A Google Earth image of the property
News of President Obama imposing sanctions against the two Russian intelligence agencies that were allegedly involved in the DNC hacking that affected the 2016 presidential election is perhaps the biggest news in the world right now, but it hits a lot closer to home than many New Yorkers may realize. The administration expelled 35 intelligence officials from the country and ordered two intelligence compounds closed, one of which is a 49-room mansion on a 14-acre property in Glen Cove on Long Island’s ritzy Gold Coast (h/t Gothamist). NBC New York reports that, although the Soviet Union purchased it in 1951 to be used as weekend home for its UN delegates, many locals were never aware of its existence as a “longtime getaway for Russian diplomats” that was “also used for Russian intelligence purposes.”
Killenworth in 1915, via Library of Congress
Killenworth in 1918, via Library of Congress
Known as Killenworth, the mansion was built in 1912 for George duPont Pratt of Standard Oil and the Pratt Institute. Architects Trowbridge and Ackerman designed it in the Tudor-revival style with a granite facade, and famed landscape architect James Leal Greenleaf designed its sprawling gardens.
When the Soviet Union purchased the property 65 years ago, they were exempt from paying taxes due to its diplomatic status, a fact that the city of Glen Cove has taken issue with ever since. In fact, in 1970, they tried to foreclose on the property, saying the Russians owed millions in local property and school taxes, according to ABC News. The battle intensified in the ’80s when reports surfaced that the compound was “being used by the Soviets to spy on Long Island’s defense industry.” The Daily Beast uncovered a 1982 interview that Arkady Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet diplomat in the U.S. at the time, gave to Canadian television. “All the top floors of the building are full of sophisticated equipment…to intercept all conversations of anything which is going on. At least 15 or 17 technicians were working…to do this job,” he said. In response, Glen Cove banned Soviet officials from public beaches and tennis courts; the Soviet Union therefore cut off access to a Moscow beach to members of the United States Embassy there.
In a piece yesterday on Killenworth and another waterfront compound in Maryland, the other Russian-owned property ordered closed by Obama, the Times describes the mansion today as “very quiet.” Local law enforcement officials says it’s nearly empty save for the few Russian caretakers who live there year-round. They paint an austere image of the home: “Protected by a chain-link fence, the mansion has stone peaks that poke into the sky. Thick brush obstructs the view of the bottom half of the house.”
The Long Island compound was to be cleared out at noon today.
Editor’s Note: Though initial reports pointed to Killenworth as the Long Island compound being shut down amid President Obama’s Russian sanctions, the State Department has now confirmed that a different Russian-owned property on Long Island is being cleared out. The Soviet Union bought two estates here in the ’50s; the one that’s been closed is Elmcroft Estate in Upper Brookville.
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