U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Campus Makes National Register of Historic Places List

Wiley Hall, located on the main campus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.
Wiley Hall, located on the campus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

The National Park Service this month announced that the campus of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point and the Barstow Mansion, home to the American Merchant Marine Museum and located on USMMA’s McNulty Campus, have been added to the NPS’ National Register of Historic Places list.

The NPS says the designation recognizes USMMA’s historical significance to the nation, and acknowledges the architectural importance of the buildings.

“The addition of USMMA’s campus and the American Merchant Marine Museum to the National Register guarantees that the rich history of the Academy will be preserved for all Americans – not just Kings Pointers.” said Rear Admiral James A. Helis.

USMMA is located twenty miles from New York City, in Kings Point, a village in the Great Neck region of Long Island.

Built by Henri Bendel in 1917, Wiley Hall, the centerpiece of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy campus, was designed by Henry Otis Chapman “in a Beaux Arts version of French Renaissance style” with landscaping by Charles Leavitt, according to the National Parks Service. The house was later sold to car magnate Walter P. Chrysler in 1923 as a summer home, situated on an estate that included twelve acres, 450 feet of water frontage, a formal rose garden, a sunken garden, and both an outdoor and indoor swimming pool.

The building was eventually acquired by the U.S. Government in 1942 for $100,000 and was dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on September 30, 1943. In those early months as USMMA, the rooms of the mansion were used for classes and dormitory space. Now, however, the building serves as the Academy’s main administration building.

Barstow House is the site of the American Merchant Marine Museum. According to the National Parks Service:

The house, once home to William Slocum Barstow, has twenty rooms, and furnishings that include an Aeolian pipe organ, a mechanism for listening to player-piano rolls. There are also hand cut walnut paneling and old European cut-glass chandeliers. The ceiling in the main living room is ornately decorated by Florentine styled painting on both main and cross beams; all done by Italian artists. There is also wine cellar, a taproom and a basement theater with a projection room.

The design of the house was influenced by elements of sixteenth century Lombard and Tuscan architecture which can be seen in the plain, stuccoed, and ochre-colored surfaces of the main three story central block, the shallow attic windows beneath the tiled roof and the arched openings with projected balconies supported by prominent brackets. Built in 1929, the re-design of the house is credited to the architect, Greville Rickard (1890-1956).

The Barstow residence was later bought by Frederick W.I. Lundy, owner of the well-known Lundy’s seafood restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The iron fence which surrounds the property is painted with “Lundy blue” made famous for its identification with the seafood restaurant.

In 1975, the Barstow House and property were bought by the Kings Point Fund, the financial arm of the USMMA Alumni Association, for $500,000 with $400,000 of furnishings included as a gift from the Lundy family. The transaction came about through the effort of Mr. Herman Brickman,  a trustee of the Kings Point Fund and a longtime advisor to Mr. Lundy. In 1979, the house was converted into the American Merchant Marine Museum.

The National Register of Historic Places designation deems the campus of USMMA and the Barstow Mansion as a place worthy of preservation.