This is a continuation of East Islip History. Part 1 was posted a couple of weeks ago. Click here to read East Islip, Suffolk County – Early History.
When the glaciers melted during the Ice Age, it creates a difference between the North Shore beaches and the South Shore beaches. The North Shore beaches are rocky while the South Shore beaches are crisp, clear and outwash sand. The beauty of the beach and the proximity to the barrier island enticed some New York city residents to settle on the South Shore. South Shore communities are built along protected wetlands and contain white sandy beaches of barrier islands fronting the Atlantic Ocean.
Most descendants of late 19th and early 20th century immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and black migrants from the South liked the landscape of Long Island South Shore. Other ethnic groups followed, although Nassau County is more densely developed than Suffolk Country and has pockets of great wealth with estates covering huge acreage within the Gold Coast of the North Shore where wealthy industrialists during the Gilded Age built lavish country homes.
East Islip, like some hamlets along Long Island’s south shore, was once an enclave for some of the nation’s wealthiest families. Its estates at one time included the Hollins, Gulden, and Knapp estates, among others.
The original estate mansion, Brookwood Hall, owned originally by the Knapp family has passed from its last private owners, the Thorne family.
The three-story, 41-room mansion with French and Greek influences was designed by the renowned New York architectural firm Delano & Aldrich, whose portfolio includes blueprints for the Vanderbilt and Whitney families’ homes. It was built in 1903 for the affluent Knapp family before it was sold to financier Francis B. Thorne in 1929. It was later used as an orphanage before the town purchased the 44-acre property in 1967. Now, it houses its parks department headquarters as well as the nonprofit Islip Arts Council.
Brookwood Hall under renovation. Check Newsday article.
Here is an undated photo of the portico of Brookwood Hall. On the right is a photo of my brother in law, Robert W Morgan and my husband, Matthew Morgan (with blond hair) on the steps of the portico taken in the 1930s on their visit to their aunt Hildegard who was then married to Francis Thorne, the owner of Brookwood Hall.
Other big estates at that time is the Sullivan estate which would become the home of the Hewlett School, an old private boarding school. Some estates and early farmlands were donated to the Roman Catholic Church and would make up the current grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church of East Islip, which includes a private elementary and middle school, in addition to church and other parish buildings. There was also the original Westbrook farm on the boundary between East Islip and Oakdale, near the Bayard Cutting Arboretum.
East Islip borders four other hamlets: Islip is to the west, Islip Terrace is to the north, North Great River is to the northeast, and Great River is to the east. The Great South Bay is to the south.
In 1880, Harry B. Hollins purchased a large property in East Islip located south of the South Country Rd. and running to the bay on the south and to Champlin’s Creek on the west. It was known at the time as the Mainwaring Farm and could be reached by Pavilion Avenue. It was several hundred acres in size and would be called Meadowfarm. He built a large country home with several outbuildings including the usual stables and carriage house.
When the Hollins fell into hard times, Charles L. Lawrence bought the main house along with 116 acres bordering the Great South Bay and Champlin Creek. My husband’s Grandma Morgan bought the stables and clock tower together with about 15 acres. They are still in existence today but are now located on 37 Blackmore Ln. Blackmore was named after the Mr. Hollins’ estate manager. My husband said he and Harry III were the vain of Mr. Blackmore’s existence when they were in their teens. Matt and Harry III were best friends and neighbors.
The Hollins renovated one of the farmhouses on the northern portion of the property approximately 480 acres remaining to which they relocated. When my husband family lived on that street, there were only 5 houses in the whole street with Charles Lawrence family at the end of the road having the biggest property. First house you see as you enter Meadow Farm Rd was Mr. Harry Knapp’s, then my husband’s parents’ home, then Mrs. Harry Knapp’s (The Creekside). They got divorced and Mr. Knapp built the other house. After Creekside, my husband’s Grandma Morgan’s house and then Mr. Charles Lawrence’s house at the end.
Nowadays, you won’t even recognize the old Meadow Farm Rd. Several houses were built during the last 30 years. When my husband took me to see his old place in the ‘70s the place was still intact. New development had not invaded the area yet. It was a quiet street with lots of trees. The hemlock tree he planted when he was six years old was still in front of his house. It’s most likely been cut down when the new development began construction.
Creekside’s driveway between my husband’s parents’ property on one side and his grandmother’s property on the other side.
The Creekside’s backyard on Meadow Farm Rd. owned by Harry Knapp Jr. His son, Harry Knapp III was my husband best friend and my husband spent a lot of time in this house when they were young boys. At the time my husband was growing up on Meadow Farm Rd., there was no number on the street because there were only five houses on the whole street. I could not find a photo of my husband’s house on the internet. We have no copy of the pictures of the Morgan’s house. We gave all the photos of the house from the time it was constructed to later years to Robert Entenmann of Entenmann’s Bakery when they bought the house from Mrs. Robert Pinkerton of Pinkerton Detective Agency who bought the house from my in-laws. We should have kept the album. My husband said at that time, “What for? We don’t own the house anymore.” Now, we are sorry we gave them away.
This is the aerial view of the Meadow Farm Rd and the creek behind it. It’s most likely part of the Lawrence estate which is the biggest parcel of land at the end of the street.
During the summer months in the 1920s, plenty of notable people visited East Islip including Charles Lindbergh and a high-ranking person on the world’s stage, the Prince of Wales. In September 1924, while he was a houseguest of Mr. & Mrs. James Burden of Syosset (she was a niece of William K. Vanderbilt), the Prince of Wales would often “disappear” with his two equerries, during a party and paid a visit to the Hollinses at Meadowfarm in East Islip. He would not return to the Burdens until the next day.
Sources: Hometown Long Island, Along the Great South Bay by Harry W. Havemeyer, Personal conversation with Matthew Morgan, Wikipedia, New York Times, Newsday
Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring Long Island.