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New York: where everyone mutinies but no one deserts --Harry Hershfield

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club (McFarlane-Bredt House), Staten Island, New York

explored & photographed by: Shady

During a Staten Island daytrip in 2002, I decided to check out this very intriguing historic landmark- the former New York Yacht Club (McFarlane-Bredt House). Perched high atop a grassy mound overlooking the tidal waters of the Narrows and the New York Harbor, this 162-year-old house may have been decrepit, but it was still, well, beautiful... despite (or maybe even because of?) the decay. And, it also really looked like a haunted house... I mean, like a stereotypical haunted-old-mansion, towering up on the ridge, half-hidden behind a shroud of clinging vines and a spooky stand of shadowy trees...

As we climbed the hill, I couldn't help thinking about the age and history of the stately old place: in 1841, Henry McFarlane purchased this romantic 2.7 acre lot; then had an elegant Victorian villa constructed (which Henry- an early developer- most likely designed) for himself and his wife Anne. Besides the intricately-shingled house, at one time the magnificent property also boasted two greenhouses, stables, an icehouse, a gardener's cottage, and a fishpond. There was still such incredible detail in the architecture of this place- from the carved gingerbread trim to the incredibly detailed woodwork...

The McFarlanes sold the property for $9,000 in 1846. It exchanged hands between several different owners over the following years, until it was sold to Henry Dibblee, a dry goods merchant, who lived in the house until 1865. Now thick tangles of vines and dangling blossoms decorated the crumbling place, and jewel-colored stained glass windows were bordered by warped, weathered shingles... yet... although somewhat spooky, the majestic old Victorian still possessed a strange elegance.

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

The gnarled trees cast sinister shadows across sun-faded shingled wood, and the front of the house seemed to be on the verge of collapse... jumbles of broken boards and debris leaning in haphazard heaps blocked most of the veranda and the entrances. Around the side and back of the house, it was less ornate, and in a little better shape...

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

New York Yacht Club

In 1868, the house and surrounding grounds were sold to the New York Yacht Club, and spent it's next few years hosting some of the elegant dinners and lavish balls that accompanied the Yacht Club's regattas. In 1871 the growing Yacht Club found larger headquarters in Manhattan (where they are still based today), and the house was sold to merchant Frederick Bredt, whose family lived there for the next several years. After the Bredt family moved out, the property again changed hands many times over the following 100 years or so.

It was sold to developers in the 60's, and then, finally, in 1975, the City of New York acquired the property. As we wandered around, we found this old car, literally filled with dead leaves and debris, parked alongside the house. We couldn't go inside the place because- believe it or not- there were people living there. Yes, despite it's dilapidated condition, the house is occupied by renters, according to Parks & Recreations records.

If you leave the house behind and walk back down the sloping front lawn to the point where it meets the water, you will be treated to some spectacular views of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to your right (above, middle pics), and the New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty to your left (above, right). The old Yacht Club has been a designated NYC Landmark since 1969; as soon as city funding becomes available it is supposed undergo a full restoration as well, but no word on when that will be. Hopefully soon- this great old place deserves to be preserved after amassing over 100 years of history. In the meantime, if you dig old places, and happen to be in the vicinity of this historic SI gem, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

Also, literally right next door is another notable designated historic landmark- Clear Comfort (built 1690), the home of famed pioneering photographer of the 1800's (and one of my personal icons!), Alice Austen; this house and it's gardens have been completely restored and now operate as a museum which features Austen's artwork (check the website for hours and tour info) Unfortunately it wasn't open the day we were there so I didn't get any photos. Doh.

Do you have any background information or stories to tell about this historical site?

 

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