Treasures of New York


Historic Homes

From the Gold Coast of Long Island to the Pocantico Hills in Westchester County, historic homes and estates can be found in every part of New York. In this special Treasures of New York, journey across the region to visit some of these remarkable homes, including Falaise, Kykuit, Noble Maritime Collection and the Louis Armstrong House. Paula Zahn hosts.

AIRED: May 23, 2019 | 0:26:56



>> From the Gold Coast

of Long Island

to the Pocantico Hills

in Westchester County,

historic homes and estates

can be found in every part

of New York.

Join us On a journey

across our region to visit some

of these remarkable homes...


...all of them true treasures

of New York.

>> Funding for "Treasures

of New York: Historic Homes"

is provided in partnership

with NYC Arts and All Arts.

Thank you.

>> Hi, and welcome

to this special episode

of "Treasures of New York."

I'm Paula Zahn.

The New York region is filled

with historic houses

and estates,

many of them former homes

to political figures,

artists, among others.

In the next half hour,

we'll take you inside

some of these homes

and hear their stories,

stories about

New York's history,

its people, and its culture.

First up, we visit Falaise,

an historic mansion

that is part of the Sands Point

Preserve Conservancy

on the Gold Coast

of Long Island's North Shore.

>> My name is Michael Butkewicz.

I'm the site director

of historic properties

for Nassau County Parks,

Recreation and Museums.

This house is called Falaise.

"Falaise" means "cliff" in


It's the former home

of Captain Harry Guggenheim,

and it sits on the Sands

Point Preserve.

These great homes that were

built on the Gold Coast

of Long Island were built

by the titans of industry,

were built by these great

families -- the Vanderbilts,

the Fricks, the Phipps.

These great homes were built

as summer homes.

They were used a few months

out of the year,

and they built lavish

either English,

French, Spanish-style houses

to give them sort of a European

atmosphere of their vacations.

Not many of the homes are still

in existence.

Some of the homes became

schools, country clubs,

or completely torn down.

Hempstead House was built by

Howard Gould for his first wife.

They never even spend a night

here in Hempstead House.

She ran off with another man.

They divorced, and Daniel

Guggenheim purchased what was

called Castle Gould at the time

and renamed it Hempstead House.

He lived here with his family

and his wife, Florence,

for many years until his death.

Then we have Falaise.

Falaise, 90 acres

was given to Captain Harry

Guggenheim upon his marriage

to Carol Morton.

They went on a yearlong

honeymoon, and they brought

their architect,

Frederick Sterner, with them

to buy artifacts, artwork,

architectural pieces, doors,

you name it.


The entire property was built

sort of as a feudal kingdom.

It had its own farm,

its own dairy,

it had cattle, and

Daniel Guggenheim made a joke.

He said, "You can have a glass

of champagne or a glass of milk.

Both cost about the same."

We're standing right now

in the living room of the house.

One of my favorite pieces

is the mantelpiece,

the French mantelpiece.

It had been dismantled from

a chateau in France, numbered,

shipped here back to New York

and hand-assembled,

matching all the numbers,

and the grand staircase.

The staircase was also

brought from France.

The Captain wanted the house

to have a very authentic look

of a house that was built during

the 15th and 16th centuries

of a French Norman castle,

and he went as far as buying

Dutch bricks that were

a certain color brought back

and the mortar

being applied exactly the way

it would've been applied

in that time.

The house has two looks.

When you look at it

from the front,

it's a very small

chateau-manor type.

When you see it from the back,

it's this huge castle

rising up from the water.

The pool area which we have


was originally the rose garden.

The Captain had a heart ailment

and was told

that swimming would be

a great exercise for his heart,

so out went the roses

and in went this swimming pool.

Captain Harry Guggenheim

was a great lover of aviation.

He heard of this flight

that Charles Lindbergh

was going to take from

Long Island to Paris, France.

He went to Roosevelt Field,

where he was going to take off,

and introduced himself

and told Colonel Lindbergh,

"When you come back,

look me up," and he did.

When he came back from France

and they had the great parade

in New York City,

Colonel Lindbergh stayed here

and wrote his book

"We" here at Falaise,

and that was the beginning

of Guggenheim and Lindbergh's

great friendship.


>> All America has demanded

with one voice that the inhuman

abductors of this innocent child

shall not escape

their just fate.

>> Falaise became a haven

for the Lindberghs.

Mr. and Mrs. Lindbergh came here

and stayed here

while the whole media scandal

was going on about the Lindbergh

child, the kidnapping.


The captain wanted every room

to have a beautiful view,

so most of the house is

laid out room next to each room,

except for a few rooms,

that this way every room

could have a view of the water.


In the late 1960s,

the captain had seen

a lot of the great houses

being torn down,

and the captain still lived here

and still summered here from May

through October

and truly loved this house.

That's when he decided to create

a historic home,

and he would leave this house

and the acreage surrounding it

to Nassau County

to create a historic mansion.

Upon his death in 1971,

nothing new would be allowed

to be added to the house.

He had a strict list of things

and the way the tour would run.

He designed everything about

the historic house,

and upon its opening,

opening day, his great friend,

Charles Lindbergh,

came for a tour of the house

and went

through the whole house,

and they got to the captain's

book room,

and there was no books

in the room.

The captain had left

all his books to Annapolis,

and so Charles Lindbergh

was horrified that there were

no books in his room,

so he drove to his house,

loaded up his Ford Falcon,

drove back with all of his books

from his own library to fill

the library shelves at Falaise.


>> And now we take a trip north

to Kykuit, former home

to the Rockefeller family

and one of the great estates

of the historic Hudson Valley.


>> Kykuit is the home

to the Rockefeller family.

There were four generations

of family

to have lived in this home,

and it was considered the family

seat for John

Davison Rockefeller, Sr.

The word "Kykuit" is an old

Dutch word.

It means lookout or overlook.

It is fitting because we are

on the top of the hill.

We still 500 feet

above sea level, a perfect area

for a beautiful home.

The house is done

in the Classical style,

and the gardens are gardens

that you might find

in an Italian villa.

The original building of Kykuit

was in 1909

when the family moved in.

They redid the facade in 1913

with a pediment right below

the roof reminiscent

of the Ancient Roman temples.

Within that pediment

sit two large figures,

one being Apollo,

the God of the arts,

and the other being Demeter,

the Goddess of agriculture,

and that was a symbol of unity

between nature and culture,

something that this estate

was meant to embody.

There were two important

architects that we had working

on this home, one being

Ogden Codman,

who was responsible

for the interiors of this home.

William Welles Bosworth

created all the gardens

that you would see

throughout this estate.

The ones that surround the house

are much more formal,

and the further out you go,

the further your eye looks,

they become more informal

and graduate into the landscape.


John D. Rockefeller Jr.

was the one who put a lot

of Classical sculpture

on the ground.


Oceanus is the largest fountain

we have on this estate.

It was placed here in 1913.

It was fashioned after

the Oceanus that you would find

in the Boboli Gardens

in Florence, Italy.

Oceanus being the king

of the river Gods,

commanding the seated figures

to pour forth waters

into the oceans.

There are three figures there,

and they represent the rivers

of the Old World --

the Ganges, the Euphrates,

and the Nile,

and the reason it was placed

in the east looking to the west

is because we are going

to link the Hudson River,

the river of the New World

to the rivers of the Old World.

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller

was the grandson of

John D. Rockefeller Sr.

He resided here as the third

generation of family,

and what he gave to this estate

was sculpture and art.

We have five art galleries

in the downstairs area

of this home,

filled with modern art.

We have more than 70 pieces

of outdoor sculpture alone,

ranging from Henry Moore

to Noguchi.

He was passionate about art,

a great collector of the arts,

and he considered himself

an environmental artist,

and by that, he meant he was

going to study the environment,

find where the best location

for each of his outdoor pieces

would be so that sculpture

would enhance nature and,

in turn, nature would enhance

that piece of sculpture.

"Triangular Surface in Space"

by the artist Max Bill,

it is set at the end

of the rose pergola.

It overlooks the Hudson River,

and it is as if it's

a telescopic view of the Hudson.

The inner garden is flanked

by two sunken gardens.

When Nelson lived here, he had

exchanged the sunken gardens,

and he put in sunken

swimming pools,

which makes the piece

that he put in between the

two pools perfectly situated.

Aristide Maillol's "Bather

Putting Up Her Hair"

looks as if she's going to jump

into the water,

and when Nelson lived here,

she could have.

Nelson Rockefeller wanted

everybody to enjoy what he

had enjoyed throughout his life,

so he put in his will that

when he passed away this home

would be given to the National

Trust for Historic Preservation,

along with 87 acres

surrounding this estate,

that would be open to the public

and tours

would be given to the public

by Historic Hudson Valley.


>> Coming up next, we take you

to the Noble Maritime Collection

at the historic Snug

Harbor Cultural Center

on Staten Island.

The museum is located

in what was once a dormitory

in a retirement home for

mariners in the 19th century.

Today the museum is dedicated

to preserving the history

of Sailors' Snug Harbor.

It also honors the legacy

of its namesake,

the marine artist John A. Noble.


>> Sailors' Snug Harbor is

the first democratic

charitable institution

established in this country.


It was established by the will

of Robert Richard Randall,

written by Alexander Hamilton

in 1801.

When Robert Richard Randall

was a young man,

a kid could go to sea

at the age of 12 or 14

and maybe never come home again,

end up on the other side of the

world separated from his family,

and Randall had seen that over

the years as he went to sea,

so when he was on his deathbed,

he said that he wanted

to make a home for aged,

decrepit, and worn-out seamen.

The trustees bought a farm here

on Staten Island, and gradually

that became an enormous

self-sustaining institution.

Sailors' Snug Harbor was

an 80-acre facility.

It had eight dormitories,

a beautiful church, a chapel,

a sanitarium with nine wards,

a 400-bed hospital,

a farm, barnyard, pigsty,

paint house.

Also, they employed

a large staff of people.

It was a self-sustaining place.

This building was a dormitory.

There are about 36 small rooms,

2 men apiece.

It was the second building

constructed here on site.

I would say over the years

it served maybe 10,000 people.

They provided healthcare,

food, recreation.

It was a democratic institution.

They respected each other.

Everyone was called captain,

and the men worked.

They made artifacts.

They did basket weaving

and scrimshaw.

They built ship models, and they

talked about their past,

talked about their lives at sea.

By the 1930s, you see things

like Social Security

coming into being,

but more importantly people did

not go to sea never to return,

so the population here

began to dwindle,

began to close buildings.

Then they began to tear down

buildings in the 1950s.

The trustees decided that

they would give the property

to the City of New York for $1,

and the City of New York said,

"No, thanks. We don't want it,"

so the trustees sold it

to a developer,

and the community

then really realized

this is going to be lost,

and so, led by people

like John A. Noble, they managed

to persuade John Lindsay

to buy the property back

as a park and cultural center.

John Noble grew up

in an art colony.

Though he preferred playing

with the fishermen's children,

as he said, in Provincetown,

and his family moved to New York

in the early 1920s.

He went to sea first when

he was 13 on a large schooner,

theAna Sofia, and in summers

while he was in school,

he went on sailing vessels,

and then he joined

the crew of the Annie C. Ross,

so he had a lot of sea


He discovered a ships' graveyard

on the Gildan Gull

and began to haunt it.

Port Johnston was

the largest graveyard of wooden

sailing vessels in the world.

He roamed through the harbor in

his rowboat, drawing, sketching,

sleeping under wrecks,

and meeting all the people

that worked in the waterfront.

Port Johnston, to him,


the end of the age of sail,

and he found this tragic,

and that became the passion

of his life.

This cabin was on the pier

of the boneyard.

He said one day,

in a fit of creativity,

he cut a hole in the ceiling

to make a skylight,

and over the years,

little by little,

he added things like this.

This is an engineer's bed.

This is where he went

to do his art.

Later on, the pier on which

this little cabin sat began

to rot away, and he said --

you know, he was frantic.

There was no place else he could

draw, so he built a barge.

He said, "That's how I became

the artist with the floating


There was no cuteness or color

to this. I built the barge

to save my studio,"

and that's where he worked all

through the '40s until he died.

He did about 150 oil paintings,

and he did 80 lithograph

editions, as well as

600 plein air drawings,

and then, astonishingly, we have

6,000 photographs

that he took of the harbor.

Our mission is to celebrate

the people and traditions

of New York Harbor.

We do it through the work

of John Noble, who captured

so much of the 20th-century

history in his work.

We do it by studying Sailors'

Snug Harbor, which is an

extremely important component,

not only of maritime history

but the history of taking care

of frail and elderly adults,

as well,

and we also celebrate

the modern waterfront.

>> And now our last stop,

we visit the Louis Armstrong

House Museum in Corona, Queens,

devoted to celebrating the life

of the jazz icon.

Armstrong lived in this

modest home in a working-class

neighborhood for 28 years.

>> The mission of the Louis

Armstrong House Museum

is to operate Louis' house

as a historic house.

People show up from all over

the world every day

to take a tour.

Louis and Lucille Armstrong

were married in 1942,

bought this house in 1943,

and lived here for the rest

of their lives.

Louis passed away in 1971.

Lucille continued to live here

until 1983,

and nobody has lived in the

house since Lucille Armstrong.

It's frozen in time.

One of the remarkable things

about Louis Armstrong

living in this house

is this is a working-class,

middle-class neighborhood

in Queens,

and Louis at the time

they purchased the house

was already a superstar.

Louis loved Corona.

He would walk two blocks up

and one block over to

Joe's Artistic Barbershop,

wait his turn in line,

exchange news with men

in the community,

and get his haircut there.

Louis loved the kids

from the neighborhood,

maybe in part because

Louis was married four times

and never had any children

by his marriages himself.

The living room is the largest

room in the house.

There's a wonderful portrait

of Louis Armstrong

by an African-American artist

named Cal Bailey.

Louis was typically on the road

300 days per year

all over the world,

so he would bring back things

from his travels.

The guest bathroom

on the first floor

is covered with mirrors,

gold-plated fixtures

and a white onyx sink.

Louis grew up very poor.

He and his mother and sister

lived in a two-room house

with a dirt floor

and no indoor plumbing in

turn-of-the-century New Orleans,

so to have a bathroom like this,

Louis was very proud of it.

For many people,

Lucille's kitchen is their

favorite room in the house.

This is a state-of-the-art

kitchen designed

and installed in 1970.

There is a stove,

which has six burners,

two ovens, and two broilers,

and there's a plaque that says,

"Custom made by Crown for

Mr. and Mrs. Louis Armstrong."

The den, in many ways,

is the most significant room

in the house.

Louis sat in this chair

in the den and at this desk,

and he practiced his trumpet.

He wrote letters to friends

and fans.

He talked on the telephone.

When he was home,

this is where he spent

much of his waking time.

One of the most stunning

discoveries in

the Louis Armstrong collection,

discovered here in this house,

was Louis' home-recorded tapes.

There were 700 reels of tape.

About half of them are dubs

of favorite LPs and 78s,

but the other half of the tapes

are candidly recorded tapes.

>> At home in Corona,

Long Island, New York,

February 26, 1956.

>> February 6th.

>> Correction, February 6th.

>> He would just hit the

record button and let it roll.

It's Louis practicing

his trumpet,

Louis swapping dirty jokes

and band stories backstage

with musicians.

It's really hours and hours

of fly-on-the-wall moments

in the life of Louis Armstrong.

>> And as this record play

along, I think I'm going to

noodle a little with it,

you know, for old time's take.


>> One of the most recent


is the only known video of Louis

in the recording studio.

He went to the recording studio

to make an album,

"Satchmo Plays King Oliver,"

and the producer

hired a professional film crew

to film Louis making the album.

Nobody had ever done this


but decades later,

this video resurfaced,

and Ricky Riccardi, our director

of research collections,

was able to acquire it.

>> We already had movie footage,

we already had TV footage,

We had all this kind of stuff,

but to see him in the studio,

to see the concentration,

to see, you know, the laid-back

feel and all that stuff,

just absolutely priceless,

and the kind of thing that

no one knew was out there.

>> We've now assembled

the world's largest archives,

not just for Louis Armstrong,

but for any jazz musician


>> He's one of the greatest

musicians, one of the greatest


greatest figures in the world,

and we want to tell people about

him, what made him so great,

and when people come to us,

they learn about him through

his own possessions,

which is a unique way to learn

about one of the 20th century's

greatest icons.

This is Louis Armstrong's


These are all the books

that were found in the house.

This is "Famous American

Negroes" by Langston Hughes.

We have boxes and boxes of fan

letters to Louis Armstrong.

It says, "Old Satchmo Himself,

wherever he is."

This is Louis Armstrong's

record collection.

He left behind

about 2,000 records.

Rimsky-Korsakov, yeah,

it's classical music.

We have about 17,000 photos.

We have sheet music,

the original arrangement of

"What A Wonderful World,"

and I don't think anybody could

have predicted it at the time,

but this became,

by far, his most famous song

and the song most people

associate with him.

People ask us all the time,

"What was he thinking about

when he recorded this song?"

and we have the answer on tape.

>> There's so much in

"Wonderful World" that brings me

back to my neighborhood

where I live in Corona.

I saw three generations

come up on that block,

and they're all with their

children and grandchildren.

They come back to see

Uncle Satchmo and Aunt Lucille.

That's why I can say,

♪ I hear babies crying,

I watch them grow ♪

♪ They'll learn much more

than I'll ever know ♪

When I look in all them

kids' faces...

♪ And I think to myself,

what a wonderful world ♪


♪ Ooh, yeah

>> I hope you've enjoyed

this tour through some of

the New York region's incredible

historic homes.

I'm Paula Zahn.

Thanks for watching

"Treasures of New York."







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