After seven years, the historic statue of the horse tamer was placed back on its pedestal in front of Roslyn High School’s main entrance. The horse tamer is one of two statues which were sculpted more than 100 years ago for the home of Clarence Mackay. Both statues were placed on either side of the garden terrace at the Mackay Estate. Each weighing thousands of pounds, the statues remained on the Mackay estate for more than 40 years.
When Mackay died in 1938, the mansion quickly became rundown and was later demolished in 1947 although the statues remained. The horse tamer statues are some of the few historical items that still remain from the Mackay estate. One of the statues stayed in its original location until the Town of North Hempstead restored it and in 2013, it was placed in Gerry Park Pond, where it now resides.
The Roslyn School District has been in possession of the second horse tamer statue since 1959. When the school district received it, the statue was badly broken and had been knocked off its original pedestal. A local artist convinced the Roslyn School Board to adopt the statue and to preserve it.
The statue remained in the front of the high school until it was removed in 2012, after decades of exposure to the elements caused the marble statue to deteriorate. The statue’s head, left rm and the horse’s front hooves were falling off and was being held together by red straps. It was removed and held for safekeeping until enough money could be gathered to have it restored.
Barbara Silverman-Berke, a Roslyn High School alumni from the class of 1969, was instrumental in setting up a multi-year campaign to raise funds for the restoration. Silverman-Berke’s family was very involved in the Roslyn community and it was her father who first convinced her to take on the project.
“It’s a story that touches a lot of people. [The statue] was so important to him and it’s really quite special,” she said.
Silverman-Berke took on the project with a handful of Roslyn alumni and community members. Together the group worked to send out letters to residents in the community, as well as alumni, to gain interest about the restoration. They also tabled at various school events, high school reunions and reached out to Nassau County for additional funds. Grants were eventually secured from the Gerry Trust and Nassau County, which had also helped to fund the earlier restoration of the other Horse Tamer statue. The campaign also received many private donations for the restoration project.
“As someone who grew up in the community and is an alumni of the school, I have a deep sense of gratitude for the education we received,” Silverman-Berke said. “The horse tamer statue itself was emblematic of the greatness of attending Roslyn High School. It was a sentimental symbol, which is featured in the circle at the high school.”
After raising the funds for more than seven years, Silverman-Berke agreed that the timing couldn’t have worked out any better. The horse tamer is back at the high school right in time for the class of 1969’s 50th class reunion. Silverman-Berke, who now lives in Boston, has not yet seen the horse tamer since it was placed back at the high school on Aug. 29, and she is excited to see it for the first time when she visits for the reunion.
The Horse Tamer’s historical value to the community lies in its connection to the Mackay family and the story of Roslyn’s public schools. Katherine Mackay served on Roslyn’s school board in the first decade of the last century and was the first female trustee. In the 1920s, Clarence Mackay donated a parcel of land for the construction of a new high school. After the Village School burned in 1927, a new high school was built on the land.
The restoration of the horse tamer took more than a year, as extensive work needed to be done to restore the statue. Several cracks throughout the statue were repaired, missing pieces of the statue were re-sculpted, including the tamer’s head, the horse’s hooves, and parts of the bridle, mane and horse’s body. Silverman-Berke expressed her gratitude for everyone who donated to the restoration.
“The contributions [to the restoration] were gratefully accepted,” she said.
Commemorative bricks and a plaque with the names of the donors who contributed money will soon be placed on the ground around the horse tamer. The school district will also be adding lights, landscaping and will be finishing the concrete work on the pedestal. After the additional work is completed, the Roslyn School District will be holding a ceremony to commemorate the statue’s return.
—Additional information provided by the Roslyn School District