Inisfada hits housing market

Bill San Antonio

The Manhasset mansion home of Roaring 20s-era industrialist Nicholas Brady and his wife Genevieve along Long Island’s “Gold Coast” has been put up for sale at a price that would likely make Jay Gatsby himself blush – $49 million,.

The sale of the 87-room, 37-chimney property, named “Inisfada” after the gaelic word for “Long Island,” is being managed by the St. Ignatius Retreat House, which has maintained the property as a Jesuit retreat for more than 50 years, church officials said.

St. Ignatius spokesman Deacon Thomas Evrard said the Jesuit-run retreat house will continue its programs through June 2, but the next day its doors will close until a buyer for the property is found.

“The doors will shut and it will no longer be a Jesuit retreat house,” said Evrard, who has been with St. Ignatius for more than 20 years.

Brady made his fortune overseeing the utility empire built by his father, Anthony, and built Inisfada as a 10th wedding anniversary gift to Genevieve in 1916.  

“[Genevieve] was really the motor behind the decorating of the house,” Evrard said. “She was very meticulous. She demanded everything be of the highest grade and quality.” 

Completed in 1920, Inisfada cost $2.3 million to build and served as the couple’s summer home. They had residences on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as well as a villa in Rome.

Since the couple had no children, Evrard said, the Bradys lived at Inisfada with those they employed on the property. 

The Bradys were, however, very devout Catholics, Evrard said, and the couple maintained a close relationship with the Vatican as a result of maintaining their home in Italy. 

In 1936, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli – who would go on to become Pope Pius XII – stayed at Inisfada for three months while on tour in the United States, and a portrait of his likeness hangs in Inisfada’s Main Hall.

Following her death in 1938, Genevieve Brady left Inisfada to the Jesuit order and in the years since, the house has been turned over into a seminary and retreat house for regional parishes and addiction rehabilitation groups. 

Over time, the Jesuits sold off much of the 300 acre property for development, and Evrard said about 33 acres remains, including a walking tour of the stations of the cross as well as a walking meditative tour called “The Road to Emmaus,” based on the Bible passage that ends the Gospel of Luke. 

But after the New York Province of the Society of Jesus completed a five-year cost projection study on Inisfada, Evrard said, the property became too expensive for the Jesuit order to retain.

“The place runs an $80,000 [per year] oil bill for heating and $90,000 in liability insurance,” Evrard said. “It became too much to maintain.”

According to a recent News 12 report about the state of the property’s sale, prospective buyers have come from all over the world to scout the mansion as a personal home or as the possible site of another organization.

“The province hired a real estate broker who would call us when a client would want to see the house,” Evrard said. “We didn’t know much – we still don’t really know much – but when they started asking to do health tests and asking questions about the foundation, we pretty much knew what was up.” 

Father Damian Halligan told News 12 he wants Inisfada’s next owner to care for the property as much as St. Ignatius has over the years.

“It’s been even more than a home, you know? It’s really a treasure,” he said.

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Bill San Antonio

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