Victoria’s Diary: My visit to Imagination Land

Painted wood sculptures and are work can be seen throughout the property.

Thanks to my colleague and friend Tanya Phillips, I got a chance to meet a couple who have created a unique haven in the hills of Cold Spring Harbor

Her decades-long friends Jerry and Suzette Heller invited me to join them at their home for an outdoor dinner. I drove up the hilltop to find their home, which was on a steep downward road — I stopped cold as I entered their driveway and saw statues, painted animals and birds, colorful gardens and huge butterflies hanging between the trees. They have a sign entering the “Milan Street” that reads “Enjoy our feast on restaurant road in Imagination Land.” And is it ever!

Tom and Tanya Phillips with the Hellers.

Jerry, a dentist on Grand Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has made his avocation creating a home filled with art, sculptures, bird feeders, waterfalls and wonderful gardens overflowing with colorful artificial flowers that give him a vibrant landscape all year long. 

I asked Jerry why he used them and he simply said, “Well, I like colors in my garden all year round and these flowers never fade.”

As I toured the hilltop home, my mouth dropped and my eyes popped at every turn. When I walked down the steps of their brick-and-mortar home, I saw a “street” of trompe l’oeil storefronts painted on the walls recreating a street they had visited in Milan.

The Hellers had an artist recreate shops they saw in Milan.

I asked Jerry’s wife of 45 years how they came to create the scene and she said, with a smile on her face, “When we went to Milan, Italy, and walked down the narrow cobblestone streets, I was struck by the beauty of the scene and when we came back home we had artists recreate it!”

I turned another corner of their property where they had recreated a scene in Venice. I took steps further down into the hilltop property and there was a stunning waterfall with a wood-carved gorilla perched on top of the rock formation! I thought he was blowing a shofar, but Jerry corrected me and said no, it’s marijuana!

What topped all of this was a room Jerry created on the edge of his property just to watch the stunning sunsets that fall on Cold Spring Harbor.

The evening even included a delicious dinner of sizzling steak, mouthwatering ribs and barbecued chicken all prepared by Jerry on his grill. He’s even a great chef!

I will remember Jerry and Suzette and their creative, extraordinary home forever!

Claire lives on

When I lost my best friend — the implacable, one-of-a-kind Claire Shulman — my heart was broken.

I know time heals and I was thrilled to hear that a little Claire has been born: her great-grandchild Leah Claire Brown, born to her granddaughter Caroline Shulman and Paul Brown on Sept. 26, 2020. 

Leah Claire Brown

It’s so special to know a new Claire now will walk the Earth, as does her cousin Meredith Claire. May they be as impactful as their grandma and great-grandma.