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Long Island Opulence: Gatsby and the Mansions of the Gold Coast

PODCAST Relive a little Jazz Age luxury by escaping into the colossal castles, manors and chateaus on Long Island’s North Shore, the setting for one of America’s most famous novels.

This is the first part of our new mini-series Road Trip to Long Island featuring tales of historic sites outside of New York City.

Many of you are quite familiar with Long Island; you might have grown up there or you may be a frequent visitor to its most famous recreational sites — The Hamptons, Fire Island or Long Island wine country.

But the world is perhaps most familiar with Long Island thanks to the 1925 classic novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a tale of romantic yearning and social status during the Jazz Age — set specifically in the year 1922, in the grand and opulent manor of its mysterious anti-hero Jay Gatsby.

A house so large and so full of luxury that it doesn’t seem like it could even be real.

And yet hundreds of these types of mansions dotted the landscape of Long Island in the early 20th century, particular along the north shore. This area was known as the Gold Coast.

In this episode, we present the origin of the Long Island Gold Coast and stories from its most prominent (and unusual) mega-mansions. Lifestyles of the Long Island rich and famous!

PLUS: A road trip to Planting Fields Arboretum, the lavish grounds of the old W.R. Coe estate. Hidden rooms, bizarre murals and curious gardens!

Listen Now: Gatsby and the Mansions of the Gold Coast


Places to Visit:

Just a few of the surviving places that we mentioned on the show. But there are so many more to explore! Visit the website Gold Coast Mansions for information on tours. There’s also this wonderfully in-depth Wikimapia resource to check out.

Planting Fields Foundation (W.R. Coe estate)

 Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve (Marshall Field estate)

Nassau County Museum of Art (Childs Frick estate)

Oheka Castle (Otto Kahn estate)

Old Westbury Gardens (John S. Phipps estate)

Sands Point Preserve (Gould-Guggenheim estate)

Vanderbilt Museum (William ‘Willie’ Kissim Vanderbilt II estate)

and

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (the home of Theodore Roosevelt)


The old Woolworth manor Winfield Hall. As you might expect, like many Gold Coasts mansions, this one is reportedly haunted. (courtesy Old Long Island)
The Carlisle manor (courtesy Mansions of the Gilded Age)
Caumsett Manor, the Marshal Field estate. 1933 (Image courtesy Shorpy)
The Fitzgeralds lived in this house in Great Neck in 1922. It went on the market for sale back in 2015. (Photo by Wall Street Journal)

Images from Planting Fields/Coe Hall:

All photos by Greg Young
Tom in the secret bar behind the wall.
Mr. Coe’s bathroom
Mr. Coe’s light bath — like a sauna but for light rays.

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4 replies on “Long Island Opulence: Gatsby and the Mansions of the Gold Coast”

What a shame too many of those mansions were lost. The lead photo of Beacon Towers really brings home what we lost. I understand it was unappreciated by the 1940s and was demolished accordingly. But, the story of Beacon Towers makes me wonder what styles of modern architecture out on the Gold Coast today would we demolish today? What do you think people in the future would bemoan if more recent homes were torn down?

I have a great story about Planting Fields. Many years ago my 2 friends and I went to Planting Fields to walk around and enjoy the grounds. We wanted to see a jazz concert that evening. We did not want to pay the extra fee to see the concert so we walked up into the forest on one of the trails and hid for two hours! We eventually came down and watched the concert with a lovely bottle of wine! The funniest thing was when we looked for my car in the parking lot it was the only car there. We thought for sure we would be caught but no one said anything! What a wonderful day that was! Loved this episode I love you guys.

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