Long Island Mansions Guide

My unofficial guide to fine country house living.

La Selva

 

Location:  Oyster Bay

Built: 1915-1917

Built for: Harry Sanderson

Architect: Hunt & Hunt

Rooms: 40

Acres: 24

Guided Tours: No

La Selva (meaning "the woods" in Italian) is a Mediterranean style villa in Oyster Bay. I've also seen it listed as Mill Neck and Upper Brookville...very confusing. It was built for investor Harry Sanderson as a summer residence. It's butterfly design disguises the size of the house and also creates interesting features. Instead of everything being displayed at once, you kind of discover each area little by little.

The most striking feature inside the house is the stair hall with it's two story winding staircase topped by a nine foot round skylight. The formal living room, dining room, library and Florida room are all also spectacular. Because of the butterfly layout, the house seems to go on forever when walking through it.

The outside is full of surprises as well. The many verandas and loggias around the house lend themselves to many different areas and nooks. Each with it's own unique feel. The terrace off the South wing opens to a welcoming patio with an Italian style garden right off to the side. The grounds were landscaped by Olmstead and also feature a circular Roman garden that is entered through a pair of huge pylons topped by a mermaid and merman. There is also a walled garden with an orchard of fruit trees and vegetable gardens that once fed the estate. At the rear of the house off the Florida room is a veranda that leads down to a sloping lawn. A swimming pool was added in 1928. 

This is not one of those houses that will overwhelm you at first glance, but the interiors are beautiful and the landscaping is full of great surprises. La Selva was passed on to the Catholic Church in 1960 and operated as the Saint Francis Retreat House. It is now in private hands and there are rumors that the property could be subdivided.

 


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