"I dream't I dwelt in marble halls"
Devoted to the histories and current state of the great mansions of America's Gilded Age.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Harbourwood / Kenwood Blackton Estate, Oyster Bay, New York

Harbourwood, the Oyster Bay Cove estate of Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, co-founder of the Vitagraph Motion Picture company commissioned the architectural firm of Hoppin & Koen, in 1911, to construct what would have been, one of Long Island’s, most elaborate estates. They first built a farm complex with a small cottage, greenhouses and accessory buildings. Then a grand boathouse, which at the time, was said to be the largest and best fitted out boathouses in the country. It included a ballroom above with a tented ceiling, in which he entertained members of “Gold Coast” Society and stars from the emerging movie industry. The Commodore was a noted speedboat racer and also docked his splendid yacht there. According to published accounts of the finished buildings, there is a mention that a main residence will soon be started, but was never built. By the 1930’s, Commodore Blackton, even after selling Vitagraph for over $1,000,000 to Warner Brothers was bankrupt.
The estate eventually was bought by William B. Leeds, heir to a tin plate fortune who also entertained many notables on the property. In the 1920's Anna Anderson who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, the daughter of the murdered Russian Tsar Nicholas II, was a guest at Kenwood, the name that the Leeds family now called the estate. Mrs. Leeds was a Russian princess and felt a connection to Anna/Anastasia, when she was visiting America on a whirlwind tour. More details and pictures of Anna/Anastasia at Kenwood can be found in a great book, “Anastasia, The Riddle of Anna Anderson", by Peter Kurth. The estate passed though many hands over the years, at one time being owned by tennis great, John McEnroe. The farm buildings still exist, but the magnificent boathouse after many years of neglect was eventually demolished.

Click HERE for Bing map.


The Down East Dilettante said...

Okay, that boathouse/ballroom is deliciously over the top---and what a story

Ray Spinzia said...

The Vitagraph Company of America had studios in Bay Shore and Brooklyn. The famous silent film scene of Pauline being tied to the railroad tracks in the company's "Perils of Pauline" series was filmed on the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Bay Shore.

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