OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Major restoration work is going on at a Long Island jewel.
An historic mansion at Old Westbury Gardens, a 100-year-old estate that is open to the public, has been under wraps for a year, but Friday, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff got a sneak peek at the intricate work being done there.
It’s not your typical house restoration project when the house is 65,000 square feet and dates back to 1906.
Westbury House was the Gold Coast home of industrial giant John Phipps and his family. Now it belongs to the public, nestled in 200 stunning acres called Old Westbury Gardens.
But it was beginning to crumble.
Staff began to notice deterioration and leaks.
The mission was to maintain authenticity, so craftsmen and volunteers have been working from around the globe.
Antique furniture was painstakingly protected from dust, with plastic secured by tension rods, so that nothing is nailed into the wood, and intrusions are made. It took six handlers to remove each of 16 gilded antique mirrors.
They were protected while the house hook as copper gutters were replaced, along with the 111-year-old slate roof.
Staff was intent on keeping the authenticity of the original design, so they looked far for craftspeople and materials that would match the original house.
The original roof came from an English quarry that was closed for decades. Incredibly, it recently reopened, so all 27,000 pieces of slate for the replacement roof comes from the same quarry the Phipps family commissioned a century ago.
“Originally, we didn’t think we were going to be able to do that because the Collyweston slate mine that’s located in the UK midlands closed many decades ago, and so when we knew we had to replace the roof, we thought, well, where are we going to get the slate? Of course we want to be authentic to this preservation project, so where are we going to get the slate? So we looked around and did a lot of planning, but luckily for us, in 2017, the Collyweston slate quarry in the UK reopened and so I went over to the UK at that point in time and talked to the quarry owner, and we decided that we were going to put a plan together to be able to replace this with the original slate from the original quarry,” said Nancy Costopulos, Old Westbury Gardens president and CEO.
The original playhouse of Phipps’ 8-year-old daughter is also being restored. Water reeds were brought in from Turkey and Russia by a master thatcher to create an authentic thatched roof.
“There is nowhere to buy them in America unless you go and cut them yourself from the Meadowlands,” said master thatcher Colin McGhee.
A rare gem that preserves the treasures of an early 20th century prominent family that gave back.
“America was coming into its own as a global power. This mansion represents one of the finest examples of the homes that were being built at that time,” said Costopulos.
The work has cost $6 million in grants and donations.
The priceless piece of history will be returned to the public the day after Thanksgiving.
The sprawling grounds have been open throughout the restoration.