One of the few remaining historic grand mansions on Long Island’s Gold Coast, the former Woolworth Estate in Glen Cove in Nassau County, New York, is a reminder of a time long gone.
Dating back to 1916, the imposing structure with its distinct architecture and opulent interiors found its way back into the spotlight in recent years, and even served as a filming location for a Taylor Swift video (more on that below).
In 2022, the Woolworth estate found its new owners, more than a century after it was first built. The sale marked the end of the property’s 20-year search for a new owner, which saw the mansion bounce on and off the market since 2002.
Winfield Hall, most commonly known as the Woolworth Mansion — after its famous initial owner, five-and-dime stores founder Frank Woolworth — sold for $8.25 million, a hefty amount that doesn’t necessarily reflect the many merits of the historic property.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in 31 years of working in real estate,” says Margaret Trautmann, the listing agent that facilitated the sale. And in all likelihood, very few of us have.
Dating back to the 1920s, the Woolworth Mansion is a living piece of history that stands as testament to the glam of the Roaring Twenties and the world of the wealthy families who inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby (in fact, the home that Fitzgerald based the Gatsby estate on is less than 30 minutes away).
That history is well alive within the walls of Winfield Hall, whose imposing interiors — clad in marble — retain all the grandeur of a time long gone.
For the past few decades, the estate was owned by Martin T. Carey, brother of the late New York governor Hugh Carey.
Carey, a thriving entrepreneur who made his money in the petroleum business, was an avid preservationist of Gilded Age mansions — and purchased many properties in Long Island and Newport, Rhode Island to restore and bring back to their former glory.
But according to Margaret Trautmann, Windfield Hall was always his favorite.
“A house like this, it’s so flattering,” says Trautmann, who has been representing the property since 2002, when Carey first tried selling it on the open market.
But there’s a limited pool of buyers that can appreciate, afford, or maintain a property like the former Woolworth estate. So even though there were a few offers over the years, and the palatial home definitely garnered interest, none of them were compelling enough to make Martin T. Carey part ways with his historic property.
After Carey’s death in 2020, the Glen Cove estate was passed along to his daughter, Denise Carey Bettencourt, who brought it back on the market — and even tried auctioning it off in June 2021. The auction failed to secure a buyer, and Winfield Hall was eventually sold the old fashion way.
The Woolworth estate sold for $8.25 million in a transaction closed on February 16, 2022. Margaret Trautmann repped the seller, Denise Carey Bettencourt. The buyer’s identity has not been disclosed.
The history of Woolworth Mansion, a Glen Cove treasure
Frank Winfield Woolworth, the pioneering retailer that launched the “five and dimes” variety stores and grew his company into an international retail giant, first purchased the property in 1914.
At the time, there was another mansion on the grounds of the estate, one which Woolworth was planning to replace. Soon enough, he had to, as that house, known as Humphreys Estate, burned down soon after the retail magnate took ownership.
By 1916, the new palatial estate was taking form on the sprawling 16-acre lot.
The 30,000-square-foot mansion was named Winfield Hall, taking Mr. Woolworth’s middle name. His last name had already been taken by the 792-foot tower he had built in Manhattan, the Woolworth Building.
But the ultra-luxurious main residence was not the only structure on the Woolworth estate, as there’s also a 17,000-square-foot carriage house, bringing the total living space on the property up to an impressive 47,000 square feet.
Frank Woolworth didn’t get to live many years in the imposing mansion he built for himself.
He died in 1919, five days before his 67th birthday, and the property sat empty for years before its next occupants moved in.
It was later purchased in 1929 by the wife of Richard S. Reynolds, of the R.S. Reynolds Metal Company fame. The Reynolds reportedly invented their famous cigarette foil wrap on the grounds of the estate, with the carriage house being turned into a laboratory where the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco wrap was invented.
According to Wikipedia, after Reynolds’ tenure, the former Woolworth Estate was turned into the Grace Downs Academy, a business school for young ladies — which started a new chapter in the property’s history, as it became known as Glamour Manor due to many beautiful women that walked its halls.
In 1978, Martin T. Carey swooped in to purchase the property, and his family owned it up until the recent sale.
The marble-clad interiors of Winfield Hall
As the first mansion was burned to the ground in a fire, Woolworth wanted to make Winfield Hall less susceptible to fire damage, so he packed as much marble as he could within its walls.
That included walls and pillars of marble, and an imposing grand staircase made entirely out of marble. In fact, the entire Woolworth mansion ended up costing nine million dollars, with the grand staircase alone costing two million dollars.
According to Untapped Cities, the $2 million cost to build the staircase preceding the 1920s means Woolworth would have paid the equivalent of $48.5 million in present day’s money.
Of course, the marble didn’t make Winfield Hall completely fireproof, as a later incident would prove; another fire broke out in 2015, destroying millions of dollars worth of woodwork and furnishings.
But because of the way the mansion was built, the fire didn’t extend to other areas of the house, and the rooms damaged in the fire were fully restored.
Other elements unique to the historic mansion: a bedroom created as an identical copy of Napoleon Bonaparte’s quarters at the Château de Malmaison (Woolworth even fitted it with a bed that was once owned by Napoleon himself), a marble replica of the Arc de Triomphe, and ceilings so intricate and lavish that they would make the Vatican pale in envy.
“You look up at the ceiling and your breath is taken away.”Listing agent Margaret Trautmann told Fancy Pants Homes
Woolworth Mansion was featured in Taylor Swift’s 2014 video, ‘Blank Space’
Now, if there’s something that feels oddly familiar about Winfield Hall, that might just be because you’ve seen parts of it before.
The dining room, the main hall, and the marble fireplace have all been featured in one of Taylor Swifts’ most memorable music videos, Blank Space, released back in 2014.
A big part of the video was filmed inside the Woolworth Mansion in Glen Cove — though exterior shots have all been taken at the nearby Oheka Castle.
Woolworth Mansion has also made its TV debut in the Kate Winslet-led drama miniseries Mildred Pierce and, according to the property’s own IMDb page, it also appeared in the HBO hit Boardwalk Empire.
A history of hauntings at the Woolworth Estate
Like many of America’s biggest mansions, Winfield Hall has a history of reported hauntings.
Many of the tales are centered around the story of Frank Woolworth’s middle daughter, Edna, who took her own life on the evening of May 2, 1917.
As the story goes, the night Edna died at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, her father was at Winfield Hall hosting a party when a most bizarre incident occurred: the family crest, which showed the painted faces of his three daughters, cracked right where Edna’s face was, leaving the rest of the crest intact.
Ever since, there have been claims of strange noises in Winfield Hall, reported sightings of a floating “spirit” wandering through the halls, or a ghost of a young woman “haunting” the gardens.
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