Behold the home of a wealthy man.
Once a king's castle, the spoils of pomp and power: Now, a corpse, a Long Island Gold Coast ghost.
It once belonged to a Plainview resident you might never have heard of: Edwin Paul Shattuck. Now it belongs to you and me. Yes: We own it now.
Ed Shattuck's sprawling stucco mansion lies in ruins off Washington Avenue, the centerpiece of a 138-acre property slowly be consumed by the woods that were once his fortress. After Shattuck's death in 1964, the place just went to hell. Nassau County took it over, with grand plans for a golf course or even more suburban housing.
Environmentalists thought better of it. They envisioned a nature preserve, an undeveloped open space resembling the Long Island before Ed Shattuck and the rest of us moved out here. In the early 1970s, the place known as the Manetto Hill Preserve, was set aside by Nassau County.
Which is to say: we own it.
All abandoned mansions should have some mystery about them, and the Shattuck spread has plenty of that. The Internet whispers of ghostly echos from within, but there's little hard facts about the Shattuck's impact on our community.
What is known is that Edwin Shattuck was a prominent New York City lawyer, both personal friend and attorney to President Herbert Hoover. They were best buddies who apparently died within days of each other in 1964.
Shattuck was involved in a minor scandal during his days with the Hoover administration. Time Magazine reported in December, 1929, that a sugar lobbyist named Herbert Conrad Lakin, with big investments in the sugar plantations of Cuba, went to Washington to campaign against an increase in the sugar tariff.
Lakin hired Shattuck, who worked for Hoover in his Food Administration, as the sugar lobby's lawyer. To the Senate panel probing the influence of Washington lobbies, this appeared as a scheme to "hire White House influence," according to Time.
Lakin even wrote Cuban President Gerardo Machado, saying: "By great good fortune Mr. Shattuck ... is perhaps Hoover's closest legal friend. He is the personal attorney for Hoover and all his family. I have persuaded him to undertake a confidential mission to convince Hoover...on behalf of Cuba. . . ."
Lakin told the Cuban president that he expected to pay Shattuck "something like $75,000," for his influence, according to the Time story.
Some things never change.
Shattuck and Hoover denied everything and nothing was ever proven. Lakin was probably selling himself to Cuba and the sugar planters, who were bankrolling his lobbying efforts, according to Time. The Shattuck controversy and Herbert Hoover went away. The Great Depression lingered.
Shattuck returned to New York and played a role in the Frank G. Shattuck Company, which ran a restaurant chain and candy maker known as Schrafft Foods. Operating more than 50 stores, the chain featured a homestyle budget-priced menu including lobster Newburg; creamed chicken on toast and chicken à la king, according to the New York Times.
There must be folks left in Plainview who know more about Ed Shattuck. If you knew him, or his family, or can add another piece to the puzzle of the preserve, please let know. We'll do a follow-up story.
There are no signs to indicate the trails through the Manetto Hill Preserve and to our castle in the woods. The mansion is off limits, boarded up and dangerous, but the property, undeveloped and rugged, is open to the public. The main drive to the old house is on Washington Avenue, just opposite Adelphi Drive.
It's a beautiful, haunting place, perfect for a weekend stroll and a passage back in time.