Former Estate of the chain of Five and Ten Cent Stores

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York
Date added: March 17, 2024 Categories: New York House Mansion
North Garden Facade (1976)

The Woolworth Estate represents the opulent, elegant, "Gold Coast" era of Long Island's North Shore. The main house, Winfield Hall, was designed in 1916 by C.P.H. Gilbert for Frank Winfield Woolworth, It is one of the most significant surviving structures by C.P.H. Gilbert, a highly regarded Beaux-Arts architect based in New York. Winfield Hall, together with the Woolworth Building in New York City, reflect the taste and the achievements of one of America's most legendary entrepreneurs, Franklin Winfield Woolworth, developer of the famous chain of "Five and Ten Cent Stores."

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the country houses built for American millionaires were usually stylistically unpretentious. Designed mainly for summer use, the rambling structures were usually built of wood with encircling verandahs. By the turn of the century, a trend developed toward large, elaborate villas of stone, usually Italian or French Renaissance in style. The exteriors of these houses tended to be restrained while the interiors attempted to recreate the splendors of villas and palaces of the past. Winfield Hall is a classic example of this second phase of estate building, with its restrained classically inspired exterior and exuberant historically styled interiors. The relative wealth of published material on the Woolworth family and the estate's intact survival enhance the property's significance.

C.P.H. Gilbert (1860-1952), Winfield Hall's architect, is not as well known as he deserves to be. Born in New York, he was educated at Columbia University and the Beaux Arts Academy in Paris. After a period of building in western mining towns, he returned to New York. He began a career of designing millionaires' town and country houses around 1890. Gilbert designed a townhouse for F.W. Woolworth in 1899 at 990 Fifth Avenue. He also designed several Long Island mansions, including at least four major Beaux-Arts residences in Glen Cove.

As the country house of F.W. Woolworth, Winfield Hall is important in still another way. Like the majority of the extremely successful businessmen of his era, Woolworth created his company and his fortune himself, Born in 1852 in Rodman, Jefferson County, New York, Woolworth left home for the first time to attend business school in nearby Watertown. He clerked in several stores while in his twenties. In 1876 he married Jennie Creighton of Watertown. In 1878 he opened his first Five Cent Store in Utica, but it failed after three months. He opened a second store the year after in Lancaster, Pennsylvania offering goods for five and ten cents. The business venture was successful and he soon took on partners and opened new stores. In 1899 Woolworth had his Fifth Avenue mansion built, and in 1913 he commissioned Cass Gilbert to design the famous Woolworth Building on lower Broadway.

Mr. Woolworth purchased a house at Glen Cove in 1914. It burned down in 1916 and Woolworth wasted no time beginning construction on its replacement. He was deeply involved with the design of this house, especially the interior. The designs of the interiors grew from long meetings held at the Woolworth house on Fifth Avenue. Woolworth had reportedly made himself so familiar with the idioms chosen for use in Winfield Hall's rooms that showing the house to visitors "was like a lecture in architectural styles." Helwig Schier, of the decorating firm, remarked that, "it was all very unusual, but Mr. Woolworth wanted it that way."

F.W. Woolworth died at Winfield Hall on April 8th, 1919, leaving his entire estate to his wife Jennie. Mrs. Woolworth stayed on at Glen Cove until she died in 1924. Subsequently, the property changed hands and uses several times and is presently owned and maintained privately. Plans have not been made for the property's future use. The Woolworth property survives as one of C.P.H. Gilbert's major works and is one of Glen Cove's most elaborate estates. The largely intact country house and landscape recalls the opulence of Long Island's early twentieth-century estate development.

Building Description

The Woolworth Estate is located on the west side of Crescent Beach Road in a residential area north of Glen Cove's central business district. The wooded sixteen-acre property forms (approximately) a rectangle. The relatively level parcel slopes southwest to the rear of the main house. The estate complex consists of the main house, a large garage with remodeled living quarters, a main entrance arch, two greenhouses, and various landscape features including balustraded terraces, ornamental walls, garden structures, and fountains.

The classically inspired main house, Winfield Hall, is Italian Renaissance in style, covered with marble, and has an I-shaped plan. The house has a five-bay central mass, four-bay flanking wings with pilasters, and a flat roof. A one-story bay with a portico projects from the main entrance. Large, double-hung windows punctuate all elevations. The building has two major stories, with a classical attic set behind a balustraded parapet. A full entablature encircles the building above the second story. There is a monumental portico on the building's west side; its four foliate columns flanked by corner piers. On the east side, a two-story porch is open on the ground floor with a glazed sitting room above.

The house's vast formal interior is laid out around the major axis of the north-south center hall. The rooms were designed in a variety of styles. The ground floor hall has marble walls with prominent venation and an impressive marble staircase. The coffered ceiling is gilded and painted plaster. The marble mantel is richly carved, its heavy entablature carried on scrolled brackets. The mantel hood carries F.W. Woolworth's shield, which depicts the entrepreneur's profile beneath a plumed helmet. The three female heads on the shield are said to represent Woolworth's three daughters. Some outstanding ground floor rooms are the walnut-paneled library, the elaborate music room which still houses Woolworth's famous Aeolian organ, and the oak-paneled, Georgian-styled dining room.

The interior decoration of the nine second-floor rooms was supervised by Helwig Schier of Theo. Hoffstater & Co., Fifth Avenue decorators. Mr. Woolworth's own bedroom is in the French Second Empire style. The adjoining bathroom is covered in gold-colored Siena marble, with a matching sink and bath. The other rooms on this floor are as meticulously historical in style as Woolworth's bedroom. Each room is named for its style and the names are preserved today in labels on the servants' bell box in the third-floor hall.

The third floor has modest guest suites, a housekeeper apartment, servants' quarters and access to the rooftop which commands a spectacular view of Long Island Sound.

A large semi-circular stone arch defines the estate's main entrance. Pilasters and a full entablature with modillions adorn the arch. Low semi-circular walls flank the entrance

The north side formal garden was planned, like many gardens of its type, as a kind of outdoor room; an extension to the house itself. Double stone stairs connect a grassy terrace slightly below the house's ground floor level to the lower level of the formal garden. Walks, originally pebbled, led between the parterres to a semi-enclosed stone loggia at the back of the garden; known then and now as the tea house. Stone gazebos and lattice trellises flank the garden on the east and west.

Winfield Hall's driveway terminates in a long oval before the house. On its north end, the oval passes through the porte cochere, while the curve of its south end is defined by an ornamental wall. This Renaissance-style wall is divided into bays by pilasters and capped by a balustraded parapet. The center bay has a Palladian-style niche containing a classically inspired statue. The statue stands above a large stone pool containing two fanciful stone horseheads.

Designed to accommodate eighteen automobiles, the two-story stone garage was built with three housekeeping apartments and seven additional rooms to house visiting chauffeurs. The garage's interior has been routinely remodeled, although its exterior survives intact. The asymmetrical early twentieth-century dependency stylistically compliments Winfield Hall. The building features a three-story tower, pilasters, full entablature, and a balustraded parapet. Two glass-walled greenhouses are located behind the garage.

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Main (south) Facade (1976)
Main (south) Facade (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York North Garden Facade (1976)
North Garden Facade (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York West Portico (1976)
West Portico (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Entrance Hall (1976)
Entrance Hall (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Library (1976)
Library (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Music Room (1976)
Music Room (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Dining Room (1976)
Dining Room (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York F.W. Woolworth's Bathroom (1976)
F.W. Woolworth's Bathroom (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York North Garden & Tea House (1976)
North Garden & Tea House (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Entrance Gate (1976)
Entrance Gate (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Ornamental Wall South of Winfield Hall (1976)
Ornamental Wall South of Winfield Hall (1976)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Garage North & West Facades (1978)
Garage North & West Facades (1978)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Garage South & East Facades (1978)
Garage South & East Facades (1978)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Greenhouses (1978)
Greenhouses (1978)

Woolworth Estate - Winfield Hall, Glen Cove New York Garden Structure (1978)
Garden Structure (1978)