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Norwich House

Upper Brookville, Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York

Completed in 1920, for Frank C. B. Page (1870-1938) and his wife, Henrietta Jackson (1874-1961). Page was the President of the E.W. Bliss Co., of Brooklyn, New York, that turned huge profits manufacturing torpedoes for the allied forces during World War One. In 1916, he bought two farms outside Oyster Bay totalling 66-acres and the following year he commissioned, not one of New York's, but one of New England's most esteemed architectural firms, Little & Browne of Boston, to build the house. The result was a 38-room, red brick mansion that he named Norwich House....
On completion, Norwich House covered a foot print of 18,929 square feet, containing 27-rooms with 11-bathrooms. The estate has since been reduced to 14-acres although that still gives it an overall estimated value of $9.3 million in today's terms. The architects, Little & Browne, also built the white stucco, semi-circular stable block (now garages) with guest cottages of 9-rooms at either end; and, the estate manager's cottage of 8-rooms.

Turning the Page to the Millers

From the get-go in its early years, Norwich House was the scene of several wedding parties and its ownership is best plotted through the dates of these celebrations: In the same year the house was completed (1920), it saw Miss Katherine Page married in the Drawing Room ("decorated with Southern smilax, palms and other greens") to the celebrated and dashing First World War Flying Ace, Lt. Howard Burdick D.F.C. Five years later (1925), Miss Ruth Page, was married here in, "a typical American society country marriage" which was likely the last great celebration held here by the Page family.

In 1922, Nathan L. Miller (1868-1953) was elected the 43rd Governor of New York. That year, he leased Erlowest on Lake George as a summer home before purchasing Norwich House from the Pages in what must have been around 1927, when he added the indoor pool. Three of the Miller's daughters (Marian, Elizabeth and Eleanor) were married here in 1928, 1929 and 1937 respectively. Elizabeth's vows were read in the sunken garden.

"A Gatsby-Like Party Pad"

Governor Nathan Miller was described as, "a puritanical enemy of alcohol" which had made him popular among voters, but it was perhaps best that he had quit politics by the time he gave away his middle daughter, Elizabeth, to the unapologetic hedonist Alvin P. Adams. Alvin's equally charismatic father, Orson, had served time for embezzlement in Colorado, and for two brief years Alvin had been the brother-in-law of Montreal's "Grey Ghost of the Ritz," Elwood Hosmer. Alvin himself was the jazz-mad, banjo-playing, amateur boxing champion who would become VP of Pan-Am under his friend Juan Trippe. It was said he was, "the very embodiment of the flapper era: a man so devoted to the pursuit of wine, women and song that when the 1920s ended, he refused to let them go"!

Between 1929 and 1934, Elizabeth's playboy husband, Alvin P. Adams (1905-1996), turned Norwich House into, "a Gatsby-like party pad" when it attracted the likes of Grace Kelly, Howard Hughes, W. C. Fields, Cab Calloway, Anne Baxter and William Randolph Hearst.

The Russians & Election-Meddling

Nathan Miller must have been delighted to see his high-living son-in-law transferred to California, and he was now able to enjoy his country home as a place of peace and repose! The ex-Governor died in 1938, but his widow and their children maintained the mansion until 1952, when Mrs Miller sold the estate for $80,000 to the Soviet Union. Since then, it has been one of three mansions in the vicinity used as retreats for Russian diplomats.

On December 29, 2016, President Obama imposed sanctions on the Russian intelligence services and expelled 35 Russian officials from the United States in retaliation for their alleged role in "cyber-meddling" with that year's U.S. Presidential Elections. Among other measures taken, Norwich House, "where Russian diplomats go to unwind, and, according to the White House, possibly make time for a little espionage" was shut down. Despite rumors in June 2017 that President Trump was moving towards handing back Norwich House to the Russians, in July NBC reported that he was unable to agree a deal with Vladimir Putin, who it is said has the return of the property high on his list of agenda.

Norwich House or the Elmcroft Estate. Can You Help?

Today, the estate is also referred to as Elmcroft but in all contemporary press reports following the comings-and-goings of both the Page and Miller families to their country home, it was always referred to as Norwich House, never Elmcroft. It is possible that the name Elmcroft was given to one or other of the two farms purchased by Frank Page from the Seaman and Mitchell families that combined to make up the estate, and perhaps that stuck locally? On the sales catalogue of 1952 the house is advertised merely as a property in Oyster Bay and neither Norwich nor Elmcroft is attached to it which gives rise to the suggestion that it was the Russians who gave it the name Elmcroft? If you can help shed any light on the matter, or have any stories to share, please leave a comment below.