A new phase of renovations will soon begin on a 113-year-old, Islip Town-owned mansion in East Islip as part of an ongoing effort to preserve the decaying structure.
Several years ago, some town officials had wanted to tear down the building, Brookwood Hall, fearing it was too far gone in disrepair, Councilman Steve Flotteron said, and were mulling the possibility of selling the property. Flotteron said he asked for a chance to save it through donations and grants while limiting the use of taxpayer dollars.
The first project completed last year used more than $400,000 in donated labor, equipment and supplies to reconstruct a century-old grand esplanade that now leads from the rear of the building to the water’s edge at Knapp’s Lake.
Recently, state Sens. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) and Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) were able to secure state grants totaling about $150,000, Flotteron said, which will go toward installing new French doors in the ballroom and restoring the main entrance, a decrepit columned rotunda with peeling paint.
Over the past several weeks, a drop ceiling that had been installed decades ago was taken down, revealing original crown molding along the ceiling edges, a find that hasn’t been in public view for more than 50 years, Flotteron said.
About $100,000 in the town’s capital budget was used to fix the ceiling in the ballroom, an expense Flotteron called “necessary” as it was “unsafe and falling down.”
“We unearthed this and in a way, we were able to learn about the history of this building,” Flotteron said. “You can just feel some of the grandeur from that era.”
The three-story, 41-room mansion with French and Greek influences at 50 Irish Lane was designed by the renowned New York architectural firm Delano & Aldrich, whose portfolio includes blueprints for the Vanderbilt and Whitney families’ homes.
It was built in 1903 for the affluent Knapp family before it was sold to financier Francis B. Thorne in 1929. It was later used as an orphanage before the town purchased the 44-acre property in 1967. Now, it houses its parks department headquarters as well as the nonprofit Islip Arts Council.
Future prospective projects include fixing a rear porch that will require structural engineering, an undertaking that could cost well more than $1 million, Flotteron said, as well as restoring or replacing all the windows in the building.
Flotteron estimates it will cost millions and take many years to finish the entire mansion, but he is confident that through donations and grants, the work can be done “to save this piece of Islip history.”
In a statement, Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter called Brookwood Hall “a jewel” that has “a rich history as a center for fine arts and entertainment.” She thanked the parks department and volunteers “for their tireless efforts” in restoring the mansion “to its original beauty and grandeur.”
BROOKWOOD HALL MANSION
Land: 44 acres
Structure: Three-story, 41 rooms
Newest grants: $150,000, secured by state senators
Planned work: Replacing French doors in the ballroom, restoring main entrance