was earmarked and there was the poem “O Captain! My Captain!”, one of the favorite poems of our class in Literature in high school. I didn’t know who Walt Whitman was at that time. I was thirteen and English was not my favorite subject. For me I like Math the best. I had no idea why the class loved the poem so much except for the fact that our English teacher, Mrs. Brual, read it to us with so much emotion that we began to like it. She was the principal of the school and the best English teacher we had. Little did I know that someday I would be living in Long Island in a town very close to where Walt Whitman lived and finding out that he was one of the best poets in the U.S.

Read on. It got interesting later.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain, our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

 

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

The arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen Cold and Dead. 

But that’s not all. Inserted or rather attached inside the book are onion skin papers (three of them) with Biographical Note of Walt Whitman written in his own handwriting from May 31, 1819 to 1888 where he wrote “Mr. Whitman is now in his 70th year”. The paragraph ends with “He resides in Mickla St, Camden, New Jersey”.

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There is another piece of paper attached somewhere in the middle of the book where he addressed sending a couple of copies to David McKay’s children.

Few years ago, I took the book to an Antique Roadshow in Charleston. We had the ticket for the late session. When I showed it to the appraiser, he took one look at the book without opening it and gave me $10 for the book. I was very disappointed to say the least. He must be so tired and in a hurry since they were doing the appraisal since early in the morning. It was a long day for them and there was still a long line and it was almost closing time. At that time, I was not aware of the handwritten notes inside. The book has a rough edges and if you flip the pages, it does not really come out unless you go page by page individually. It somehow clings to the other pages. It’s really hard to find it right away. I had to be careful and thorough. I did not see the biographical note till today. I saw the note about the copies to the children a week ago.

When we went to the Antique Roadshow, I did not know what to bring. We have so much antique in the house so choosing one which is easy to carry is what we wanted to do. I just saw the book in one of the bookshelves and since it was an old book and Walt Whitman was a famous poet, I decided to bring it over.

I only discovered the notes recently. There must be a value to it since it looks like this is a special copy intended for his publisher with all the written notes in Walt Whitman’s own handwriting. I’m intrigued and would like to find out if it is worth anything. If not, I still have a special book signed by a famous poet.

 

Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.

Rosalinda Morgan

Muttontown, NY and the Muttontown Preserve

Muttontown is an incorporated upscale village in northern Oyster Bay Township with a total area of 6.1 square miles and family income is one of Long Island’s highest. The area borders Brookville to the south and west, East Norwich to the north and Syosset to the east. It does not have its own post office and residents of Muttontown have 5 different zip codes – 11791 (Syosset), 11753 (Jericho), 11732 (East Norwich), 11771 (Oyster Bay) and 11545 (Glen Head). Based on the zip codes, Muttontown also has 4 different school districts – Jericho, Syosset, Locust Valley and East Norwich-Oyster Bay. From 382 people residing there in 1950, the population has grown to 3,497 in 2010 census.

Muttontown traces its name to the early English and Dutch settlers in mid 1600s who found the rolling hills ideal for the thousands of sheep that grazed there, providing mutton and wool. The first mention of Muttontown in town records occurred just after 1750, identifying it as a “former great sheep district” between Wolver Hollow (later called Brookville) and Syosset.

Around 1900, wealthy families from New York City established large homes in Muttontown as part of Gold Coast fever. There are three mansions worth mentioning when talking about Muttontown.

Nassau Hall

Delano & Aldrich, the prominent architect of the ‘20s made his first commission in this area. His first commission is the Christie House on Muttontown Rd. whose exterior wall was modeled after Mount Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington. This mansion is now called Nassau Hall owned by Nassau County. Nassau Hall was built by Delano & Aldrich for the Winthrop family and was known originally as the Egerton L. Winthrop Jr. House or Muttontown Meadows. The estate was purchased in 1950 by Lansdell Christie who had made a fortune mining iron ore in Liberia and called the place Christie House. His widow, Helen Christie sold the house and its 183 acres to Nassau County in 1969.

It is now the home of Nassau Parks Conservancy. At some point, I was on the board of Nassau Parks Conservancy when I had the Nassau Hall Rose Garden Restoration as one of my projects.

Sandy, Pat and LM at Nassau Hall

Here I was with the baseball cap with two of my volunteers. As you can see from the photo, the garden was overgrown with brambles and such and it was a big challenge when we started the project. We were able to restore three beds on the parterre when there was a reorganization of the Conservancy and the volunteers gave up the cause. We had no funding. I was buying supplies – soil, compost, fertilizer and roses to fill up the empty spot out of my own pocket. It was overwhelming. We were able to save some of the old roses.

While we were restoring the garden at Nassau Hall, the curator took me on a tour of the ground and pointed a wonderful huge statue hidden behind some trees as we walked down the driveway. The place was neglected for years. We walked around the property toward the pine grove. He told me Mr. Winthrop was a big collector of pine trees and Nassau Hall has one of the biggest collection of various species of pine trees in the country. We walked to an area where they still have the chicken coop, the gazebo which the Boy Scout was trying to repair and other neglected gardens in the premises. I could imagine the beauty of the place in its heyday. It’s sad to see a beautiful place not maintained properly. Nassau Country does not have the fund to restore the place.
Chelsea 2

The Chelsea Mansion

 

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Looking across from the front of the mansion.

Nearby is another mansion located on the beautiful Muttontown Preserve. Chelsea Mansion with a French Normandy style architecture was built for Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Moore in 1924. Mr. Benjamin Moore’s great, great grandfather was the author, Clement Clark Moore, who wrote the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, otherwise known as “’Twas The Night Before Christmas”. Chelsea Mansion was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. One special feature of this property is the moat around the mansion, an Oriental influence favored by Mrs. Moore after a trip to China on her honeymoon in 1921. Chelsea is also owned by Nassau County and used now for various charity fundraising events and concerts in the summer. Locust Valley Garden Club moved our meeting place to Chelsea Mansion while I was president and our meeting place, Bailey House at Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown was undergoing extensive renovation.

Chelsea 4

The parlor where the Locust Valley Garden Club met.

Benjamin Moore was the first mayor of the village of Muttontown (1931-1938). Mr. Moore’s died in 1938, and 17 years later Mrs. Moore married Robert McKay, a life-long friend. Mr. McKay died in 1958. In 1964, Mrs. Alexandra Moore McKay began donating portion of the property to Nassau County and over a period of 10 years, nearly 100 acres were donated to the County.

The county at various times purchased a total of about 430 acres from Christie for the preserve. With this acquisitions plus the Christie House, Nassau County created the 550-acre Muttontown Preserve which is open to the public. Muttontown Preserve is one of the most beautiful preserves in Long Island. An Equestrian Center for those who love horseback riding can also be found on its premises and is accessible at Route 106 entrance. During the early part of the 20th century, this area was a horse country. Fox hunting used to be a favorite pastime by the upper class. For people who love nature, there are miles of nature trails where you can go on foot or ride your horse.

Another mansion was Knollwood, a 60-room mansion erected by Wall Street tycoon Charles I. Hudson in 1906-1907. It had elements of Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance and Spanish styling, with towering Ionic front columns. It is part of the Muttontown Preserve. It was sold in 1951 to King Zog I of Albania. King Zog never lived in it. He was supposed to rule his kingdom while on exile at Muttontown. He sold the place in 1955 to Lansdell K. Christie. The mansion was razed by Christie in 1959 after extensive vandalism. You can still see some of the ruins of the mansion.

Muttontown Preserve Ruin 2

From Flickr.com

Muttontown Preserve Ruin

From Yelp.com

Because of the way village boundaries were drawn when Muttontown was incorporated in 1931, the landmark Brookville Reformed Church, completed in 1734 and historically linked with Brookville, found itself situated a short way into Muttontown, at Brookville and Wheatley Roads, where Brookville, Upper Brookville and Muttontown converged.

One of the mansions in Muttontown found its way into my book, ‘The Wentworth Legacy”. It became my inspiration to write a book about the North Shore. I was invited to tea at one of the big estates in Muttontown after I got married. The owner is a friend of my husband and he and his wife wanted to meet me. It was a big treat for me and I remembered all the details of the house when I was given a tour of the first floor and the garden. The place was located at the highest point in Muttontown and there was a long, winding drive to reach the mansion. It was quite impressive.

Sources:

Hometown Long Island by Newsday; Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940, edited by Robert MacKay, Anthony Baker and Carol A. Traynor; Wikipaedia and various conversations with the curator of both Nassau Hall and Chelsea Mansion.

 

Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.

Rosalinda

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Clarence Michalis, the Longest Serving Mayor in NY State history

Clarence Michalis

Lattingtown Mayor Clarence Michalis in front of the village office sign. (April 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Clarence Fahnestock Michalis of Locust Valley, the former Mayor of tony Lattingtown, died on March 30th. Clarence Michalis was 96 years old. Born in 1922 to Clarence G and Helen C. Michalis, he lived in New York City and Garrison, NY. He graduated from Buckley School, St. Paul’s School and Harvard College and then entered the U.S. Navy where he spent the next three years as a lieutenant and navigator on the U.S.S. Hall in the Pacific. He worked at First National City Bank, and was CFO of Bristol-Myers Co., former chairman of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Cooper Union and Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.  

He was the longest-serving mayor in New York State history and emerged victorious in the last Village election in June 2013. At that time Clarence was 91, and had held the office for 44 years. He defeated Nicholas DellaFera, the 23-year-old challenger on June 18th, 2013, winning handily (376-87), and inspiring the largest voter turnout in 4 decades. Of the election Michalis noted, “It was a simple case of age and experience trumping youthful zeal.”

As a dedicated civic leader, he was mayor of the Village of Lattingtown for 48 years, past president and trustee of the Nassau County Museum of Art, active member and former president of Piping Rock Club, former commissioner of the Locust Valley Fire District, commodore of Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, trustee of the North Shore Land Alliance and member of the Union Club, New York Yacht Club and Holland Lodge. 

In his last years as Mayor, when most 90+ would be slowing down, Clarence still had his fingers on the pulse of the area. It was Clarence who first cautioned Loriann Cody about the possible closing of the Rottkamp Farm in Glen Head (the problem has fortunately been resolved and Rottkamp remains open.)

When his failing health forced him to step down as Mayor in early 2017, he maintained his sense of humor saying, “I used to see many politicians, now I see many doctors.”

Michalis was much loved and admired. At the time of the election, Diane Fagiola, wife of current Lattingtown Mayor Robert Fagiola, said of him, “Clarence knows how things work – how roads are built and how to fix them, about storms and the damage they cause. He knows about wet-lands, mosquitoes, trees and wildlife. He can fix a diesel engine – still. He knows how to cut costs but not quality, and he’s balanced thousands of budgets. He also knows a lot about people – what bothers us, what moves us, what motivates us. He’s a brilliant leader. If I were caught in a storm at sea, I’d like to be in Clarence’s boat.”

Mayor Peter Quick of the Village of Mill Neck said, “I have never met a man more dedicated to his community than Clarence. He is a sage in terms of advice and the ultimate gentleman of Lattingtown. His experience is unparalleled. If he were running against me, I would vote for him.”

Loriann Cody of the Locust Valley Leader last saw Clarence on Sunday evening, June 25th, 2017, when he was honored for his 48 years of mayoral service at the Lattingtown home of Diane and Robert Fagiola. One U.S. Congressman, one State Senator, one Assemblyperson, one Nobel laureate, six mayors, local village trustees, family members and friends were among the more than 80 who toasted Michalis.

Clarence is survived by his wife of 64 years, Cora Bush and four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 13th at 1:00 PM at St. John’s Church in Lattingtown. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Merchant’s House Museum and the North Shore Land Alliance.

Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.

Rosalinda

 

Source: New York Times, Newsday and and The Locust Valley Leader, April 4, 2018 by Loriann Cody.