February 2, 2006
|Harbor Hill, The Mackay Estate,
Long Island, New York, 1898-1938
|Location: North shore of Long Island overlooking Roslyn Village and the southern tip of Hempstead Harbor. About 20 miles east of New York City. Map: USGS, Hempstead, 1918, survey data 1897.
The property was given to Clarence and Katherine Duer Mackay as a wedding gift in 1898 by his famous father and mother, John W. Mackay and Marie Louise Hungerford Mackay.
Size: 648 acres. The estate was divided into formal gardens and terraces surrounding the main house, a 70 acre farm area and the remainder was treated as a park.
For a detailed architectural treatment of this subject, see Long Island Country Homes and Their Architects, 1860-1940 edited by Robert B. MacKay (not a relative), Anthony K. Baker & Carol A. Traynor, published by The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities in Association with W.W. Norton & Company - New York and London, 1997.
|Clarence and his new bride Katherine, selected Stanford White of the New York firm of McKim, Meade & White to be their primary architect. The house was completed in 1902. The cost for the house alone was $781,483. This did not include the cost of the architect's commission, art and furnishings, the outbuildings or the landscaping. Click here for a view of the interior of the mansion as it appeared new c. 1902 (9 photos). This photo layout was done prior to the addition of the spectacular collections of art, armor, and tapestries that grew over the next 28 years.
Guy Lowell was commissioned to design the layout of the grounds. Click here, then search for Clarence Mackay to view a photo collection of the grounds, the mansion and out-buildings as they appeared c. 1929-30 (81 photos).
|A large estate staff was led by Mr. Charles Hechler who faithfully served as estate superintendent for 31 years from 1907 to 1938.
The high water mark at Harbor Hill came in the 1920s:
...1924, a grand party for the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VIII in 1936 and
subsequently, the Duke of Windsor after abdicating the throne.
...1927, an equally grand party for aviator Charles Lindbergh upon his return from
Europe after his famous solo flight between Long Island's Roosevelt Field and Paris.
Decline began with the 1929 stock market crash.
During the declining years...
...In 1930, Clarence's former wife, Katherine Duer Mackay, died from cancer.
...In 1931, Clarence married Anna Case at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Roslyn.
...In 1932, Clarence sold some of his most prized art, armor and tapestries.
...Estate expenses were slashed.
...Estate staff was reduced.
...Estate salaries were reduced for staff that stayed on.
...In 1933 the mansion was closed. The Mackays then moved into the Hechler's house
near Glen Cove Road. And the Hechlers moved into the former tennis pro's house.
...In June 1935, Clarence's personal financial condition improved to the point that he
and Anna reopened the mansion at Harbor Hill with a reduced staff but their stay would
only last 3 1/2 more years.
...In July 1935, the Postal Telegraph Company filed for bankruptcy.
Clarence Mackay left his beloved Harbor Hill estate for the last time on November 8, 1938. He died four days later at age 64 at his residence across 5th Avenue from Central Park at #3, E. 75th Street, New York City. Following his passing, a very well attended funeral was conducted at St. Patrick's Cathedral. This was followed by interment in the family mausoleum at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
All of Clarence's real estate in Roslyn was left to his son, John W. Mackay. However, Clarence's vastly depleted estate valued at 2-3 million dollars (at one time the family fortune was something in excess of one hundred million dollars) was left to his second wife, Anna Case. As a result, Clarence's son was left without the means to maintain the Harbor Hill property or pay the recurring taxes. In 1940, John leased 50 acres to the US Army Air Corps for what later became known as the Roslyn Air Force Station.
The house and other estate buildings gradually fell into disrepair due to neglect and vandals. The mansion itself was demolished with dynamite in 1947. John sold the rest of the estate property to a developer who built a community of indivdual homes on Harbor Hill in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Today, this community is known as Country Estates.