Once a mansion of grandeur, this campus now offers hope to charitable organizations
Known for its beauty, lavishness and stately homes, the Gold Coast has long been a part of Long Island’s history. Now, many properties, like Mill Neck Manor, that were once grand estates and mansions to wealthy heiresses and tycoons have become places of hope to benefit and serve various charitable organizations.
Nestled in Mill Neck, just north of Oyster Bay, Mill Neck Manor is a stunning Tudor Revival mansion that sits on 86 waterfront acres overlooking Long Island Sound. The manor was built in 1923 by architectural firm Clinton & Russell for Robert Leftwich Dodge and his wife, cosmetics heiress Lillian Sefton Dodge. Charles Leavitt served as the landscape artist.
“Mill Neck Manor had its beginnings in 1944 at the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Convention,” says Michelle Yadoo, the marketing and communication coordinator at Mill Neck.
“A resolution was passed to raise funds commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Synod’s Ministry to the Deaf in order to establish a school for deaf children on the East Coast. In 1947, the group incorporated as the charitable nonprofit corporation Lutheran Friends of the Deaf.”
In 1949, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf purchased the Mill Neck Manor property from Lillian Sefton Dodge, and two years later in 1951, Mill Neck Manor Lutheran School opened to 19 hearing-impaired boys and girls.
Today, one of the branches that makes up the Mill Neck Family of Organizations is the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, also referred to as the Deaf Education Center (DEC).
“Our other organizations include Mill Neck Manor Early Childhood Center (ECC), Mill Neck Services, Inc., Mill Neck Interpreter Services, Mill Neck Services Center for Hearing Health and Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, our founder,” says Yadoo, adding that Mill Neck Manor was fully accredited by New York State in 1956.
The ECC serves 3- and 4-year-olds who are not deaf, but have communication issues, such as speech/language delays and disorders, cognitive and motor deficits, and autism-related disorders. After completing the program, most of these children attend kindergarten in their home school districts.
The Mill Neck Family of Organizations specializes in several hearing and interpreting services and centers, and is a leader in education of this kind. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life for people who are deaf or who have other communication needs through individually designed educational, vocational or spiritual programs and services.
“This relates to the roots of the organization and the intentions of the Lutheran pastors and laypeople who founded Mill Neck Manor,” says Yadoo. “Since its inception more than sixty years ago, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf has grown into the Mill Neck Family of Organizations.”
Other programs include Mill Neck Services, Inc. (MNS), which works with adults who are deaf or who have developmental disabilities. Several excellent programs and services are also available for those in need, including Supported Employment, Steps to Success, Day Habilitation and sign language interpreter services. As for the students, Yadoo says they are extremely involved in giving back to Mill Neck and the community.
“Throughout the year, classes hold bake sales, sell artwork and books, and collect food and clothing donations. Proceeds have gone to local food banks, to Canine Companions for Independence, to buy school supplies and stock Thanksgiving baskets for families in need,” says Yadoo of the students who, along with the staff, also help out at the popular annual fall harvest festival. “Aside from this, our other organizations step up as well. Our Center for Hearing Health offers free hearing screenings on a regular basis and Mill Neck Services often teams up to sponsor a family in need during the holiday season.”
As far as Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, students benefit from dual-certified staff, carefully structured programs and access to the latest technologies, like iPads and FM systems, a wireless setup that helps people better understand speech in noisy situations. Valuable programs are also provided for early intervention and for children with multiple disabilities.
“Community service opportunities and school-to-work programs are available for our high school students. All children have access to computers, music, library, certified Literacy Collaborative and extended day classes in dance, driver’s education, culinary arts and athletics,” she says. “Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf is one of eleven 4201 Schools located throughout New York State, which provides educational services to children who are deaf, blind or physically disabled.”
Recommendations for a child to attend Mill Neck Manor may be initiated by parents, teachers, social workers and physicians. Yadoo notes that if a child is identified as deaf or
hard of hearing, several steps are involved in applying to the school.
But, Mill Neck is even more than a serviceable school for the deaf. The Manor House and breathtaking open grounds can be viewed on guided tours and serve as the backdrop for wedding and event photography as well as film and television productions. Popular photography spots include the fountain at the front door of the house, the balcony overlooking the backyard grounds, the love temples and the exquisite stained glass Shakespeare windows above the main stairs. Each of its five panels tells the story of a Shakespearean play and were executed by Charles Connick.
“We offer monthly docent-led tours of the house. It is used for corporate functions and we hold a number of our fundraising events here, like the cocktail party for our annual Sail the Sound for Deafness regatta, book fairs, lectures and other community events,” says Yadoo. “We disseminate our information at various community events like the Walk4Hearing and local Chamber of Commerce events. Mill Neck Manor is also a member of the Gold Coast Mansion Alliance/Historic Long Island.”
What once made history as a stately manor house is now the home of a giving and life-changing organization. Through generous donations and events shining light on the important work of patrons, staff and students, Mill Neck Manor will continue to serve as an example of how preserving history can benefit the future.
Mill Neck Manor and the Mill Neck Family of Organizations are located at 40 Frost Mill Road in Mill Neck. For more information on the Manor House, School for the Deaf or other services, visit www.millneck.org or call 516-922-4100.