“Home is the heart of life…”—Terence Conran
The sage-toned Victorian-style house at 60 George Street in Babylon stands on the same corner it has since the 19thcentury. An air of solidity and serenity emanates from every corner, both to passers-by in this waterfront village and to anyone stepping inside.
A sense of warmth and welcome is very much at the foundation of this building, so it feels almost fated that it became home to the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island in October 2021. While in-patient services are still primarily handled just a stone’s throw away at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, the outpatient headquarters moved here with a vision of becoming an essential part of the lives of patients and the community.
Dr. Kimon Bekelis, director of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island, and his wife, Hillary, a nurse practitioner, intentionally selected what they admiringly refer to as this “architectural landmark in Babylon” to serve a very specific role for their medical program, which treats a wide range of cerebrovascular diseases.
Having been both a private residence at times and also part of Northwell Health’s South Shore University Hospital, formerly Southside Hospital, in Bay Shore, the building appealed to them for the “medical significance,” in its past, Dr. Bekelis notes, as well as its longtime presence in the village.
“We wanted to make a statement in that regard and show that we are part of the community and we want to preserve the heritage of the community,” says Dr. Bekelis, who established the Center five years ago to fill what he saw as a gap in stroke and brain aneurysm care on Long Island’s South Shore.
Constructed in 1865, the three-story structure now welcomes more than 90% of Center patients, Dr. Bekelis says, mostly for consultation and minimally invasive imaging services. The space without doubt makes a body-mind-soul connection for everyone who enters, while also connecting its new owners to local history. As with most worthwhile journeys, the one that led here was not without its challenges.
The Bekelises closed on the then-vacant building in January 2020, the timing of which added an additional layer to the task awaiting them and Bay Shore–based interior designer Anne Marie Virgilio, who had worked with the Bekelises on reconstructing their East Islip home in 2017. They had established a special sort of personal and professional relationship. Virgilio notes, that made their teaming up again at 60 George Street an ideal fit.
But it was no easy task. The interior footprint was very different when they purchased the home, Virgilio says, from what we see today. It desperately needed a full renovation. Think breaking down walls, removing marble fireplaces and freshening up the old-school infrastructure.
While Virgilio helped to create consultation, examination and sonogram rooms to fit the center’s modern-day requirements, “We really tried to maintain the …” Hillary starts.
“Integrity of the building,” Virgilio finishes.
“Yeah!” Hillary immediately agrees. “We really loved the moldings, the high-ceilings, the big windows. We tried to keep as much of the building as we could, while enhancing it for what we needed.”
The exterior has maintained its classic rooftop finials, cozy front porch and set of welcoming, red round-top double doors. Inside, a half-turn staircase, revitalized with glossy wood, commands a visitor’s attention. Tin ceilings in the stairwells have been refreshed and repainted white. Most rooms are coated with a cool, green tone.
“We wanted the building to feel serene for the patients,” Virgilio says, “because going to a physician for an appointment such as this, patients are very tense.”
Extraordinary attention to detail was put into the design, from leather-bound accents that match across various rooms to the light fixtures, most of which are set on dimmers to improve patient comfort. Every aspect of color palettes, artwork and even furniture were considered to create the “calming environment” Hillary says, while the functionality of a medical office had to remain top of mind.
“Anne Marie was testing out all the furniture, considering the patients each step of the way, making sure they could get in and out of the chairs comfortably,” Hillary recalls. The building is ADA-compliant, of course, and has a lift for individuals who are in wheelchairs or use walkers.
Indeed, the process was long, but Dr. Bekelis feels it was all worth the effort and time. Everyone at the Center is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community and for this place they now call home to serve as a reference point for cerebrovascular diseases.
And in the short time they’ve been in Babylon, the building has become something of a community favorite.
“When we first opened, patients were asking to take selfies on the staircase, take pictures of the front door,” Hillary says. “I think, especially a lot of people from the area, they know this building and they’re all pretty excited to stop by.”
“The most important part was,” Dr. Bekelis points out, “was the ability to transform a building that we thought was a symbol of Babylon into something more.”
Dr. Kimon Bekelis is a neurosurgeon who specializes in endovascular neurosurgery and neurovascular critical care, which encompasses the treatment of stroke and brain aneurysms. He completed his residency at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and finished a fellowship in endovascular neurosurgery in Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania.
In addition to his work with the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island, Dr. Bekelis is the Co-Director of Neuro ICU and Medical Director of Comprehensive Stroke Center at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center. He is also the Chairman of Neurointerventional Services at Catholic Health.