Working in the garden
The alley leading to Knapp Lake on the west side of the mansion looks very similar to the way it did when Brookwood Hall was a private home.

IB/Chalifoux

Working in the garden

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
4/28/2016


ISLIP TOWN—The ongoing plans to restore one of the Town of Islip’s historic landmarks took a leap forward last Wednesday as hundreds of volunteers from businesses, nonprofit organizations and community groups gathered on the grounds of Brookwood Hall in East Islip for the 2016 Brookwood Hall Gardening Day. The effort, led by the Brookwood Hall Restoration Committee, helped restore the landscape surrounding the Brookwood Hall grounds to a close approximation of its original design. 

Keep Islip Clean (KIC), Youth Enrichment Services, local Chambers of Commerce and other dedicated residents worked from dawn until late afternoon planting hundreds of trees, bushes and evergreens. The result is a majestic, elegant promenade on the west side of the property facing Knapp Lake.

On display in front of the scenery was a depiction of what the tree alley looked like in its prime a century ago.

“Brookwood Hall is a local treasure, and the Town of Islip and these hundreds of volunteers understand how important it is to beautify and maintain this property,” said Councilman Steve Flotteron, who led the effort to restore Brookwood Hall along with the Islip Arts Council two years ago. “With Earth Day on Friday, this was an appropriate time to improve one of Islip’s most majestic outdoor spaces.”

The occasion marked the culmination of two years’ worth of successful fundraising efforts by the Brookwood Hall Restoration Committee. The committee consists of members of various historical societies, chambers of commerce, and civic groups. Supervisor Angie Carpenter, who helped spearhead the initiative along with the Islip Arts Council, thanked all of the individuals, groups, and business organizations contributing to the effort.

“The outpouring of support for this project from the community is remarkable,” said Supervisor Carpenter. “We have a responsibility to preserve this property so future generations of Islip residents can continue to enjoy this cultural landmark.”

Former residents of the 1903 brick Georgian revival mansion include the wealthy Knapp family as well as New York City stockbroker Francis B. Thorne. Its grounds were originally designed by renowned landscape architect Charles Wellford Leavitt, who also developed other Gold Coast mansions along the North Shore. Later on, the mansion was  home to 75 orphans from the late 1940s to mid-’60s as part of the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum. 

Local landscaping and construction firms donated their time and expertise to design and conduct the work. These businesses included Quintal Landscape & Contract, Brightwaters Farms, Barrasso Masonry, Royal Star Landscaping, Giaquinto Masonry, Graham and Associates, and Byrne Irrigation. 

The total donations of labor, equipment and material amounted to approximately $500,000 – and at no cost to taxpayers. In addition to local small businesses, several corporations also donated supplies and manpower. PSEG, Cablevision, Capital One and Citibank all contributed in meaningful ways to this project.

Anthony Quintal, owner of the Islip-based Quintal Landscape & Contract, was the leader of the landscaping project. He also came forward to make some remarks regarding all of the major contributors.

“Thank you so much,” said Quintal. “Hopefully, we can count on you to continue to enhance the grounds of this facility.”

Islip Arts Council executive director Lynda Moran thanked her staff for all their help along the way and stated that other restoration projects on the grounds – including restoration work on the front porch, deck, and inside ballroom – would continue in the near future. She also noted that the Islip Arts Council and Islip Art Museum is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“We’ve been here 40 years in this building, and we really want to have a big blowout in October,” she said.