Mackay horse statue unveiled in new home

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After undergoing a three-year renovation process, the horse tamer statue, once part of the Mackay estate at Harbor Hill, was unveiled on Saturday at its new home in Gerry Park. 

At a ceremony attended by Roslyn Landmark Society officials, local politicians and descendants of the Mackay family, the tarp covering the statue was removed to reveal the fully-restored horse up on hind legs while being tended to by its tamer with a scenic view of Gerry Pond Park, the Bryant Library and the Roslyn Presbyterian Church behind it.

“One could walk to every corner of this place and at the end of the day, there is no better spot than this,” said Franklin Hill Perrell, the landmark society’s executive director.

The statue was one of two that stood in the west garden of Clarence and Katherine Mackay’s 648-acre Gold Coast-era Harbor Hill estate, and remained for years after the property’s dismantling in 1947 in the backyard of East Hills residents Bruce and Melissa Shulman’s home.

When the Shulmans sold their house in 2010, they donated the statue to the Town of North Hempstead. 

A committee formed by the landmark society that included Perrell, landmark society president Craig Westergard, former president Robert Sargent, John Santos, Jay Corn, Peter Crifo and Ian Zwerdling supervised the statue’s restoration and relocation at the town’s direction.

The statues, made from Tennessee pink marble and sculpted by Franz Plumelet, were modeled after sculptures commissioned in 1739 by French kings Louis XIV and XV for the Chateau de Marly royal palace. Over time, the original statues moved to the Champs-Elysses, underwent restoration and are currently displayed at the Louvre in Paris.

Reproductions of the French statues, commonly referred to as the Marly Horses or the Horse Tamers, have appeared in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” “The Philadelphia Story” and “An American in Paris.”

“Remember that Louis XIV was the ‘Sun King,’ and that the succeeding French kings regarded themselves as cultural leaders, and the theme of the horse tamer means barbarism being submitted to civilization,” said Perrell. “The tamer represents the higher impulses; the horse the lower impulses.”

Michael Mackay, the Mackays’ great-grandson, thanked those involved in the restoration for their efforts in preserving the statue’s history and keeping his family’s name alive in Roslyn.

“These are the unusual visionaries, individuals who see through the illusion of permanence, beyond the years of decay or vandalism or apathy,” Mackay said. “The word ‘can’t’ is not in their vocabulary. To them, it’s not about the money, it’s about the intrinsic value of something rare or beautiful or something with a profound message to bring from the past.”

The statue cost approximately $100,000 to restore. 

Hugh and Maggie Tanchuck and the staff at North Shore Monuments of Glen Head completed the restoration. Charlie Vachris of Vachris Engineering engineered the statue’s foundation and artist Andre Iwanczyk helped redesign the statue’s missing pieces.

Landmark society officials said maintaining the artistic integrity of the five-ton statue was crucial to its restoration, which included a newly-carved groomsman’s head, the recreation of missing pieces and the stabilization of the entire statue. Each of the 72 pieces of the statue’s 20-ton limestone base was also moved to their original positions. 

“A day like this involves a lot of people, and a lot of people needed to lend a hand to make this all possible,” said Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, who in addition to Town Clerk Leslie Gross, Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) and the Gerry Charitable Trust maintained by the landmark society helped provide funding for the statue’s restoration.

North Shore Monuments is also in possession of the other Mackay horse statue, which was donated to Roslyn High School after its removal from Harbor Hill. The statue stood in front of the high school for decades but was removed in 2012 for safety reasons.

A local grassroots group called Friends of the Horse Tamer is working towards raising the $100,000 restoration cost for Roslyn High School’s statue. Officials said the group has raised more than $61,000 through donations and funding from local governments.

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