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Town to spend $100G to renovate plaza for Mackay Horse statue

The statue, seen here on Thursday, was donated

The statue, seen here on Thursday, was donated to North Hempstead Town in 2010 and now resides in Gerry Pond Park in Roslyn. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Eight years after a crumbling pink marble statue of a man restraining a horse was donated to North Hempstead Town, it will receive a nearly $100,000 upgrade to its current perch in Roslyn’s Gerry Park.

The historic sculpture was modeled after the Marly Horses, a pair of 18th century French statues that once graced the bottom of the Champs Elysees in Paris and are now on display at the Louvre Museum.

After a separate $100,000 restoration several years ago, North Hempstead officials said they are ready to beautify the surroundings of Roslyn’s replica by constructing a new plaza around it with historical markers, additional landscaping and lighting.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the statue, which dates to the early 20th century, “has been a landmark in the community” since its installation in the park in 2013 and that the plaza would “provide a fitting home for this important statue.”

The sculpture, which was donated to the town in 2010, is part of a pair that once presided over a 648-acre estate built in the early 20th century and owned by Clarence Mackay, a prominent Gold Coast financier. Over the decades, the estate was divvied up in piecemeal fashion, with more than 600 acres eventually becoming part of the village of East Hills.

The horses, one of the few vestiges remaining from the past, were separated after the land was subdivided. One of the Mackay horses was located in a resident’s backyard before it arrived in its current home in Gerry Park five years ago. The restoration process involved reattaching a head to the marble horse tamer, who had lost several limbs over the years. The other horse, which was parked in front of Roslyn High School, is now being restored.

Town Historian Howard Kroplick said the plaza would provide long –awaited “finishing touches” to the statue and honor its history.

“It’s kind of like we have a beautiful painting and now we are putting a frame on it,” Kroplick said.

A walkable brick plaza trimmed with limestone will be erected around the existing statue and its pedestal, said David Lamb, the project’s Stony Brook-based landscape architect. Part of the plaza will have a barrier of shrubs and other plantings to buffer it from wintertime sledders who veer off course. A historical marker affixed to the plaza will outline the statue’s long history in the area.

With the town board recently awarding a $98,750 bid to Bayville-based Woodstock Construction Group, the town anticipates that construction will commence this summer. Officials said that the project would likely require about two months to complete.

“This historical piece will stand prominently in the park for all to enjoy and see,” said Council Member Anna Kaplan.

All about the statues

  • Two 25-ton, 26-foot statues sculpted by Franz Plumelet, modeled after the Marly Horses, two large marble statues commissioned in 1739 by King Louis XV for a horse pond at a French chateau built by King Louis XIV
  • Originally cost $25,000
  • Made of pink Tennessee marble, with a limestone pedestal
  • Installed in 1920 at the entrance of Harbor Hill, a 648-acre Renaissance-style mansion owned by Clarence Mackay, who helped develop the international telegraph business
  • After the 2010 donation of one of the statues to the town, the Roslyn Landmark Society raised $100,000 to restore one of the Mackay Horses, which was relocated to Gerry Park in 2013
  • In 2016, Nassau County gave North Hempstead Town a $71,000 Conservative Reserve Program grant for the statue’s plaza project.
  • The other statue, previously at Roslyn High School, awaits restoration

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