Monday, Oct 24th

Last updateFri, 21 Oct 2016 11am

You are here: Home Real Estate Should This Mansion Be Saved?

Should This Mansion Be Saved?

The original house of the Marx estate still stands on Gatehouse Road.   Though empty and neglected, its grandeur is breathtaking. The red brick, white-pillared mansion was built in 1904 and has nine fireplaces and 14 baths. It had a swimming pool, tennis court, paddle court and a four-car garage with a seven-room caretaker's cottage above it. A chain linkfence, to prevent Marx’s 13 dogs from straying, enclosed the entire compound.  Before the subdivision of the property in the 1980's,  the home had a Weaver Street address and could be viewed through the open lawn from the street.  Now, surrounded by 29 contemporary homes on uniform lots, the home is hidden from view and appears to be a vestige of a gone by era.

The property was owned by the legendary Louis Marx, sometimes called ''the Toy King of America,'' who died in 1982 at the age of 85.  He had nine children, who he named after famous friends who were named as godparents to the children: Emmett Dwight, for Gen. Emmett O'Donnell and President Eisenhower; Spencer Bedell, for Gen. Walter Bedell Smith; Bradley Marshall, for Gen. Omar N. Bradley and Gen. George C. Marshall; Curtis Gruenther, for Gen. Curtis E. LeMay and Gen. Albert M. Gruenther, and Hunter Bernhard, for Gen. Hunter Harris and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

Marx is as legendary as his estate.  A 1955 article in Time Magazine describes his arrival at a soiree at the 21 Club in Manhattan; “A roly-poly, melon-bald little man with the berry-bright eyes and beneficent smile of St. Nick touching down on a familiar rooftop.  Louis Marx, America's toy king and cafe-society Santa, was arriving at his favorite workshop. With his beautiful blonde wife Idella, who looks the way sleigh bells sound, 59-year-old Lou Marx toddled regally toward a table in the center of the downstairs room. The table is always reserved for Millionaire Marx by the divine right of toy kings, and the fact that he has never been known to let anyone else pay the check. “

And city friends were not the only ones to benefit from his generosity. Each Halloween from 1940 to 1980, Marx distributed hundreds of toys to neighborhood children who came to trick or treat. He built a multi-million dollar toy company and was free handed with his gifts.

Upon Marx’s death, Anthony Scarcella, a New Rochelle developer, bought the estate and received approval to subdivide it and build 29 homes.  He built the development and in 1985 he sold the original home on 1.75 acres to Alexander Raydon, who kept it until October 2007.  When Raydon died, Scarcella re-purchased the house, for $2,500,000, which was more than the sale price of the entire estate in 1982. Scarcella then attempted to gain approval to tear it down and build three more new homes on the property. However, this time he received far more resisitance from the Board of Architectural Review and ultimately the Scarsdale Board of Trustees.  He was denied a demolition permit to tear down the home because it was found to be a structure of substantial historic importance.  The BAR found that the mansion met three of the four preservation criteria and that its demolition would be detrimental to the public interest.

The Board of Architectural Review concluded:

1.    That the Marx mansion, built in 1903, is of such architectural and historic interest that its removal would be detrimental to the public interest in that the structure is a Georgian Style building incorporating a symmetrical brick façade with a low roof line with white trim doors, windows and eaves. The record also supports the existence of a Greek Revival style pediment with Corinthian columns in the front and rear elevations and that the trim details conform to the period in which the Marx mansion was built.

2. That the Marx mansion is an example of the Beaux Arts School of Design with high quality of craftsmanship, which was the prevalent design in Scarsdale at the turn of the twentieth century, but is rarely found today.

3. That the Marx mansion is of such old and unusual uncommon design, texture or materials that it could not be reproduced or could be reproduced only with great difficulty.

4. That the Marx Mansion was designed and built over 100 years ago using materials and methods common during that era, and the Greek Revival style stone pediment and the Corinthian stone columns would be almost impossible to duplicate due to cost of materials, transportation and labor.

5. That the quality of craftsmanship used in the construction of the Marx mansion and the level of architectural detail could not be reproduced today except at an exorbitant cost. Additionally, to reproduce a building with this level of detail and size would require an insurmountable amount of resources. Buildings this size and quality are typically built on large tracts of land and in enclaves that are now uncommon in Scarsdale.

6. That the Marx mansion was the residence of Louis Marx, known as the Father of the modern American toy industry, and one of the most famous residents of Scarsdale due to his influence on the modern American toy industry.

7. That the history and architecture of the former estate properties in Scarsdale, almost all of which have been demolished, removed and/or subdivided, are a crucial and irreplaceable part of Scarsdale's historic heritage and preserving one of the last remaining survivors of the estate era encourages interest in Scarsdale's historic heritage.  

Scarcella continued his fight and filed a hardship application in early 2008, which was also denied.  The Board of Trustees felt that Scarcella was well aware that he did not have approval to demolish the mansion when he repurchased the property in 2007.

Scarcella was denied approval to demolish the home and filed a lawsuit against the Village of Scarsdale to try to reverse the determination of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees. The case was heard at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains on Tuesday.

Andy Bass, who attended the June 2 oral arguments, sent out an email with the following update:

Judge Rory J. Bellantoni of the New York State Supreme Court, 9th Judicial District, announced yesterday that he will render his decision in the Marx mansion case this Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m. in Room 301 of the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains.  Bellantoni made the announcement at the conclusion of yesterday's oral arguments in the case, officially known as SCARCELLA, ANTHONY vs. VILLAGE OF SCARSDALE BOARD.

Based on the judge's comments and line of questioning at yesterday's hearing, it appears he is likely to rule in favor of the Village in the case.  Bellontoni opined that there "seems there was due process here."  The judge did not sympathize with the hardship argument put forth by Scarcella's attorney.  Bellantoni stated that Scarcella bought the mansion knowing:

-the condition it was in
-that his plan for a three-lot subdivision would be subject to Zoning Board approval of variances
-that his plan to demolish the mansion would be subject to Committee for Historic Preservation review

"He knew all these things when he bought the property," Bellontoni commented.  "He rolled the dice and it didn't work."


0 #10 hapticz 2012-11-07 00:38
developers have nothing under their skin other than blood money, and that is never earned through real work. making a fast buck from opportunity has poisoned our country, its ethics of fairness and honesty and has created an environment of predatory anti-culturalis m. anthony s is a leftover from some family who will leave america with less history than it began. a truly undesirable type.
0 #9 richard irwin 2012-06-24 13:00
a house like this is a must to stay. If people only new the great stories about the marx family and how he ran his toy company.and what a grate man he was
0 #8 X Scarsdale Resident 2012-05-05 11:37
Now they've approved the demolition of the house. Wow, what a shame! I remember the excitement of getting in the car to go there on Halloween. The cars would be lined up bumper to bumper all the way out to Weaver st., and when you arrived at the front door, someone would come out and give a toy to each child in the car. The story was that the children in every 100th car would get a new bicycle. Not sure if it was true, but we had no reason to disbelieve. Such a generous man. It's too bad no one in the Marx family cared enough to take steps to save the home. As for the town itself, I'm not suprised. What a shame!
0 #7 Noel Hogan 2011-08-23 07:25
I can remember my childhood days playing and frolicking around the estate . Hunter was a good friend and very kind. and of course he had every toy a boy could imagine ! I think he even had a monkey??? Anyway I have very fond memories of the Marx family and the estate.
+1 #6 X larchmont, NY resident 2011-07-18 18:25
I used to drive by the mansion every day on my way to school years ago. I remember when the daughter married daniel Ellsburg there. We knew the old man had died when lots were formed for new houses. It was so sad. One could see the dogs out on the grounds running every morning. The hutchinson River parkway is alongside the grounds and everyone knew the house was there first. Such a shame that Scarsdale allowed the subdivision in the first place and that one of the children or wife didn't save it and allowed the sale. Why didn't they just donate it to thestate or county as a museum. Marx was so generous, they should have. Another story of greedy developer who couldn't give a damn about history or anything else! It was wonderful to see back then, one could see the house from the road up the long drive from weaver St. It is all missed now and should've been kept together..Hopef ully this Scar face!! will never win no matter how many lawsuits he files...
0 #5 Harry Skip Pardee/Ma. 2011-05-23 14:03
I went to Louis' son, Curtis' wedding which I believe took place at the mansion. The entire family was charming and had a lovely time on the back lawn talking at length with Daniel Ellsberg. Curtis married a good friend of our family, Patrica, a strikingly good looking blonde girl that Curtis loved very much. Was told through friendly get togethers in the late 70's that Curtis as a young boy, developed the Big Wheel concept that helped keep Marx toys a leading toy manufacturer. Met Patrica & Curtis when they lived in Boston. Have lost contact with Curtis and Patrica over the years...great house, glad to see it's still there, hope the state steps in and keeps this history.
0 #4 Larchmont, NY resident 2011-05-03 10:01
I just drove by the mansion. I have lived in the area for nearly 15 years and never knew it existed only two miles away until I saw it listed on a realtor's website. It is a shame that it is in such disrepair but even now it is a beautiful and impressive place that should be saved for future generations. The detail of the architecture is something to admire and is worth saving.
0 #3 Julie Marsten 2011-01-24 06:18
Lynne, I'm writing about Idella nad Mr. Marx, can we speak re details of the home
0 #2 Lynne Sandy 2010-10-27 02:55
I worked in the Marx mansion as a nanny in the early Seventies and thereby knew the eccentric Mr. Marx (who liked my "Southerb" cooking), the beautiful Idella, and the five younger boys. Once, after I had relocated to New York City in the mid Eighties, a friend and I drove late at night to Weaver Street and sneaked up to the mansion for a look-see into the ground floor. That is the last time I saw it, but I wrote of it often in my journal, reflecting on its relaxed Eurpoean leisure, bountiful picnics, and strolls around the garden of tulips, a gift to Louis Marx from Prince Bernhard. There were DaVince sketches on the foyer walls, a portrait of Mr. Marx by Eisenhower in the library, and a regal portrait of Idella in a sitting room. The next project should be this mansion's restoration.
0 #1 Eric Fink 2010-01-30 18:12
Good for Scarsdale board of architects! Thank you! This is very important history, do we really need to add another 3 new homes as a quick money hungry greedy replacement. This house is just absolutely a must for anyone to see and to think about the history it has survived for all these years.

You have no rights to post comments