MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A hundred years ago it was “the place” to spend a weekend in Westchester.
Merestead was the summer home of the William Sloane family. The Sloanes donated it to the county, but with major strings attached.
Now the county hopes to cut some of the restrictions to insure Merestead has a glittering future, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
Once upon a time they put it on a postcard and an invitation to Merestead was a sign you had arrived.
“William Sloane was considered one of the leading citizens of the time. He was well known. The real estate ads mentioned that if you moved into a house around here, that he would be your neighbor,” Merestead curator Gigi Cairnes said.
The Sloanes entertained in style, with a household staff of 12. The maids wore grey during the day and changed into black at night. The interior is impressive, with grand rooms and valuable artwork on the walls, including a portrait of Sloane’s mother and 400-year-old Rembrandt print.
But in private areas, ceilings are collapsing, paint is peeling, and mold is growing. The exterior needs a complete facelift.
Westchester County wants to fix it up without breaking the bank.
“We have an asset here and we don’t want to see it devalued. But at the same time we recognize we don’t have unlimited funds,” County Executive George Latimer said.
That’s why the county is asking a court to lift many of the restrictions that came with Merestead when it was donated in 1982. Some of those restrictions are a bit quirky, such as a requirement to feed the deer on the property. Also, there’s a requirement to maintain the possessions of the last resident, Mr. Sloane’s daughter.
Other restrictions on holding weddings or movie shoots or opening a gift shop mean the county can’t monetize the mansion either.
“We’re looking to have some of those restrictions lifted so we can use it for different kinds of events,” Westchester Legislator Kitley Covill said.
The county also wants to sell the Chinese vases and a few other pieces to fund the repairs Merestead so desperately needs.
The county is also asking a judge to lift restrictions on $4 million donated by the family, so it can use the money all at once to help pay for repairs.