Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inisfada, The Final Chapter

Rear Facade
© Paul J. Mateyunas
We are sad to say that today marks the loss of America's fourth largest home, Inisfada. For its century-long lifetime, Inisfada was the largest residential project, and only on Long Island, in existence by noted Philadelphia architect John Torrey Windrim. 

It is truly devastating that those responsible for the demolition of this significant piece of local and architectural history have further erased the kind of landmark that makes the North Shore unique, and plan to replace it with a high end version of tract housing.

Loss of the Great Room with many details still left in the building
© Paul J. Mateyunas

Example: carved beam ceilings still clinging to the ceiling and now exposed to the sky 
© Paul J. Mateyunas

During the course of its history, Long Island has inspired numerous artists and writers, among them William Cullen Bryant, Walt Whitman, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few. Novels and movies like The Great Gatsby and Sabrina have become American classics. Current pop culture is providing a resurgence of interest in our history, and works like Downton Abbey and Baz Luhrman's remake of The Great Gatsby are causing visitors to flock to places like Newport, RI; Long Island's Vanderbilt Museum and Old Westbury Gardens; and Biltmore in Ashville, NC by the thousands and watch shows like Selling Spelling Manor and The Queen of Versailles. Vast and imposing, the awe-inspiring Inisfada could easily have become "America's Downton Abbey", but now that its physical presence is lost, it is likely that future generations may never even hear about this snippet of our history.

© Paul J. Mateyunas

Inisfada is the most significant house to be razed on Long Island in over three decades, and we suggest that our community take this as the North Shore equivalent of a wake-up call like Manhattan's Penn Station. We hope a loss of this magnitude will finally spark a local movement for mix of new and old buildings and the kind of adaptive reuse that enables us to keep the fabric of our community unique. Let's use this horrible loss as a lesson to appreciate and preserve what we have left.

Leaded glass windows, crushed and smashed in the rubble© Paul J. Mateyunas

© Paul J. Mateyunas

1 comment:

  1. I just heard about this today as we are working with a group who did some salvage work at this estate. It is sad that the zoning did not require some sort of preservation of materials - there are so many companies that do this work, these materials that have no equivalent today. It's a shame that we still don't value our historic past the way we should.