Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 12 August 2011 00:00
Hopefully you will be one of the guests who accept the invitation to the fictional Shadow Ball to be held Thursday evening, April 35, in the Ballroom of the Oyster Bay Opera House, 15000 Cove Road, entrance via the Oyster Bay to Rye Bridge. A total of 600 cards of admission at $100 each (or 60 for $1,000) are available for this event to raise funds that are needed for emergency repairs to the Adelia & Cornelius McCoon House (a.k.a. the Trousdell House or Hillside).
The McCoons were married on June 27, 1842 by the Rev. Marmaduke Earle, a Baptist minister and known in the area as “The person to be married by in that era,” according to historian Julia Clark. He resided in the Earle-Wightman House that is the headquarters to the Oyster Bay Historical Society. The house is truly connected to Oyster Bay history.
The McCoon’s 1844 summer cottage was previously called Hillside. The house and two-acre property are located at 198 East Main Street and the corner of Sandy Hill Road and was purchased this spring by the North Shore Land Alliance.
The fundraising campaign will culminate in a final community thank-you reception held at the house on Sept. 18, from 4 to 8 p.m., where all supporters will gather to celebrate the success of their mission. The photographs accompanying this article show you some of the unusual features of the house.
The ball committee includes: Phillip Blocklyn, Oyster Bay Historical Society executive director; John Bonifacio, Main Street Association president; Harriet Gerard Clark, Raynham Hall Museum director; Ben Jankowski, Oyster Bay Railroad Museum board chair; Isaac Kremer, Main Street Association executive director; Lisa Ott, North Shore Land Alliance, president; Rita Pecora, co-founder of Save the Jewel by the Bay; and Alexandra Wolfe, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities director of preservation services.
The group are members of the Oyster Bay Preservation Roundtable and are working together to preserve a part of the fabric of historic Oyster Bay. Phil Blocklyn said, “Preserving the houses that reflect the history of Oyster Bay is important. Houses carry the history of the hamlet, and you lose part of your history when you lose those houses. Oyster Bay has lost so many houses already, that the value of those left goes up and are even more important to preserve. In this case, with the Trousdell house, it is a little special because we know so much about its history. As with many other houses in Oyster Bay, we are informed and can interpret them. We can tell their story and that adds value to them. Houses tell stories, they are not just physical things. In the case of the Trousdell house, it is kind of a funky building, it has been added to and cobbled together but the story is what is important. The house is the cover on the book.
“All the other organizations involved have their point of view as to the preservation of the house. Ours is pure history and knowing the story of the past,” said Mr. Blocklyn of the OBHS.
Harriet Clark said, “If the ball is successful this can be a model for the community for historic preservation needs.”
“There should be some talk about how historic preservation adds to real estate values,” said Jonathan Wehle, Esq. who was helping stuff the envelopes at a working meeting of the committee on Aug. 4 at the MSA office on Audrey Avenue.
Issac Kremer provided the source of a good quote from the Economics of Historic Preservation by Donovan Rypkema who said, “There is simply no more cost effective economic development of any type, on any scale, anywhere in the country than Main Street.” Last year the Oyster Bay Main Street Association brought in $200,000 in grant money for building improvement projects; and led the historically significant Octagon Hotel restoration; and attracted a Preserve America grant. Mr. Kremer said the Octagon Hotel study cost MSA $17,000 but with grants coming in it only cost them $3,000 for a $2.5 million project.
Mr. Wehle said the effects of historic preservation on preserving the streetscape: “It really affects the way people feel about the community they live in.”
Ms. Clark expanded on the idea saying, “That sense of place is so important and it is so hard to describe.”
“I love the Shadow Ball concept. It’s a fundraiser that’s a stay-at-home ball, and a danceless dance to raise funds – and therefore with less work,” commented someone.
Not exactly, said Mr. Kremer. “It took 200 hours between intern Meredith Maus and me to document the house. She is a graduate student at the University of Vermont in historic preservation. She worked in the office the last nine weeks.”
That was how they found out about the Shadow Ball concept. “It’s a good model for us to raise funds for the immediate needs of the house,” he said. There is still more to research he said. “We don’t know enough about Grace Moore Cook who lived there – whether she was with the Moore family who were connected to Tiffany.” Grace Moore Cook and her husband the Rev. William Mason Cook were the owners of the house in 1913.
Mr. Kremer and Ms. Maus have created an extensive history of the people involved with the house – too long to be included here. However, Mr. Kremer wrote in his history of the house, “James and Marjorie Ruth Trousdell were the third group of newlyweds, following the McCoon and Garver families, to own and reside in Hillside immediately following their nuptials. Dr. James Trousdell married Marjorie Ruth Trousdell in August 1948. Dr. Marjorie Trousdell was born July 14, 1916, and graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University in 1937, and the LI College of Medicine in 1946. She specialized in pathology and was on the staff of Mercy Hospital retiring in 1981. Her husband James’ specialty was internal medicine. He practiced in Oyster By from his house until retiring in 1990. They had four children: Barbara, James Jr., Elizabeth, and Bruce. Marjorie died December 22, 2004, and was buried at Youngs Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay.”
The Cornelius & Adelia McCoon House was originally a Greek revival home with Colonial Revival details added later around 1913. This is one of Oyster Bay’s last remaining examples of a summer colony destination for 19th-century visitors that included members of the Roosevelt and Irvin families.
Mr. Blocklyn credited Isaac Kremer for finding the story of the Shadow Ball, that is tied to the history of the Trousdell house. The Shadow Ball was an event conceived of in 1928 to benefit the Florence Baker House in New York City. Mr. Kremer found out about it from an article in the April 1, 1928 issue of The New York Times with the information: “A Stay-At-Home Ball, Florence Baker House Offers a Danceless Dance to Raise funds – Rainbow Fete,” it said.
Among the members of the event committee included Mrs. Chauncey B. Garver. She and her husband owned the Adelia & Cornelius McCoon House (a.k.a. Trousdell House or Hillside) in Oyster Bay from 1920 to 1949. While the Shadow Ball event is imaginary, the need to stabilize the McCoon House is very real. More recently, Angela Koenig arranged stay-at-home Mother’s Day events in support of the Doubleday-Babcock Senior Center (now the Life Enrichment Center). Ms. Koenig urged people not to attend, but stay at home and breakfast with their mothers for her event.
For these reasons, the Oyster Bay Historic Preservation Roundtable, a coalition of community groups, came together to protect this important history building, and the two-acre lot that it is situated upon.
Lisa Ott, president of the North Shore Alliance said about the event and also the fundraising effort, “I could not imagine a better way to protect this notable house and the land it rests on, than by taking a page from Mrs. Chancy B. Garver’s fundraising playbook. The Shadow Ball will give us the resources needed to stabilize this important house, so it may be passed on to a buyer with an interest in conservation of the land and preservation of this important building.”
The North Shore Alliance stepped in to purchase the property and plans to place a conservation easement upon the land. Their goal is to sell the property to a private owner who may proceed with preservation. Before doing that, approximately $60,000 is needed for stabilization and emergency repairs to the building.
The invitation continued with, “We encourage you to give as little or as much as you can to support this important cause. A donation card is enclosed. Please complete this and send to the North Shore Land Alliance, prior to Monday, Sept. 12. A thank you event will be held for donors at the Adelia & Cornelius McCoon House on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 4 to 8 p.m.”
For more information please contact the North Shore Land Alliance at 484-4419 or visit www.northshorelandalliance.org.