Henry Western Eastman Law Office, 65 Main Street
Henry Western Eastman was the most prominent of the local lawyers during the second half of the 19th century. His house, which he bought in 1854 and enlarged considerably subsequently, was included in the Landmark Society's Tour of 1967 and 1968 and again in 1977 and 1978. A biographical description of Mr. Eastman, together with an account of the accumulation of his Main Street estate is provided in the 1977 and 1978 Tour Guides. In short, Henry W. Eastman was born in 1826 and started his law practice in Roslyn in 1847. To supplement the income from his practice he also taught at the Locust Hill Academy, which was founded by Samuel R. Ely, D.D., circa 1850. The Academy still stands behind Dr. Ely's home, the Hendrickson-Ely House, at 110 Main Street (T.G. 1962, 1983,1984, 1994, 1995 (Brower)). Shortly thereafter Eastman in 1850, founded the "Roslyn Plaindealer" with Augustus William Leggett. The "Plaindealer" survived in Roslyn until 1852 when it was moved to Glen Cove. Eastman sold his interest in the Locust Hill Academy to E.A. Hyde and concentrated on his law practice. He had a long and distinguished career and, at his death in 1888, was the President of the Bar Association of Queens County, which at that time included Nassau County. With other prominent local citizens he founded the Roslyn Savings Bank in 1876. The bank operated in the Eastman Law Office until it moved to new quarters, on the site of its present building, in 1905. While the bank was located in the Eastman Office, a brick bank vault, which survives, was built to provide greater security. The Eastman Law Office is illustrated in John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Age of Uncertainty," published 1978, as an example of a small 19th century country bank. In 1863 William M. Valentine sold Henry Eastman a lot, immediately to the north of his house lot, for $1,000,00. It had 36'8" of street frontage (Queen Co. Liber 204 of Deeds, Pg. 124, 4/28/1863). The high price suggests that a building was on the lot. If so, the building was 65 Main Street, the Henry Western Eastman Law Office. This building is indicated as a "store" on the Walling Map of 1859. Since William M. Valentine built his new brick store, which still stands facing Tower Street, in 1862 or 1863, the Eastman Law Office probably was William M. Valentine's first store. EXTERIOR The Eastman Law Office is 21/2 storeys in height and three bays wide. The first floor is almost entirely below grade along the principal (west) front. The building has a pitched roof, the ridge of which extends east and west at right angles to the road. The gable fields are parallel to the road. This orientation is reminiscent of Greek Revival styling which was never strong in Roslyn. The high -styled Greek Revival Horatio Onderdonk house in Manhasset, which was built in 1836, has a temple-fronted roof, so apparently the law office could have been built at any time after that year. It must have been standing by 1850 as William M. Valentine was advertising by that year. The roof is extended on all four sides. However, the soffits are closed only under the east and west eaves. The West eave overhang, further, is decorated with sawn and shaped brackets. Those at the north and south extremities rest on the north and south cor43 ner boards and face north and south. The rafter ends are exposed under the north and south eaves. The principal (west) front is sheathed with clapboards having a 5-inch exposure. There are corner boards at both west corners only. These cover both surfaces of the corners. They have a moulded bead at the comer junction. There is no water-table. The remaining three walls are sheathed with shingles having an exposure of 8 inches to the weather. These extend down to cover the first storey on the north and east facades. Until recently all four fronts were covered with asbestos shingles as was the Eastman residence next door. These were applied in 1946 when Mary G. Eastman sold the property to the Rosewood Nursing Home. They were removed during the 1978 restoration. The foundation is rubble below grade. The exposed portion of the foundation, from the grade to the sills, is constructed of brick. On this basis, considerable brick foundation is exposed on the south side of the house. The brick chimney retains its original form with its 2-course projecting cap. The windows almost all are the original and retain their 6/6 sash and plain drip caps. The original third storey shutters, east and west, were louvered. The first and second storey shutters each had two panels. None of the original shutters has survived. The small window as the first floor grade level in the west front is a new replacement. Especially interesting are the third storey rotating octagonal windows In the north and south facades. There are three of these. That at the west end of the north faAade was made by Floyd Lyon and Paul Emmanuel in 1978 to provide light to an interior room. The remaining two are original. Originally there was a small stoop to provide entry at the west front. This had a pitched roof, wooden deck, arched gable-field and open work front piers. The gable field was painted with the sign of the Roslyn Savings Bank. The stoop was removed at an unknown date, probably after the Bank relocated in 1905, and was replaced. This change may have taken place as late as 1946 when the entire Eastman property was taken over by the Rosewood Nursing Home. In any case, the 20th century stoop was removed in 1979 and a reconstruction of the original stoop was built and completed in April 1979. This was designed by John Stevens from scars on the building, paint "ghosts" and the illustration in John Kenneth Galbraith's book. A replica of the sign of the Roslyn Savings Bank will be painted on a removable panel for use on special occasions. This will be painted by Anthony Greengrow. The front door, which has six panels and ogee mouldings, replaces a modern door. The door in the Galbraith illustration was ogee moulded and had four or six panels. However, in the illustration all but the lower panels had been knocked out and were replaced with glass. The Roslyn Preservation Corporation, which provided the present door, objected to its mutilation in this manner. There was a very large rambling, two-storey porch which survived in deteriorated condition along the east (garden) front. This was supported by square piers and had railings consisting of moulded rails and balusters which were rectangular in crosssection. The roof and deck framing were exposed and the pent roof was flat enough to be used as a deckoentered from the third storey, although this was not an original intention. There was, and is, a doorway to the ground floor level of the west porch centered between a pair of original 6/6 windows. When the asbestos shingles were removed recently, the "paint ghost " of a railing bench could be seen at the north end of the first floor porch. This bench will be reconstructed when the porch is rebuilt. The second storey level of the porch was entered from a small two-storey south porch. This had a gable ended roof with an open gable field and sawn, shaped corner 44 brackets, square wooden piers and a railing identical to that of the east porch, to which it was connected by a diagonal, roofless "cat-walk" which passed across the southeast corner of the house. The cat-walk railing was the same as those of both porches. The south porch, also, was latticed along its west front to provide privacy from Main Street. Careful reconstruction of the two-storey east porch, using all salvageable original materials was completed during March 1980. The development of wood rot in subsequent years and resulting porch deterioration necessitated rebuilding of this two-storey porch structure during the fall of 1998. The porch bench brackets were reconstructed from "ghosts" on the original paint work. The south porch will not be restored. Its second storey doorway has been replaced by a 6/6 window. Access to the second floor of the east porch will be provided by a new doorway at the east end of the second storey hallway. BANK VAULT The bank vault on the south side of the building was added after 1876 when the Roslyn Savings Bank was founded. This has a pitched roof extending north and south, with the gable field at right angles to the road. Its single usable floor is at the same level as the street (2nd) floor of the building. It is entirely built of brick laid in American bond and has a projecting brick water-table which is three brick courses high and which has a chamfered upper edge. The upper edge of the water-table is level with the top of the brick foundation of the Law Office. There is a pointed six-light window, with replacement glass, in the south front of the vault. This has a stone lintel and a stone sill. Above it there is a circular hole, probably for a stove-pipe. There is a "blind" Gothic arched panel in the west wall which faces the street. This is for decoration only as is the projecting stepped cornice, 4 courses high, which rests upon brick dentils. INTERIOR The principal (street) floor is the second floor. Inside the front door there is a hallway which extends the entire length of the house. The bank vault entrance is immediately on the right after entering the house. Its doorway has plain wooden facings and there is an iron door which swings into the vault. Originally there was also an outer iron door which swung into the hall. This was lost sometime after 1966. The interior of the vault is lined with concrete. Probably there was a hall window at it entry site prior to its construction. The hallway has hardwood strip flooring applied over the early yellow pine, a characteristic which applies to most of the house. It is difficult to decide when this was applied. The hardwood flooring could have been installed when the building became the Roslyn Savings Bank, or after the Bank moved in 1905. The plain baseboards with torus-moulded caps are original. The stairway on the northside of the hallway originally was entirely enclosed with beaded boards placed vertically. This condition still prevails below the stringer. The vertical boarding above the stringer was removed in 1978 to provide more light. The "closed tread" stair-rail was designed by John Stevens. The newel was provided by the Roslyn Preservation Corporation. The 6/6 window in the south wall of the hallway, near its east end, replaces the early doorway to the south porch which was removed in 1978. The window surround has the plain facings and the recessed, beaded interior edge of the original porch doorway. The east porch will be entered through a doorway at the east end of the hallway 45 which now ends in a blank wall. The doorway to the front parlor, on the north side of the hallway, is in its original location. The doorway facing on the hall side is plain with a recessed interior bead. On the parlor side, in addition there is a back band trimmed with ogee moulding. The door itself is the standard four panel ogee moulded type. The front parlor window facings conform to those of the hall doorway., i.e., back bands with ogee mouldings and recessed interior beads. These have torus -moulded sills and were never paneled beneath the sash. The torus-moulded plain baseboards are the same as those in the hallway and the back parlor. The current owners have installed wainscoting in the front parlor and a stepped cap on the baseboards. The back parlor window facings are less pretentious. There are no back bands and no ogee mouldings. They are simply plain boards with interior recessed beads, the same as the hallway door facings. Obviously the doorway going from the back parlor to the hallway is trimmed in the same manner. The wall which separates the front and back parlors has been rebuilt in its original location (1978). The sliding four panel unmoulded doors are of the period, but new insertions. They were donated by the Roslyn Preservation Corporation. The doorway to the lower stairway retains its original plain facings with an interior bead. Its original four panel ogee moulded door retains its original black stoneware knob. Immediately inside this doorway the exposed top step reveals the original 9" wide yellow pine flooring which survives over much of the building, covered with later hardwood flooring. The lower stairway, like the upper, originally was "boxed-in" with vertical, beaded sheathing. This survives below the stair stringer, but the stairway above the stringer was opened in 1978. The stair rail used above will be duplicated here. Beneath the upper stairway, opposite the entrance to the lower stairway, there is a small board-andbatten door behind which is a small closet. One passes beneath it in descending. South of this stairway, at the ground-floor level, there is a narrow passageway which has been converted into two closets, one at each end of the stairway structure. Inside the west closet doorway (1978) the remains of a south window were exposed in the brick foundation wall. This was closed up when the bank vault was built, in 1876 or shortly thereafter. The powder room at the bottom of the stairway is new (1978). However, the east-west wall which encloses the kitchen and dining room is the original. The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room was reconstructed on its original site. The kitchen window retains its original plain facing with an interior bead. The same facings also were used around the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room. The dining room windows retain their original plain facings. However, all the 7" pine floorings on this floor, together with the plain baseboards, were inserted during the 1978 restoration. The dining room has the only fireplace in the house. This is built with a brick arch as it had originally. Th entire fireplace-chimney assembly was in a badly deteriorated condition and was rebuilt and flue-lined during the 1978 restoration by Frank Tiberia in accordance with the design of Colonel Frederic N. Whitley, Jr., U.S.A. Engineer, Ret. The dining room also includes the doorway to the lower level of the east porch. The door originally had four panels and was ogee moulded,. However, early in its life, the upper panels and dividing stile were removed and this area was glazed. There is a small room at the east end of the hallway, the purpose of which is not known. Apparently there always has been a room in this location. Its east-west dimension was reduced in 1978 to permit the excavation of a cellar and the construction of an interior stairway leading to it. At the top of this stairway there is a plain-faced doorway 46 having an interior bead which leads to the outside. Its door is original to the house and is an early glazed conversion of a Tuscan moulded Greek Revival door. The cellar is new. The original 3" x 6" north-south oriented floor joists may be seen as may the original chimney base against the north wall. The original below-g4ade rubble foundation may be best seen on the south. Against the west wall there is a brick lined pit, which is now located beneath the kitchen. Originally this probably was a double wall to help prevent foundation shifting at the base of the hillside. Later it was excavated for use as a root cellar. THIRD FLOOR The third floor originally was a single open space with a barrel vaulted ceiling and plain baseboards. Obviously it was some sort of office. However, it has been divided into several rooms for many years. Its most interesting features are the octagonal windows which have been described. The 9 1/2" vertically beaded stairway sheathing is original. The four panel ogee moulded doors are contemporary with the house but were inserted in 1978. EPILOGUE The Roslyn historic community owes a considerable debt to Floyd and Dorothy Lyon for their efforts with this building which had been deteriorating rapidly since 1966. With little or no maintenance and haphazard rental practices, sometimes for "drug scene" activities, its prognosis was very poor. It took the Lyons many long and patient years to even acquire the building. Its future now seems assured. The property was transferred to Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Gallo in 1998.