Most Long Islanders are familiar with the Island’s history as a place where the wealthy of New York City built lavish country estates. In this regard, we most often think of the Roaring Twenties and estates such as OHEKA, which was completed in 1919, or Caumsett, which was built in 1925. But the Country House era is generally considered to have started as early as 1860. An early local example would be Fort Hill on Lloyd’s Neck built in 1879.
But in Huntington the Country House era can be traced back even further. In the 1830s, of one of Huntington’s most magnificent early homes was built on a hill on East Neck between Huntington Bay and Huntington Harbor. The home commanded spectacular views as well as attention from the surrounding community.
The house incorporates the standard two-story, center hall massing and plan of a traditional Georgian house, but is embellished with Italianate style elements, such as a flat roof with deep overhanging eaves on massive scroll-sawn brackets that frame frieze windows and tall first floor windows. A construction date in the late 1830s makes it one of the earliest Italianate houses in the country.
The house was built for John R. Rhinelander, who was a member of a wealthy New York City family that was one of the largest landowners in Manhattan. Rhinelander was a doctor who fought cholera outbreaks in New York and Montreal. Although the exact date the house was built has not been determined, Dr. Rhinelander purchased land in the area as early as 1838 and by 1840 he was invited to give the oration at Huntington’s Fourth of July celebration. The construction of his house was notable enough to merit a mention in Benjamin Thompson’s History of Long Island, which was published in 1839. Thompson described the house as “a splendid mansion” built as a “country residence.” The estate was soon considered one of the finest in Huntington.
Throughout the 1840s, Dr. Rhinelander was active in Huntington affairs. He was a trustee of the Huntington Harbor school district (and its largest taxpayer), a founder and first president of the Huntington Farmer’s Club, appointed to represent the town’s interests to the Long Island Rail Road, a member of the committee advocating for permanent and direct steamboat service to New York City (the current site of the Huntington Yacht Club was the old steamboat landing, which had been part of Dr. Rhinelander’s estate), and a delegate to the convention of Democratic Republican Party (as the current day Democratic Party was then known). He also gave talks to the Huntington Library Association and became embroiled in a debate in the Letters to the Editor column of The Long-Islander over temperance issues. His gardens were said to be beyond description and produced bounties of fruit including peaches, plums and grapes. A visitor described Dr. Rhinelander as being known for his good humor and friendliness to all. In a report on the doctor’s treatment of the captain of a shipwrecked schooner, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the doctor’s “kindness on such occasions is proverbial.” Apparently, some tried to take advantage of the doctor’s good nature, prompting him to place notices in The Long-Islander advising store keepers not to trust any person purporting to act on his account without written permission from him or his wife.
Dr. Rhinelander died in 1857 at the age of 62. His wife Julia died seven years later. In 1865, the estate was purchased by Dr. George White, who held the property only a short time. By 1873, Thomas Lord, Jr., the son of a wealthy New York merchant, had purchased the estate. During the Civil War, Lord had served as a captain in the Seventh Regiment of the National Guard and was a part of the official escort and guard of President Lincoln’s body while it laid in state at New York City Hall. Shortly after purchasing the Huntington estate, Lord initiated legal proceedings to have his 79 year old father declared insane to prevent him from squandering the family fortune and marrying a 48 year old widow—but that’s another story.
The younger Lord, like Dr. Rhinelander, became active in Huntington affairs. In 1875, he hosted a meeting at his house to consider incorporating Huntington into a village, but that effort foundered. His wife was a member of the first Board of Directors of the Huntington Library Association, which was revived in the same year. The Long-Islander wrote in 1877 that the mansion and grounds are “perhaps the most picturesque site in this section of the country, commanding a view of the Harbor on the West, the Bay on the East, the Connecticut Shore on the North, and the Village on the South.” While Dr. Rheinlander referred to the estate as “Rhineland,” Lord appears to have coined the name “Interbaien,” perhaps a reference to the Swiss resort town Interlaken, which means between the lakes. Here it would referred the home’s location “between the bays.”
Lord sold the property to William Alsop of New York City in 1881. Alsop died two years later, but his wife apparently held onto the property until 1891 when it was acquired by John P. Kane. Kane was a partner in a large mason and building supply company in Manhattan known as Canda & Kane. Two years after he bought the estate and following the death of Canda, Kane formed the John P. Kane Company. Kane was the father of eleven children—ten by his first wife and one by his second wife, who was his first wife’s sister.
In accordance with common practice, the estate has been known as the Kane Mansion since 1979 when the Town undertook a historic structures inventory because Kane’s was the first name to appear on historic maps. Kane also had the good fortune to have his name given to the street on which the house is located.
Kane died in 1907, but the property remained in the family for another five years. In at least two of those years, the family rented the place for the summer. The interior of the house was redecorated in 1910. Two years later, Frederick L. Upjohn purchased the property. Upjohn, along with his three brothers, was one of the founders of the Upjohn Pill & Granule Company in 1886 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The company’s name was changed to The Upjohn Company in 1902 and is today one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world. Fredrick Upjohn opened the New York office of the company a year after the company was established. He retired in 1907. Upjohn was well known as a yachtsman and was a Commodore of the Huntington Yacht Club—located just down the street from his house. Upjohn reportedly spent $20,000 remodeling the house and re-christened it “Highlindens.” It was probably during Upjohn’s ownership that the two one-story flat roofed wings were added on either side of the house. At the same time, the original bowed front porch was replaced with a straight porch on the same Ionic columns. Unfortunately, Upjohn died suddenly at the age of 60 just five years after he bought the property.
The following year, the estate was advertised for sale in Country Life magazine as “one of the most unique and beautiful estates on the North Shore.” The estate consisted of 22 acres, including 1,000 feet of shoreline on Huntington Harbor. The “remodeled and modernized Colonial mansion” had “7 master’s bedrooms and 4 master’s bathrooms, which will appeal strongly to gentlefolk seeking a delightful country place of charm and pleasing atmosphere.” The property included the mansion, three cottages, a large greenhouse and a bungalow on the shore.
The lucky buyer was Thomas H. Roulston of the eponymous grocery store chain. Roulston’s father was an Irish immigrant who started the company in the 1880s. The chain grew to boast hundreds of stores throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, including stores in Huntington, Huntington Station and Greenlawn. Roulston was active in several Huntington organizations, serving on the boards of The Huntington Association (a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) and Huntington Hospital. He also opened his gardens as a fundraiser for the New York Congregational Home for the Aged.
In 1939, the 65-year-old Roulston married Marjorie Hillis, the 49-year-old author of the best selling book, Live Alone and Like It, which provided advice for unmarried women on how to enjoy single life. After the wedding, she said she would become an “old-fashioned housewife” at the couple’s Brooklyn mansion and Long Island estate. Roulston died at High Lindens in 1949 and his widow sold the house soon thereafter.
David and Sue Davidson Lowe purchased the house. Sue Davidson Lowe is a former theatre producer, playwright and editor and also the grandniece of the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In 1983, she published a biography of Stieglitz. As a child, she had spent a lot of time with Stieglitz and his wife, the painter Georgia O’Keffe. The Lowes sold the property to Joseph and Jean Mack in 1954.
Joseph Mack was a sculptor and his wife was a painter. The couple met at the art school of Charles H. Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine and later both studied at the American School of Design in New York City. They briefly operated the Jean Mack Studios in New York where they created commercial murals, sculpture and illustrations. Joseph Mack later founded Joseph Mack Associates, which was a promotion company that specialized in dimensional design for national advertisers. In the early seventies, after Mr. Mack suffered a life-threatening car accident, the couple started the Huntington Fine Arts Workshop at High Lindens. Five rooms in the basement were converted into sculpture studios and drawing and painting were taught in the ballroom. The school was originally opened to adults as well as children. But they “realized the real need was with the high school people,” Mr. Mack recalled, “young artists who needed help to get into college.” In 1978, it became the Huntington School of Fine Arts and eventually moved to a 5,200 square foot former boathouse on Huntington Harbor. The school is now located in the former South Huntington Library building at the intersection of Melville and Depot Roads.
Joseph Mack, predeceased by his wife, died at High Lindens in December 2007. The house was featured on the Huntington Historical Society’s 2008 house tour.
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