Fundraising for restoration of Roslyn’s horse-tamer statue, a fixture outside the high school for more than five decades, was coming to a photo finish.
The century-old statue had sorely needed work: The figure of the man was missing his head and left arm, and the rearing horse lacked front hooves.
Alumni had raised $100,000 — enough, they believed, to restore the statue to its former glory, when it graced the grounds of the Harbor Hill estate during the North Shore’s Gold Coast era.
Then they learned the restoration would cost $50,000 more.
“It was disappointing and frustrating, after we came so far,” said Barbara Berke of Boston, a 1969 Roslyn High graduate.
Since the statue was removed from its spot in front of the school in February 2012, held together by red tape and in risk of collapse, Berke has struggled to secure enough money for its rehabilitation.
Fashioned in a style that evokes monuments of ancient Greece and Rome, the 25-ton statue is one of a pair modeled after the famous “Marly horse” statues commissioned by France’s King Louis XIV in 1739. The originals were installed at the horse pond at Château de Marly, a small royal residence, outside Paris and later flanked the entrance to the Champs-Elysées in Paris. They now are in the Louvre.
The two American replicas were carved of Tennessee marble for placement on the 648-acre estate of telecommunications executive and financier Clarence Mackay, and erected between 1910 and 1920 on either side of an elaborate garden terrace overlooking Hempstead Harbor.
Mackay died in 1938. When the Harbor Hill mansion was demolished nine years later and the property taken — with much of it becoming homes in the Country Estates development in East Hills — the statues were separated. One remained in a resident’s backyard for decades, until it was renovated and installed in Roslyn’s Gerry Pond Park in 2013 by the Town of North Hempstead.
Long before that, in 1959, the other statue had been found lying on its side as construction workers readied to knock it to pieces. George Gach, a local sculptor-painter, realized its worth and donated it to the Roslyn school district — which in turn put it up outside the high school.
Since it was dismantled in 2012, it has been in a Glen Head monument shop.
“I’ve been nursing this thing for years now,” said Hugh Tanchuck, an owner of North Shore Architectural Stone in Glen Head. “It’s time that it gets repaired,”
It was supposed to be a short stay.
Alums rushed to raise $100,000. A website for the group, “Friends of The Horse Tamer,” tracked the tallies. Buoyed by the successful restoration and placement of the twin statue in the park, fundraisers came up with a slogan: “One Horse Tamer Done, One to Go!”
Daniel Pollack, the student government president at Roslyn High in the 2011-12 school year, rallied his classmates in the final months of his senior year.
“There was a lot of support,” said Pollack, who graduated from Yale University in 2016 and is a physics doctoral student at Harvard. “It was an iconic symbol.”
But in the years since, the price for repair and restoration rose.
Cracks had developed inside the statue, exacerbated by moisture, freezing and thawing, and must be mended. The horse also is missing its bridle, and the man — in addition to needing a head — must have extensive work to his arms and legs after several “bad” repairs in the past, Tanchuck said.
Tanchuck said he told fundraisers from the start that the project could cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
In the past five years, he said, “Everything went up.”
In addition, the statue needs a new pedestal, which could cost another $25,000.
The project’s overall cost “should be more. I kept it tight because this is a school district,” Tanchuck said. “No one’s going to do it for that price.”
Jay Corn, a trustee and secretary of the Roslyn Landmark Society, said that some in the community want to see the two statues reunited — and not at the high school.
“Unfortunately, they were separated in Roslyn, to save them,” Corn said. “There are people who feel it shouldn’t go back to the school system, because they didn’t take care of it when they had it.”
He added, “This is one of the wealthiest school systems in the country, and now they’re looking for private funding to restore it?”
Barry Edelson, the district’s director of community relations, said, “The district is committed to the restoration and maintaining it going forward.”
He continued, “We expect the work that’s being done on it will be of a high quality that will stand the test of time, which the original work did not. When we received it, it was already in somewhat of a perilous state.”
The group Friends of The Horse Tamer has raised more than $126,000, as of Friday night. Berke said she hopes a single donation would be enough to exceed the goal and restore the horse she cherished as a student.
None of the current students were in high school when the horse was out front, she said, though some may remember it from growing up in the community.
“It’s a lot to ask of students,” she said. “Their ability to raise big sums of money is not good.”
For Pollack, the former student government president, the slowing of the project’s momentum “is unfortunate. We thought we were there. I remember the feeling once we reached the goal.”
However, he said, “I’m hopeful, and everyone at ‘Friends of The Horse Tamer’ is hopeful the community will be able to gather those remaining funds to return it.”