Whatever future use Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda have in mind for it -- as their port in a political storm or just a hideaway for Imelda on her frequent U.S. visits -- the Long Island estate they quietly bought for a reported $1 million and have spent the last two years and millions more renovating, is ready at last for occupancy.
Marcos may slip out to see it this week while he is in New York City, but a spokesman said yesterday that it was the first time he had heard about the estate.
"This is really news to me," said Ambassador Rodolfo Severino, reached in New York's Waldorf-Astoria with the Marcos party.
Imelda Marcos made a final inspection last week of the old white shingle mansion she's had transformed into an elegant country manor when she stopped off in New York City en route to Washington for her husband's first state visit in 16 years. The night before she arrived, carpenters worked around the clock building a gazebo near the new swimming pool. The old one has been turned into a reflecting pool.
Situated in Center Moriches of Suffolk County, where it was known as the Leslie Estate for 30 years, the property was severely damaged by hurricane in 1938. Soon after it was sold to Otto and Maria Amende and converted into a popular resort hotel called the Lindenmere. About five years ago it was sold again but plans to renovate it never materialized.
Two years ago the Marcoses bought it and, despite the troubled Philippine economy -- where there is 24 percent inflation, 20 percent unemployment and 84 percent of the people live below poverty level -- the Philippine president and his wife spared no expense in their lavish renovations.
"They haven't missed one inch," says one resident who has watched the transformation both inside and out. "Financially, they have helped the economy of Center Moriches because they have kept it all local. In the hardware store alone, they spent almost $7,000 on wallpaper."
This same source describes a house of tasteful if expensive decor, individual his-and-her suites where "everything is gold-plated," and an entire upper floor designed to house the Marcoses' large security staff. Elsewhere on the eight acres are apartments for the 20 or so servants who care for the house. There is a private dock where the Marcoses can tie their seaplane after the flight from New York City, about 60 miles away.
No one knows what tax status the estate will be granted, although one official said it was his understanding that it is privately and not government-owned.
"God, I hope not," said a Center Moriches resident at the prospect of a tax-exempt status.