Memory Lane



Frederick G. Bourne

“It pays to be polite and attentive”
Frederick G. Bourne

The above was the motto of Frederick G. Bourne, a millionaire and former resident of Oakdale.  At the turn of the century the Brooklyn Eagle referred to Oakdale as “a millionaires’ retreat” because, as they explained, Oakdale contained a number of the finest estates that could be found in the United States. (1)  Mr. Bourne was the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Corporation, and unlike many a millionaire born into a wealthy family, he came from a rather humble background (a minister’s son), but his talents and personality seem to have brought him success, wealth, and friends. His impressive “Indian Neck Hall” mansion, located in the eastern area of Oakdale and south of Montauk Highway, was constructed of brick and lined with marble trim and consisted of over 100 rooms, some with magnificent views of the Great South Bay.  He also had other buildings constructed on the property to house his expensive horses, yachts, and automobiles.

After he died on May 11, 1919 at the age of 68, a significant portion of Bourne’s property was acquired by the LaSalle Christian Brothers in order to establish an academic military-styled school, which they opened in September 1927. (2) In 1999, with dwindling enrollment, The LaSalle Military Academy (later renamed LaSalle Center) sold the property to St. John’s University. It was leased back to La Salle until 2001 when the school officially closed. (3) Since then St. John’s University has used some of the buildings on the property for a satellite campus. The mansion is primarily used as a wedding catering hall facility.

To learn more about Frederick Gilbert Bourne, the man who built and owned the Indian Neck Hall estate, we spoke with Philip Selvaggio, who grew up in Oakdale on Dale Drive, and who for years has been researching and writing about Frederick G. Bourne and local Oakdale history. Mr. Selvaggio told us not just about Frederick Bourne but also about an employee of Bourne’s who lived on Dale Drive named George Metzler.  He mentioned that Mr. Metzler was Mr. Bourne’s auto mechanic, who at one point suffered a carbon monoxide accident. After the incident, Mr. Metzler was brought out from the city to Oakdale, where Mr. Bourne purchased or constructed a house for him on Dale Drive, then named West Street (also known as Chicken Street).  It was thought the country air would help him recuperate. It seems Mr. Bourne's attentiveness and politeness toward his injured employee paid off, because Mr. Metzler worked for him for years after, reflecting at least the spirit of Bourne’s motto.

  1. Indian Neck Demesne Bourne’s Country Seat.”  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 3, 1900. Accessed December 18, 2014. Brooklyn Newsstand (
  2. "Frederick G. Bourne: Captain of Industry Famous in International Yachting." Suffolk County News, March 14, 1919. Accessed December 18, 2014. Old Fulton New York Post Cards (
    “La Salle Opens Sept. 26.” Suffolk County News, September 2, 1927. Accessed December 18, 2014. Old Fulton New York Post Cards (
  3. “A Bittersweet Graduation Day.” Newsday, May 20, 2001.  Accessed December 19, 2014. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Newsday.

Phil Selvaggio Interview