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East Hills landmark horse statue gallops off

Until just Wednesday morning, the Shulman family had quite the conversation piece in the middle of their backyard: a marble statue of a horse mounted on a limestone pedestal, the whole thing rising 33 feet and weighing 25 tons.

The rearing horse peeked from behind the roof of the Colonial on Poplar Drive in East Hills and could be seen from the Roslyn Viaduct. Motorists often stopped and stared. Some rang the doorbell, asking for a closer look; others crept into the backyard without seeking permission.

The horse "was a huge selling point for me," Melissa Shulman said of the house, built in 1965.

But the Shulmans are moving soon to a home nearby, and the new owners don't share their affection for the historic horse.

So the Shulmans donated it to the Town of North Hempstead, and the Roslyn Landmark Society agreed to pay for moving it.

The Gerry Charitable Trust donated $15,000 to the society to cover the cost of moving and storing the statue. The goal is to raise more than $100,000 to restore the statue and install it in Gerry Pond Park, said society director Franklin Hill Perrell.

Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said restoration would "preserve a sense of history and won't cost the town anything. It's a win-win."

A crew from North Shore Monuments of Glen Head spent six hours moving the front of the horse, an adjacent horse tamer and the horse's rear, and trucking the pieces to the company's shop. It will take another day or two to remove the pedestal, designed by famed architect Stanford White, company president Hugh Tanchuck said.

When the Shulmans bought the house nine years ago, the horse came with it - one of the last remnants of the Harbor Hill Estate, home of Comstock Lode silver fortune heir Clarence Mackay. In 1910, he commissioned two statues as replicas of the Champs-Elysées Marly horses, now in the Louvre. The other replica is at Roslyn High School.

Howard Kroplick of East Hills, who has researched the statues, said the estate fell into disrepair after Mackay's death in 1938. His mansion was razed in 1947 and its artwork went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He noted it is the 100th anniversary of the statue, which has held up pretty well: Only parts of the mane and hind legs are missing. The horse tamer is headless, with chips in a leg and arm.

The Shulmans' sons, Marc, 13, and Jake, 10, have grown up with the horse as a source of awe when friends come over. "I think it's really cool," Marc said. "When we go outside, it's the perfect spot to hide for when we play hide-and-seek."

Their parents hope to take them to Paris to see the originals. "It makes us appreciate history," Melissa Shulman said, staring up at the horse. "This was someone's dream."

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