The past, present and uncertain future of the Brickman Estate

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The past, present and uncertain future of the Brickman Estate
A portion of the Hewlett Estate, as seen from about 40 feet above Gatsby Lane, which runs adjacent to the property. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Over its centuries of existence, the Brickman Estate at The Point – or Hewlett Point – was allegedly a subject of a sale by the Matinecock, the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby,” and the center of family disputes.

Liz Mathewson, an author who lived on the estate from 2006 to 2012, took attendees on a tour of the property through stories and personal photos. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

But for author Liz Mathewson, who chronicled the estate’s history and scope to members of the Great Neck Historical Society and the public last week, it was not only home, but also a place of wonder and significant history.

Showcasing photos of the estate on a projector, Mathewson took attendees on a tour throughout the 20-acre estate, highlighting its nine residential buildings, architecture, views of Long Island Sound and flora.

She also noted the estate’s significance as the home to major figures like the Kings and, at different points, reflecting contemporary history.

“The Gold Coast estates did not exist back then. This was one of the first gentlemen’s country homes that was built in the Great Neck area,” Mathewson said, recalling when the main home at Hewlett Point was built in the mid-1850s. “There were no robber barons, there were no industrial titans, there were no captains of industry – there were gentlemen, farmers, republicans and this was the beginning.”

“So when you think about the Gold Coast estates, this was one of the first ones, if not the first one,” Mathewson added.

The estate’s original owner, George Hewlett, sold the property to John Alsop King Jr., for whom the Village of Kings Point is named, in 1851. Richard Church, of Church & Dwight Co., the creators of Arm and Hammer baking soda,  then acquired it at the turn of the century.

Both the Kings and the Churches were avid “horticulturalists,” Mathewson said, bringing hundreds of plant species, evergreens and azaleas to the estate. They populated greenhouses and lined pathways designed by Rolf William Bauham.

Flora and trees encase much of the property, which has numerous homes and accessory structures. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Today flora and trees encase much of the property, which has numerous homes and accessory structures. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“There were hedges and hedges of them,” said Mathewson, who lived on the property between 2006 and 2012. “And you could see them from the water.”

Mathewson said that the estate owned by the Churches – who were “party people” known for hosting large gatherings – was very likely a key source of inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing “The Great Gatsby.”

She referred to one large pool on the estate, which has one million squares of marble in different colors, as well as the special way the sunset reflects in Daisy’s windows.

“The only place in Great Neck that you can do that is The Point,” Mathewson said.

Herman Brickman, who did arbitration for unions, acquired the property in 1951, frequently using it for tennis and golf, as well as a venue for numerous charity tournaments and sporting events, Mathewson said.

According to The New York Times, Brickman formed a family cooperative in the 1970s with the intent of using the property as a family estate. Then, since the 1980s, the property had been the subject of feuds among the Handlers and Brickmans.

The estate was ultimately sold in 2012 for $39.5 million to undisclosed buyers by Coldwell Banker.

Diane Polland, an agent specializing in luxury property who managed the sale, said interest came from “around the globe and around the corner.”

“It’s clearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a parcel that’s 20 acres that’s in such close proximity to Manhattan, to international airports, with 2,000 feet of majestic wrap-around panoramic views,” Polland said.

Polland said she would not name her clients, but said they were “distinguished buyers.”

Alice Kasten, the president of the Great Neck Historical Society, thanked Mathewson and said she was “very fortunate” to have toured the property.

The Brickman Estate, located on the corner of Kings Point Road and Gatsby Lane, is gated off from public entry. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

But, Kasten said, she believes it is a tour unlikely to be taken again.

“I don’t want to end this on a downer, but I’m going to – it has been reported that most likely, if total demolition hasn’t happened yet, it will happen in the very near future,” Kasten told audience members. “So I want to put in a plug for everybody to lobby their villages to enact preservation laws.”

A representative of the Kings Point Building Department said that an application for a demolition permit for 275 Kings Point Road, which is the location of Hewlett Point and the Brickman Estate, was filed in January but is awaiting approval from the Nassau County Department of Health.

Because of the pending approval, the representative said the application was not available for public inspection.

According to Nassau County land records, the property was subject to $255,743.93 in school tax and $12,226.90 in library tax – or $267,970.83 in 2018.

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