Written by Joe Scotchie Wednesday, 25 September 2013 00:00
In the near future, motorists traveling down Roslyn Road will see Gerry Park graced by an impressive statue from the village’s aristocratic past.
The statue is the Mackay Horse, which once stood on the grounds of the world-famous Harbor Hill, the long-lost estate of Clarence and Catherine Mackay.
Spearheading the renovation process has been the Roslyn Landmark Society, whose officials recently announced that the foundation for the statue is now complete.
Landmark Society officials said that both installation of the statue and a gala celebration commemorating the event is currently underway. Society officials are hoping for an unveiling sometime in October.
“The restoration of this art treasure has been an amazing demonstration of community support for historic preservation on Long Island,” said Franklin Hill Perrell, Roslyn Landmark Society’s executive director. “The Mackay Horse Sculpture expresses the artistry of the French Baroque and the myths of the ancient world, created for one of America’s greatest estates.”
Indeed, the residence, which was completed in 1901, once encompassed 650 acres of land in the Roslyn-East Hills area, becoming one of the largest homes in America during the Gilded Age. Harbor Hill was designed by the legendary architect Stanford White, a fact that has added to its luster and ongoing fascination.
The Mackay Horse that will be erected in Gerry Park was one of the two such statues that once stood on Harbor Hill grounds. For 50 years, the other statue stood for decades in front of Roslyn High School. In recent years, that statue fell into disrepair, succumbing to the wear and tear of nature. Fortunately, an energetic group of Roslyn High School alumni, Friends of the Horse Tamer, has been formed to perform a similar restoration to that statue.
While one statue stood at Roslyn High School, the one that will soon be placed in Gerry Park found a home at a private residence in East Hills, that of Bruce and Melissa Shulman. When the Shulman’s sold their home in 2010, they generously donated the statue to the Town of North Hempstead, with instructions that the Roslyn Landmark Society supervises the renovation.
As the three-year project nears completion, Perrell singled out those individuals and organizations that contributed to the effort.
“[The Landmark Society thanks] the supporters of the Roslyn Landmark Society, the Gerry Charitable Trust, Hugh and Maggie Tanchuck and their artisans at North Shore Architectural Stone who have meticulously restored the statue to museum standards, engineer Charlie Vachris who devised a stable foundation for this enormous and weighty sculpture, County Legislator Wayne Wink who secured public funding for its completion, and the Town of North Hempstead Town
Clerk Leslie Gross, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, whose support has sustained this project,” Perrell said.
Also singing the praises of the restoration effort was East Hills resident Howard Kroplick. Kroplick is a society trustee and an historian for the Town of North Hempstead. Landmark Society officials hail him as a primary force behind the statue restoration.
“I’m thrilled that this historic statue has been restored and will be placed in Gerry Park where it will be seen and enjoyed by the residents of North Hempstead,” Kroplick said. “This immense undertaking was accomplished with the ongoing efforts of many.”
An early 1900s trip to France by the Mackay family inspired the construction of the two horses. The horse tamer statues on the Champs Elysees in Paris made such an impression that the family commissioned the French sculptor, Franz
Plumelet to carve the two horses, which were made from Tennessee pink marble. Landmark Society officials said the statue weighs five tons, and when placed on its pedestal, will stand over 20 feet tall. It stood guard in the west garden of
Harbor Hill since 1920 where it overlooked Hempstead Harbor, Roslyn Village and the evolving skyscrapers of Manhattan.
In all, Landmark Society officials remain pleased with the restoration effort, claiming that it will result in a “beautiful and enduring legacy and new chapter in Long Island’s Gold Coast history.”