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Historic Muttontown mansion gates restored

From left, Ursala Niarakis, trustee/president of the Hoffman

From left, Ursala Niarakis, trustee/president of the Hoffman Foundation, Muttontown Deputy Mayor Carl Juul-Nielsen and Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman look at the new gates at the entrance of Muttontown's historic Knollwood estate. (Jan. 10, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

The iron and stone gates marking the entrance to the Hudson estate in Muttontown since the early 1900s have been restored to their original condition after decades of vandalism left them battered.

The three-year effort to overhaul the Knollwood gates started with meticulous study of the original design in order to preserve the elements that could be salvaged and replicate those that were missing or broken, Mayor Julianne W. Beckerman said.

The curved gates -- 18 feet tall at their highest point -- sit at the corner of Muttontown Road and Route 106, at the end of an old road leading to the site of the mansion in Nassau County's 550-acre Muttontown Preserve.

"For those who watched the progression of the restoration, it's such a stark change because we lived for decades with them in disrepair," Beckerman said. "The center of the village should never have been an eyesore."

Vandals had broken off the gates' finials -- decorative ornaments along the top -- and bent the bars, Beckerman said.

The $63,000 restoration, undertaken by Bay Shore-based Artistic Iron Works, was paid for from the village's beautification committee and the M. O. & M. E. Hoffman Foundation, a Muttontown private charitable group.

The foundation also contributed $23,000 to have the 152 iron and brass finials cast to the original specifications.

The estate in the early 1900s was home to the Knollwood residence, a country house commissioned by New York City stockbroker Charles I. Hudson. The property later was owned by Albanian King Zog, rumored to have bought it with precious gems, and Lansdell Christie, a former U.S. Army official who made his fortune mining iron ore in Liberia.

The restored gates, unveiled to the public last month, are locked and will not to be used as an entrance to the preserve, which has other access points, Beckerman said.

"The gates are just simply beautiful," Hoffman Foundation president Ursula Niarakis said.

Her study of the gates resulted in two handprint-sized hearts being placed in iron near the main stone pillars. The original panels with the hearts had been stolen by vandals, but she found the detail when using a magnifying glass to study an old photo.

Nassau County Parks and Recreation Commissioner Carnell Foskey in a statement said the Knollwood gates "greatly enhance" the preserve.

Beckerman said she hopes to install lighting at the gates.

"We didn't do it for the short-term, we did it so the village will be left with something for years to come," she said.

Muttontown Superintendent of Public Works Tony Toscano called the gates "a piece of history we've preserved for the village. . . . It's going to be here for generations to come."

 

Through the years

 

History of the Hudson estate, formerly known as Knollwood and now a part of Muttontown Preserve:

1906-1911 Charles I. Hudson, a New York City stockbroker, had Knollwood, a palatial country home, built

1951 Exiled King Zog of Albania, purchased the estate. He never lived there.

1955 Lansdell K. Christie, who earned his fortune mining iron ore in Liberia, purchased the estate. He also never lived there.

1959 The Christie family demolished the mansion.

1969 Nassau County purchases the estate.

2011 The gates to the estate are restored.

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