The Seguine Family
The impressive Greek Revival structure stands on the south shore of Staten Island; among its chief glories is a panoramic view of Prince’s Bay. The land upon which the Mansion sits was purchased by James Seguine between 1780-1786. Seguine Avenue and Seguine Point in Prince’s Bay were named after this prosperous family, whose ancestors first settled on Staten Island about 1706.
James’ grandson, Joseph Seguine, built the current Greek Revival-style house around 1840. In addition to operating the family’s thriving oyster-harvesting business, Joseph helped establish the Staten Island Railroad Company, founded the Staten Island Oil and Candle-making Company, and owned extensive farmland in the surrounding neighborhood. The Seguine’s home reflects their prosperity.
Farmer, shipping merchant and industrialist Joseph Seguine designed the Mansion with six large columns facing the waterfront. The architecture of the house has never been clearly established; however, much of the ornamentation is strikingly similar to work completed on Staten Island by the young Jasper Cropsey, who went on to great fame as a landscape painter.
After Joseph’s death, the house remained in the Seguine family until 1868. Financial reversals forced the family to sell the property. It is believed that the mansion was used as an inn or hotel in the late 19th century, when Prince’s Bay evolved into a popular resort area for bathers who enjoyed the local waters and fresh oysters. Descendants repurchased the house and the 10 surviving acres in 1916.
From the 1950s onward the house fell into great disrepair as the Seguine family gradually moved away and left the property in the hands of a lone caretaker. Slate tiles shifted and leaked, causing severe water damage and partial collapse of the roof. The plaster ceilings’ delicately carved moldings were destroyed by the collapse, and eventually the walls of the house began to split and separate from one another.
After a long search for an appropriate buyer, Elizabeth “Bess” Seguine Aug sold the house in 1981 to George Burke, who had previously restored other historic buildings in the community. Bess, the last Seguine to live in the home, had left Staten Island to return to her Southern roots. She urged Burke to buy the home because she wanted the home to go into good hands.
Burke not only saved the building from the wrecking ball but also ensured that the property would not be subdivided. The renovation of the outside of the house took more than five years and sixty gallons of paint. After restoring the house and establishing an equestrian center at the site, Burke donated the Seguine Mansion to the City of New York in 1989 and retains a life interest in the site.
The interior of the mansion has a museum-like feel, and houses a collection of antiques acquired by Burke from all over the world. Every room tells a story, and this story is best when told by the savior of the house, George Burke.
Thanks to Bart Bland, Edward Johnson and Patricia Salmon of the Staten Island Museum for compiling some of this research.
Thanks to Tom Weis Photography for creating these beautiful images of the Mansion.