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To the manor born

I've always thought I'd be a wonderful chatelaine for a great, brooding manor house, just like the unnamed mistress of "Manderley" in Rebecca. In this, one of my favorite books and movies, the heroine dreams of returning to the haunted ruins of the gorgeous estate where she first arrived as a young bride.

I would have done a far better job endearing myself to the servants. (When I first fell in love with the story in high school, I swear, I had no idea that we would buy an actual ruin, with no servants, or that my mother would fulfill the role of Mrs. Danvers.)

Well, anyway, we got a taste of the real thing on a day trip to Long Island's Gold Coast last Saturday, where we poked around the Sands Point Preserve. This is Hempstead House, a Gothic pile built (rather ludicrously) in 1912 for Howard Gould, son of "robber baron" Jay Gould. After a breezy picnic, we rambled the grounds making comparisons to both Manderley and the CrazyStable.

Hempstead House has admittedly better views; a private cove on the Sound beats even our sliver of Prospect Park.





Near the cove, they've got a fine ruin (prompting me to plead to Daughter in a Cornish accent, "Please, Miss, don't send me to the asylum!" Hey, you either know the movie or you don't.) But we've got the garage, artificially aged to a decrepit cottage by the scenery crew of NBC's Law & Order!


The house has cooler lighting fixtures than ours. Bigger, too. But the Gould scion's marriage collapsed a few short years after building this pile for his "lucky" wife, whereas Spouse and I are still together, sporadically renovating.




Garage-wise, even with our NBC connection, Gould has us beat: He stabled his horses in "Castlegould," built in 1902. What, did the guy ride out in shining armor, with pennants flying?

Finally, we found something that the magnates and we had in common: rotting wood! In particular, door paneling lifting off in birch-like sheets. This is exactly what our (interior-grade) back door is doing.



It's nice to know that a crappy composite door from a cheap contractor can have something in common with Old World craftsmanship bought by millionaires, if enough neglect is applied to either one. Makes you want to go out and grab some wood putty and spar varnish doesn't it?

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited…”

Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca (c) 1938

Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 09:50AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

Aah...Rebecca--the most haunting story ever told. This reminds me, also, of Manderley. Wonderful photos and comments, as always. We miss you when there are no entries for a time!

May 28, 2009 at 07:21PM | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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