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Restored East Islip historic mansion opens for events

Islip brought the 1903 lakefront Brookwood Hall back from "sad shape" and is renting out the ballroom for the first time.

The historic Brookwood Hall in East Islip will be available for residents to rent and host private events after renovations were completed at the municipal building, as seen on Jan. 30. (Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner)

A historic mansion in East Islip that has been partially restored back to its original grandeur will once again host parties, but this time as an event venue, officials said.

Islip Town officials said they are opening up a section of Brookwood Hall for residents’ private events after restoring the dilapidated front entrance and ballroom.

Officials said they were thrilled when they booked the first event, a bridal shower, in the ballroom, showcasing how far the 116-year-old lakefront building has come.

“I feel as though we have been working really hard to improve this asset, and now finally it’s at a stage where our constituents can use it,” said Deirdre Wahlberg, deputy commissioner of parks, recreation and cultural affairs.

Brookwood Hall was built next to a lake in 1903 as a summer home for the affluent Knapp family. It was designed by the renowned New York architectural firm Delano & Aldrich, whose portfolio includes blueprints for the Vanderbilt and Whitney families' homes.

During the second owner's residency starting in 1929, the Thorne family threw grand parties with live music in the ballroom, which is "acoustically perfect," said Ray Lembo, curator for the East Islip Historical Society. 

The hall was later used as an orphanage from 1942 to 1965. The town purchased it in 1967 to prevent it from being torn down and developed. It now houses the town’s parks department, the Islip Arts Council and the Islip Art Museum. 

The 41-room Georgian Revival house fell into disrepair, with peeling paint and deteriorating structures.

“I could see the skeletons and the bones of something that was once beautiful but had the fears, will this become victim of a bulldozer?” said Suffolk Legis. Steve Flotteron, who formed Friends of Brookwood Hall to secure donations to restore the grounds in 2015.

The ballroom was in “pretty sad shape” and smelled because of its historic insulation — a type of horse hair, Wahlberg said. It was used for storage and art exhibits.

It has been transformed after about $200,000 of work, which began in 2016 and took the room down to its studs, Wahlberg said. The room became fit for events once officials installed heating and air conditioning units this winter, she said.

Officials also had town employees repair the front entrance with paint and masonry work this winter, Wahlberg said.

Lynda A. Moran, executive director of the Islip Arts Council, said coming to work and walking the grounds is now "spectacular." She said it is "wonderful" that residents can finally share in that experience with their own events.

"People come here to take pictures for weddings all the time and ask, 'Can we rent it out?' " said Moran, who has helped raise funding for the hall. 

Officials also installed new cameras in an effort to boost security after a thief took electronics from the hall in November.

The next projects will be to install French doors looking out onto Knapp’s Lake in the ballroom and to revamp the deteriorating back portico, officials said.

The ballroom will be available to rent for about $350 for residents and $450 for nonresidents, plus a custodial fee of $100. People seeking more information can call the parks department at 631-224-5411.

Work to restore the ballroom has included:

  • replacing horse hair insulation
  • putting down new flooring
  • removing a drop ceiling
  • restoring crown molding
  • installing period-style lighting
  • adding climate control

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