Long Island Mansions Guide

My unofficial guide to fine country house living.

Insifada

Location: Manhasset 

Built: 1916-1920

Built for: Nicholas F. & Genevieve Garvan Brady

Architect: John Torrey Windrim

Rooms: 87

Acres: 300+

Guided Tours:  Demolished

 

Insifada was built for Nicholas and Genevieve Brady in Manhasset. It was completed in 1920 and the name Insifada means long island in Gaelic. It is an imposing structure that looks like a rambling Medieval English fortress with turrets, crenallations and emabattlements. It is now the St. Ignatious Jesuit Retreat House, but it is open to visitors. Feel free to walk inside, but please be polite and quiet. They now give tours once a month on Sunday afternoons. Tour information.

This place definitely has that WOW! factor. It's an Elizabethan Tudor style house that boasts 37 chimneys. In the true Tudor style, each chimney is different. The house encompasses several different styles of Tudor architecture to make it seem as if it was built and added onto over 100's of years even though it was built all at once. It is over 380 feet from end to end.

The entry hall and grand hallway themselves are quite impressive. Done in beautiful wood paneling, the main hall stretches over 160 feet. The carved wood and plaster ceilings throughout the house are a feast for the eyes. The public rooms on the first floor remain pretty much intact although they may be used for different purposes now. They are all done on a grand scale with the two story Great Hall or living room being the most impressive. It is now used as a chapel, but the main features are still there. The biggest room in the house, it boasts a wall of windows overlooking a rolling lawn. It also contains a cathedral like beamed ceiling as well as a massive stone fireplace. The organ balcony contains an Aeolian pipe organ whose pipes strectch from the basement all the way through to the ceiling.

The Angelica Kauffman drawing or reception room is much more subdued, but no less impressive with delicate moldings. It is done in the Adam style and named for the decorative panels painted by Kauffman, an 18th century artist. 

Also on the main floor are the billiard room, library, breakfast room, dining room, solarium and another sitting room. The billiard room boasts a massive stone fireplace, masterfully carved wood walls and an intricate plaster ceiling, The library is done in the Jacobean style with beautiful carved wood details. The breakfast room is quite unique with it's light stone walls. The William and  Mary dining room has probably seen the biggest changes. The original carved pine paneling on the walls are gone as well as the original fireplace mantel and ceiling mural. The paneling and mantel were purchased by William Randolph Hearst at an auction. At the far west end of the house is the solarium which was not part of the original house, but added on a few years later. 

At either end of the grand hallway are beautifully carved staircases. The west staircase is a little grander and winds up to another incredible plaster ceiling.

The second floor hallway is a completely different style than the main floor's grand hallway, but just as impressive. It is done in the Beaux Arts style and features a beautiful skylight in the center. Although the layout is now different up here, there is still plenty to see. The original master bedrooms have since been converted into many smaller hotel like rooms for those guests staying at the retreat house. From the hallway there are several windows where you can peer into the Great Hall. You can also access the organ balcony from the hallway to take in some dramatic views. You can get an up-close view of the ceiling details from here.

The undeniable highlight of the second floor is the awe inspiring Saint Genevieve Chapel. Tucked away down a short, narrow stone hallway is one of the finest private chapels ever built in the country. The incredible wood carvings throughout the room are mind boggling. The craftsmanship is unmatched. The room also features a beautiful stained glass window whose panes depict various saints. The wood carved ceiling is also a masterpiece and so full of intricate details. 

A walk around the grounds brings you to some formal gardens on the west side including the sunken garden and reflecting pool.  These were some of the finest gardens back in the day. It also has a great view towards the solarium. The grounds received considerable damage due to Hurricane Sandy with some 30 tress being lost. The best view of the house is on the south side looking towards the huge cathedral like windows of the Great HallAnother interesting feature of Insifada is the 13 fairy tales depicted in carvings on the outside walls of the house. Try to guess the story that each carving represents. I didn't have much luck. The grounds once featured a working farm, orchard, carriage house, gate lodge, tea house and swimming pool.

Regrettably, Insifada has succumbed to the wrecking ball in the name of "progress" and "development".

Bonus pics

Front facade

Front from service wing 

Porte cochere

Front entry doors 

Grand hall 

Ceiling detail 

Chapel detail


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