Pat Burke, like many local residents, fondly remembers seeing the Tiffany minaret gleaming in the reflection of a sunrise, as she sat with her brother, fishing in Oyster Bay. Local sailors know where the Tiffany minaret is located, and now some landlubbers do too.
The Oyster Bay Historical Society gave a tour on Wednesday, Nov. 1, of the perimeter of Laurelton Hall, the estate of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The property has been sold in housing lots and is in private hands. The tour was a hiking challenge, but the autumn color display eased the way.
The walk is part of the OBHS concentration on Louis C. Tiffany in Oyster Bay 2000, with events scheduled for October, November and December. The walking tour was led by the OBHS Louis Comfort Tiffany project co-curators Maureen Monck, Ph.D., a psychoanalyst and Tom Kuehhas, director of the Oyster Bay Histocial Society.
Mr. Kuehhas explained that the OBHS has a great collection of 17th, 18th, and 19th century material and is working on celebrating the 20th century in Oyster Bay. Mr. Tiffany is the first of a series of notable residents they will be highlighting.
The walking group met in the parking lot of the Village Hall of Laurel Hollow, from where the top of the minaret can be seen. The original 600 acre estate covered what is now the villages of Laurel Hollow and Cove Neck. The Tiffanys originally lived at The Briars, a more traditional house located on the estate, one that Mrs. Tiffany loved. She didn't want to move to Laurelton Hall, and died before the move occurred.
The group first walked up a 45 degree hill to the Sarah Hanley house. She was the "lady in yellow" who attended six o'clock Mass at St. Dominic's every morning. She often drove Mr. Tiffany's yellow automobile and loved to wear his favorite color - yellow. Ms. Hanley, who had been one of LCT's Irish nurses during his recovery from a kidney ailment, became his companion for over 20 years. The Tiffany children were opposed to his marrying the Irish immigrant. The original Tiffany family came to America, in the mid 1600s.
The Hanley house is now owned, by a Huntington couple who are restoring it. The house was left by Ms. Hanley, after her death, to Dominican nuns who used the house for retreats. The view of the harbor is spectacular.
The walkers saw two views of a remnant of the interior walkway at Laurelton Hall that connected the family section with the serving areas. They saw a remaining stone gateway that gave a glimpse of the Tiffany art gallery (with no admittance allowed); a pond, and the beach for a closer glimpse of the minaret that had been a chimney for the heating plant for the house. From there the walkers could see the Laurel Hollow parking lot. If the weather had been warmer, brave swimmers could have used the water as a short cut back to their cars.
The minaret was a key to why Laurelton Hall no longer remains.
Tom Kuehhas, said it took a barge full of coal to start up the heating plant and took a barge a day to keep it going. When the trustees took over the house that cost about $2 million to build, they couldn't afford to keep up with the heating bills. In 1946, the contents of Laurelton Hall were sold at auction by the Tiffany Foundation to provide for art scholarships. They sold the house for $10,000.
The owners never lived in the house. It was left abandoned and later vandalized. No one is sure how the fire occurred, that destroyed the house in 1957, but vandals are suspected as the cause.
About a year ago the final ruins of Laurelton Hall were carted away. A watercolor painting of the ruins, by Francis Webb Roosevelt is on display at the OBHS building, the Earle-Wightman House at 20 Summit Street, as part of their Tiffany exhibit.
The Tiffany series continues with Cynthia Williams, associate director of the American Decorative Arts Graduate Program at the Smithsonian Institute and Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in Washington D.C., in a lecture on "Tiffany Glass Art," on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Oyster Bay Community Center.
- Professor Jennifer Goldsborough will speak on the history and various silver services used in hosting a "Proper Tea," on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Planting Fields Arboretum. Participants are invited to bring one piece of their own tea equipment for discussion by the speaker. The lecture, will be followed by a proper tea.
- Professor Ira Prilik will allow participants to view actual Tiffany objects while he discusses their construction at the Prilik Galleries, 726 Franklin Ave., Garden City.
- There will be a slide lecture on Friday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. by Tiffany scholars Judith and Raymond Spinzia. They will present a slide lecture of significant Long Island examples of Tiffany ecclesiastical windows, as well as some fine examples of those which graced Laurelton Hall.
For fees and reservations and information, please call 922-5032.