The National Park Service has announced that the campus of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point and the Barstow Mansion, home to the American Merchant Marine Museum have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
This designation recognises USMMA’s historical significance to the nation, and acknowledges the architectural importance of the buildings.
“The addition of USMMA’s campus and the American Merchant Marine Museum to the National Register guarantees that the rich history of the Academy will be preserved for all Americans – not just Kings Pointers,” said Rear Admiral James A. Helis.
USMMA is located just twenty miles from New York City, in Kings Point, a village in the Great Neck region of Long Island.
Built by Henri Bendel in 1917, Wiley Hall, the centerpiece of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy campus, was designed by Henry Otis Chapman in a Beaux Arts version of French Renaissance style with landscaping by Charles Leavitt.
The house was sold to car magnate, Walter P. Chrysler in 1923, as a summer home. The original Chrysler estate included twelve acres, 450 feet of water frontage, a formal rose garden on the south side of the residence, sunken garden in front of the portico, an outdoor swimming pool and an indoor swimming.
In 1942, the building was acquired by the U.S. Government for $100,000 and was dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on September 30, 1943. In the early months after the USMMA opened its doors, the rooms of the mansion were used for classes and dormitory space. It now serves as the Academy’s main administration building.
Barstow House is the site of the American Merchant Marine Museum. The house, once home to William Slocum Barstow, has twenty rooms, and furnishings that include an Aeolian pipe organ a mechanism for listening to player-piano rolls. There are also hand-cut walnut paneling and old European cut-glass chandeliers. The ceiling in the main living room is ornately decorated by Florentine styled painting on both main and cross beams; all done by Italian artists. There is a wine cellar, a taproom and a basement theater with a projection room.
The design of the house was influenced by elements of sixteenth century Lombard and Tuscan architecture which can be seen in the plain, stuccoed, and ochre-colored surfaces of the main three story central block, the shallow attic windows beneath the tiled roof and the arched openings with projected balconies supported by prominent brackets. Built in 1929, the re-design of the house is credited to the architect, Greville Rickard (1890-1956).
The Barstow residence was later bought by Frederick W.I. Lundy, owner of the well-known Lundy’s seafood restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The iron fence which surrounds the property is painted with “Lundy blue” made famous for its identification with the seafood restaurant.
In 1975, the Kings Point Fund, the financial arm of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association, bought the property from the Lundy family for $500,000. The family gave the fund as a gift furnishings valued at more than $400,000.
The acquisition of the estate was the largest project undertaken at that time by the Kings Point Fund and culminated in a year of negotiations. In 1979, the house was converted into the American Merchant Marine Museum.
USMMA and the American Merchant Marine Museum are now open to the public