By David A. Patten
Sealed bids are now being accepted for the purchase of a truly unique mansion and compound overlooking Hempstead Harbor in Roslyn Harbor, New York—and it’s only fitting that the sale of the property, locally known as “Mayknoll,” is a bit secretive.
After all, the stunning 8.2-acre waterfront property, located on Long Island less than an hour’s drive from midtown Manhattan, was the longtime estate of OSS officer, presidential campaign manager, and CIA director William J. “Bill” Casey.
Casey ran Ronald Reagan’s victorious 1980 presidential campaign and later served from 1981 to 1987 as CIA director under the 40th president.
Mayknoll was at the epicenter of the most momentous years of the Reagan administration as Casey helped his commander in chief as they moved the geopolitical chess pieces into place, executing a strategy that ultimately triggered the demise of the Soviet Union.
Indeed, the Casey estate looks like it is right out of a Hollywood movie: a Grand Manor-style estate located on a point overlooking Hempstead Harbor featuring three guest cottages, a pool, a statue garden, and a breathtaking view.
A SPECIAL PLACE
Gone are the 24-hour security posts manned by CIA security, but the setting still wreaks of drama. Over the years the estate drew visits from a host of celebrities including legendary OSS chief Bill Donovan, cosmetics icon Estee Lauder, and singer Diana Ross. Firing Line host and National Review founder Bill Buckley once made a dashing entrance, arriving via his sailboat.
Current owner Bernadette Casey Smith, the daughter of the late William J. and Sophia Casey, has indelible memories of growing up on the expansive grounds of the estate. Although she was an only child, other family members and six cousins lived in the property’s other three houses. She describes Mayknoll as “a very, very special place” and “a wonderful place to grow up. It was a lot of freedom,” she tells Newsmax, “no restrictions, we came and went as we wanted.” To this day she describes herself as “an only child from a big family,” adding, “I never felt like an only child.”
The Casey’s bought the house, originally built by a steamship captain, in 1948. Casey ran for Congress in 1966 but lost in the GOP primary. He went on to serve as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1971 to 1973 before becoming Under Secretary of State. He was chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank from 1974-1976, and in 1978 co-founded the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, which later became the influential Manhattan Institute think tank. He was a key player in the founding of numerous media and political organizations, including Cap Cities, which later bought ABC, the National Review, and the American Spectator.
AN AMERICAN HERO
As the 70s drew to a close, the family assumed his illustrious career was winding down, but Casey had other things in mind. “I remember the day he got the call,” recalls his daughter. “He thought he was retired. He said, ‘This country is in such a mess I have to see what I can do about it.’ He said yes, then he traveled up to New Hampshire. And then he traveled around the country for many months. But they got the job done, didn’t they?”
Presidential historian Craig Shirley credits Casey as “a vastly underestimated Cold Warrior. He saw the world as Ronald Reagan did,” Shirley tells Newsmax, “divided by the goodness of the West and the evil of the East…
“Casey was an American hero,” the Reagan biographer adds, “from his work with the OSS in World War II, to brilliantly managing Reagan’s 1980 campaign, to his work in developing the Vatican and Pope John Paul II to the anti-Communism alliance.”
TRACES OF THE PAST
Daughter Bernadette describes the manor house as “more of a European, grandiose house” with “beautiful, exquisite moldings.” The etched panes of glass are original in the manor’s pocket doors, as is the Italian terra cotta tile hallway. One stunning element: A massive chandelier obtained at auction from the ornate Capitol Theater in New York City.
There are still traces of the estate’s famous occupant, including the Casey Cold War library, formerly an enclosed porch. Casey was such a voracious reader his security detail got in the habit of carrying an extra, empty duffel bag to tote all the books he would purchase during his trips. The library, once used by Casey’s CIA security guards, is home to a collection of books on history and espionage tradecraft.
The home received an update in 2000 that included central air, a solarium, a spa with an endless indoor pool, and an elevator. There are reports of a secret passage in the basement of the manor house, but that might be a bit of literary license. Bernadette Casey Smith says it’s actually an old wine cellar.
The sale is being handled by James Connelly, director of government relations and principal of the Washington, D.C.-based Summit Commercial Real Estate, in conjunction with James Kazunas, president, of Hollywood Real Estate Services, LLC, which will act as the administrator for the sale along with Helmsley Spear, LLC.
Connelly sees the property as an ideal compound, possibly for one of the UN delegations looking for an opportunity to escape the confines of the UN’s Turtle Bay headquarters. But because the property has multiple residences over its 8.2 acres, it could also be subdivided.
Given its proximity to the city and its stunning location on Long Island’s North Shore, Connelly says, the family has opted to sell the property in a sealed bid format, without a fixed asking price, either on the full compound or individual portions. “It may not be a family. It could be a sovereign nation, or it could be a foundation,” he told the Long Island Press.
Of course, it will be a rite of passage when the grand manse where great decisions were made passes into the hands of another owner. “He was a fun guy,” Bernadette Casey Smith says of her father, who was unable to witness firsthand the fulfillment of the Reagan administration’s legacy when he died in May 1987. “He was very, very special. And of course, he would never talk about his work.”
As Shirley put it, “In the end, Casey was proven right—and on the right side of history.”
For more information about Bill Casey’s Mayknoll Estate, text James Connelly, Summit Commercial Real Estate, LLC; 202-491-5300, or e-mail email@example.com.
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