His obituary in the N. Y Times was right
below the Earl Of Dunraven's (you remember the E Of D don't you?
...oh no that was D of E.... the Duke Of Earl...sorry) Anyhow,
Joseph F. Knapp's obit was nothing like his father Joseph
Palmer's was the year before in January of 1951 or his grandfather
and namesake Joseph Fairchild Knapp's was on Sept 21, 1891. Their's
was several columns and headlined. Not that they didn't warrant
it. When grandpa took a lithographic company and insurance company
to the top in America and hosted several U.S. President's at his
Brooklyn Mansion, not to mention scores of other prominent people
through the years...he earned it. So did Joseph Palmer who although
had a lot to work with (13 Million Dollars) when he started out...went
to work for his Dad in the early 1880's for $5.00 a week and was
"compelled by his mother Phoebe Palmer Knapp" to donate
$3.00 a week of it to the church. Not only did Joseph Palmer accomplish
many great things with his money, he was very philanthropic with
it....so again warranted Headlines on the Times Obit Page. Here
is what the N.Y. Times "all the news that's fit to print"
ran on Joseph F. Knapp on October 24, 1952.
Just 66 words in all and only 27 of them directly
about J. F. Knapp. The great accomplishments of his Grandfather
and Father notwithstanding, the key figure to solving the mysteries
of The Knapp Mansion, would turn out to be none other than the
man I like to refer to as J.F.K. Jr. Learning anything about him
however is proving to be as difficult as finding photographs of
the Mansion on Dogwood Rd. that captured my attention 50 years
ago. But here is what I both know and reasonably assume so
far. Just like Fox Mulder, I know the answers are out there and
I hope these are the pages I will be able to update the most.
In my book Buzz & PeeWee, Butchie & Me I have lots of stories about a kid named Larry Schulz. Larry was the first friend I had in Mastic Beach and we went to school together for 12 years. I met him for the first time under the water tower and windmill of the Knapp Estate. He too grew up even closer to the mansion's shadow and his parent's own one of the original buildings "Clarks Barn", but Larry being my age would probably not know anymore than I did about the place, but however there still was his Mom.
You can still see the hayloft boom and under
the shingles are the hayloft doors. Below it are the original
barn doors. This building which goes back to the C. J. Smith /
Lawrence days (1850's) was converted into a house by Larry's Dad,
Dave Schulz in 1958. As kids we spent hours in it after Mr Clark
died. He actually lived in it when it was still a barn. The Knapp's
reportedly used it as a carriage house and machine shop. We also
spent hours in the huge lopped oak tree that has to be 300 years
old. Notice the big oval hole in it. In the left of pic lies the
"cement pond" it was a large 25' x 40' foot watering
trough for the livestock. The water tower and windmill were over
in that woods too. Mr. Clark took them down around 1951 and sold
the metal for scrap. It was at this very spot where I am taking
the photo that I flagged down a Brookhaven Town Police car to
tell him what was happening just down the road..... OFFICER...THE
MANSION....IT''S ON FIRE!!!
I first spoke with Larry's mom Estelle about this in April of this year. I called her on the phone. We had not spoken to each other since 1969 not for any good reason other than lifes seperate journeys. I did see Larry in 1994 when I returned to Long Island for the first time in 15 years or so... that's when I took the photo of the Clark's Barn just above this. Anyway after playing thirty years of catchup with each other I brought up the reason I called....
ME: "What can you tell me about the Knapps?"
ESTELLE: " God the Knapps?..... Gee That's an awful long time ago. I don't think I can tell you much about them "
ME: "Well I remember one rainy day around 1952 or 3. Larry, Dennis and Butchie and me were in your house playing and I overheard you talking on the phone with a girlfriend of yours about all the stuff people were carting out of the mansion. Larry even offered his two cents about all the neat things he had seen in there, like a pirates chest full of English darts....things a kid would notice"
ESTELLE: "Gee I don't remember that at
all, I know I had gone to several card parties there with Rose
Scimeca from across the street. They were held in the ballroom
when St. Jude's owned it"......
AND SO IT WENT LIKE THAT FOR ABOUT 40 MINUTES
MORE ON THE PHONE BACK IN APRIL....... THEN A FULL DAY THIS PAST
SEPTEMBER. FOR SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE KNAPPS,
MRS. ESTELLE SCHULZ GAVE ME THE KIND OF INFO THAT KEEPS ME FUELED...AND
SHE GAVE ME "DODI"....