Great Neck Renaissance: Revitalizing The Mariner Estate For Glorious New Era

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The Mariner Estate re-opened its doors after a full restoration of the property, in Fall 2021. The building was formerly owned by The Woman’s Club of Great Neck, which was established in 1919.

Their first President, Mrs. Francoise M.D. Barstow, wife of former Kings Point Mayor William Slocum Barstow, bought and donated the building for this members-only club in 1936. The Barstow family, known for their philanthropic endeavors, was instrumental in developing/building many iconic properties throughout Great Neck. This included the development of the Middle Neck Road LIRR crossing.

Mariner Estate (Courtesy of Great Neck Library)

It was Mrs. Barstow’s vision to provide a venue with ample space for the community to congregate socially and do charitable work.

On Jan. 4, 1937, the building hosted a formal grand opening with associate editor of The New York Times, John H. Finley, as the master of ceremonies. He referred to the property as “A House of Leisure.” Finley went on to quote Aristotle and Ecclesiasticus on the benefits of leisure and the direct effect it has on the trajectory of society. He explained in this documented ceremony, “Leisure in life is just as important as efficiency in labor.”

Throughout the better part of the next eight decades, the women held countless charitable events and gatherings for the community. The membership felt it was equally as important to allow nonmember events so that the entire community could enjoy the historical beauty and architecture of eras gone by. The club hosted countless weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, and private events making it a recognizable venue throughout Long Island and within the Great Neck community.

Mariner Estate (Christy Hinko)

One of the highlight events over the years at the estate was the supper club events, highlighting, of course, the beautiful ballroom and theater stage, complete with mezzanine balcony seating. Theatre troupes were brought in to entertain regularly, raising money for charitable causes like scholarship goodwill.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Foundation continues to honor the building’s rich history and the legacy of The Woman’s Club of Great Neck, as its steward.

Mariner Estate (Christy Hinko)

The management team consists of Jamie Johnson, vice president of business and strategic development; Yevgeniya Levina, operations manager; and Juan Flores, facilities manager. Flores, a graduate of Great Neck North High School, has worked at the venue for more than 16 years, originally working on the estate while it was still under the direction of The Woman’s Club.

“This place is such a little hidden gem,” Johnson says. “People are only just finding out about it again; this place was so generational, playing host to many of the original club member’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, things like bridal showers and weddings. As the women got older, it became harder for them to maintain.”

Many of the remaining members are in their 90s. As of last formal communications in 2019, the current remaining members of the Woman’s Club of Great Neck, as reported by the alumni association are: Nora Alavanja, Marilyn Bardolf, Marianne Berke, Marie Bonavoglia, Ann Cardone, Joyce Chaisson, Faith Cleary, Aurora Collins, Lorraine Cullen, Mary Lou Curry, Marianne De Los Santos, Janet Dippell, Elizabeth Feaster, Ann Ferry, Janet Fini, Dorothy Finnegan, Diria Gonzalez, Mary Anne Hanlon, Margaret Hyland, Charlotte Johnson, Joyce Lam, Sharon Larkin, Angela Maraventano, Frances McGintee, Marcia Muller, Susan Murphy, Julia Previto, Carolyn Russo, Vincenza Russo, Ida Tesoriero, Maya Verdi, Chiu-Shang Wang and Jean Weaver. At the time of record, 15 of the members were still residents of Great Neck.

Mariner Estate (Christy Hinko)

“The women sought a similar nonprofit organization to take over the property, to preserve the integrity of its mission, which was always to raise money for the youth,” Johnson says. “That is what we do at the Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association, raising money for the midshipmen at the academy. Many of the children and grandchildren of the Woman’s Club members attended the academy; it was a natural fit.”

The hospitality team at the estate hosts one single event at a time. The ballroom has a seated dinner capacity for 240 people, with a potential for 300 with a flowing reception, using all spaces. The event spaces that are available for booking are the ballroom, the fireplace parlor (ideal for cocktail hour), the library, the garden and patio (for outdoor receptions and cocktail hour). Food must be catered, but the kitchen is available for food preparation. A list of preferred vendors is available upon request. Valet parking and coat check are available. The venue is air conditioned. Live and amplified music are allowed; a grand piano is available. Some basic audio-visual equipment is on-site. The stage is available for performances. The venue has a ceremony site, a bridal suite and groom’s room.

“When the alumni foundation took custody of the property, the planning team wanted to stay true to the original architecture, maintaining its beauty, but also modernizing it and bringing it to code,” Johnson says. “You will still see a lot of the original features, the beautiful chandeliers, drapery and structure. The women, of course, made updates along the way, but they stayed true to the original 1930s design, which made it easy for us to do the same.”

Mariner Estate (Christy Hinko)

Cosmetics were most of the updates made to the building for its renovation by the alumni association, things like restoring the wood floors, repairing decorative molding and repairing leaks and basic aging structure issues.

“There are original pieces of furniture throughout; the entryway phone booth delights guests,” Johnson said. “The original bathrooms are always an attraction here too.”

The Mariner Estate is located at 94 Old Mill Rd. in Great Neck.

Visit www.marinerestate.com or call 516-773-5544 to learn more and to schedule a tour.

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