Auction of St. Ignatius Retreat House relics raises $50G

Bellrose resident William Lopez is happy to have Bellrose resident William Lopez is happy to have gotten this Italian Baroque Style Walnut Prie dieu for $1,200. The item is a piece from the selection of antique furnishings from Manhasset, Long Island's legendary Tudor "Inisfada" mansion at Capo Auction Fine Art and Antiques in Long Island City, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Centuries-old antiques from one of the North Shore's grandest Gold Coast estates were auctioned off Saturday -- a bittersweet effort that raised more than $50,000 for Fordham University.

Bids came in by telephone, the Internet and in person at Capo Auction Fine Arts and Antiques in Long Island City, claiming Renaissance- and Baroque-era chairs, bookcases and tables.

The furnishings recently adorned the 87-room St. Ignatius Retreat House in North Hills.

"This is a piece of Long Island being auctioned off," said auctioneer Amy Papola of Manhattan. "These types of homes are rare, and very few are left."

The 72,000-square-foot mansion, also known as Inisfada -- Gaelic for "Long Island" -- was built by Catholic philanthropists Nicholas and Genevieve Brady in 1920. It was later donated to the New York province of the Society of Jesus, which turned it into a seminary and retreat house.

In July, the Jesuits sold the Elizabethan-Tudor-style estate for $36.5 million to the Manhasset Bay Group Inc. The development firm has refused to comment on its plans for the property, but area officials said the group wants to build 66 upscale single-family homes.

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The 32 items up for bid Saturday included a carved marble statue that fetched $10,000 and a 15-foot-high Gothic bookcase that sold for $8,500.

An altar cathedral chair -- rumored to have been used by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, during his 1936 visit to Long Island -- went for $4,500.

William Lopez of Bellerose, Queens, bought six items, including a late 18th century walnut prayer desk for $1,200.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase something of historical and religious significance," he said.

Martin Carey, brother of former Gov. Hugh Carey, bought five items worth $11,000 that he plans to put on display at his home: the historic Woolworth Estate in Glen Cove.

"I try to preserve as much as I can," Carey said, noting that laws are needed to protect homes like Inisfada "that can't be replaced."

Preservationists, civic and business leaders have appealed to the state to put the building on state and national registers of historic places.

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