VIDEOJust a short ride from New York City on Long Island’s North Shore lies a place of uninhibited wealth and opulence immortalized in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book,
The Great Gatsby. Many of the “Gold Coast” mansions that grace this scenic coastal area, so-called due to the huge concentration of fortunes here, are open for the public’s perusal and enjoyment. Come to Long Island’s Gold Coast and take a step back in time to the 1920s when neighbors at the upper echelon of high society strove to out-do each other in terms of lavish, castle-like mansions and gardens of European caliber. Visit Old Westbury Gardens, the Vanderbilt Estate, or the Frick Estate at the Nassau County Museum of Art. Over a half-dozen estates, once owned by some of the most famous people from New York, have been converted to public use. Many offer art galleries and tours, and others open to allow visitors to stroll the grounds and spectacular gardens to get a feel for what life was like for the privileged few. Others such as Oheka castle, once the home of Otto Hermann Kahn, and the Glen Cove Mansion, once a Pratt family estate, are open to the public for events and overnight accommodations. The Mansions
This elegant estate, which features a 70-room English manor house and traditional English formal gardens sprawling over 100 acres, was built by financier John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, in 1906. The spectacular estate has been featured in many movies, including Love Story, The Age of Innocence, Wolf, and Cruel Intentions. The public is welcome to explore both the house, furnished with English antiques and decorative artwork, and the grounds, which include rose gardens, walled gardens and a pond. Old Westbury Gardens is also the site of many special events, such as concerts by Juilliard students, living history weekends, costume exhibits and fairs. Old Westbury Gardens. William K. Vanderbilt II cut a dashing figure. In addition to adventuring Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum. all over the world, bringing back plant and animal specimens, the great-grandson of railroad tycoon Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt had a true passion for the automobile. In the early 20th century, he built his own private, limited access highway across much of Long Island, then instituted a series of wildly popular car races. Today, “Eagle’s Nest,” the estate he built overlooking the Long Island Sound, has become the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium. In addition to a 24-room Spanish Revival Mansion designed by the architects who created the original Grand Central Station, the 43-acre museum complex encompasses a marine museum, natural history habitats, seaplane hanger, gardens, fountains, and a host of other unforgettable sights. The Planetarium, Long Island’s largest, features the domed 60-foot Sky Theater, which recreates celestial events with over 11,000 stars strewn across the Milky Way.
In 1919, Henry Clay Frick, the co-founder of U.S. Steel, gave this estate to his son Childs, as a wedding present. Childs Frick, a dedicated naturalist and a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History. Today, the Georgian mansion in Roslyn houses the Nassau County Museum of Art, which features a permanent art collection as well as changing exhibits. The 145 acres, which featured one of the most noted landscape designs in America, include a sculpture garden, formal gardens, a unique trellis and a wildflower walk. Also on the premises is the Ridder Miniatures Museum, with an outstanding collection of miniatures that includes such exquisitely crafted items as a reproduction of an 18th century harpsichord with an oil painting inside the lid and a lady's writing desk with a secret compartment. Clayton/Nassau County Museum of Art.
This estate was just one of the many Pratt estates which formed the Pratt compound in Glen Cove. Charles Pratt, one of the founders of Standard Oil, settled in the area in 1890. Harold Pratt, who resided at Welwyn, was an avid horticulturalist, and the 204 acres of grounds remain open to the public as a nature preserve. Its exceptional collection includes the tall, straight tulip trees that Native Americans once used to make canoes. Today, the mansion is the site of the Holocaust Memorial and Education Center of Nassau County. The recently renovated facility includes both indoor exhibits as well as outdoor sculptures. . Welwyn Nature Preserve/Holocaust Memorial and Education Center of Nassau County
In 1909, Howard Gould, son of railroad magnate Jay Gould, built a dramatic estate on 300 acres on Sands Point that he called Castle Gould. The castle-like mansion, designed to be a replica of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, overlooked the Long Island Sound. Gould soon sold it to Daniel Guggenheim, who made his fortune in metals. Guggenheim renamed it Hempstead House. Today, it is part of the Sands Point Preserve, along with Falaise. Interior scenes for the film New Jack City were filmed here. Hempstead House/Castle Gould at Sand's Point Preserve.
Daniel Guggenheim gave his son, Harry, property on which to build his own estate, Falaise. The Normandy-style mansion was constructed in 1923. Guggenheim was a close of friend of Charles Lindbergh, who wrote his book, “We,” while a guest at Falaise. Guggenheim's wife Alicia went on to found Newsday, which remains Long Island’s primary daily newspaper. Today, in addition to the two imposing gray stone fantasy homes, the 216 acre Sands Point Preserve offers nature trails, exhibits, and special events like an annual Medieval Fair, for which it serves as the perfect backdrop. . Falaise at Sand's Point Preserve
In 1919, banker Otto Hermann Kahn, whose wealth and prominence rivaled J.P. Morgan’s, built the nation’s second largest private residence. (The largest was Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House in North Carolina). Kahn’s 126-room mansion was modeled after Napoleon’s Chateau Fontainebleau. His 443-acre estate included a golf course, gardens, stables, greenhouses, a working farm, private airstrip, tennis courts, indoor pool, and a gatehouse. Its name came from the first letters of his name O-He-Ka. Kahn entertained many famous friends at his estate, including Fanny Brice, Helen Hayes, George Gershwin, Enrico Caruso, and Arturo Toscanini. While Oheka Castle is currently used for private events, visitors who call ahead can tour the grounds and even reserve a room to stay overnight Oheka Castle. .
Coe Hall was built in 1921 Planting Fields/Coe Hall. by Standard Oil heiress Mai Rogers Coe and her husband, insurance magnate William Robertson Coe. Today, Planting Fields still consists of 409 acres, with much of its historic landscaping intact. Greenhouses, hiking trails, formal gardens, and huge stretches of green lawn make it a peaceful and scenic spot to stroll. Inside the Tudor Revival mansion, Coe Hall, visitors can view many of the family’s original furnishings, including the completely restored Louis XVI reception room. Other extraordinary features include wood and stone carvings, ironwork, and 13th through 19th century stained class windows. Scenes of the remake of the film Sabrina were shot at Coe Hall. Plantings Fields numerous special events include outdoor concerts in the warm weather months most notably, the Friends of the Arts Summer Festival, which includes an exceptional jazz series .
The 55-acre estate of John and Ruth Pratt was built in 1910 and was designed by the noted architect Charles Adams Plat (1861-1933). John Pratt was an attorney and an executive with Standard Oil Company. Ruth Baker Pratt was the first Republican Congresswoman from the state of New York. She represented New York City’s “Silk Stocking” district. Ruth and her family maintained the estate until her death in 1965. Since 1967, additions and conservation have succeeded in creating a premier hotel and conference center. The brick Georgian mansion acts as the reception, meetings and restaurant area, while an extended hotel with indoor/outdoor pool and recreation facilities welcomes overnight visitors. . Glen Cove Mansion
. Caumsett State Park/Marshall Field III Estate
Marshall Field III was an investment banker and heir to the Chicago department store empire his grandfather Marshall Field founded. In the early 1920s, he commissioned famous architect John Russell Pope for the construction of a 1600 acre estate on Long Island’s gorgeous North Shore at Lloyd Neck. The English style estate included tennis courts, stables, a dairy featuring prize cattle, and a farm. Today, the estate is preserved as state park, with hiking and biking trails. You can venture to the mansion itself, currently under renovations, or down to the rocky shoreline and salt marsh.
. Comprising 550 acres of fields, woodlands, ponds and grounds from two former estates, Muttontown is Nassau County's largest nature preserve. Owned and operated by the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums, it encompasses miles of marked nature trails with local wildflowers, trees, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians (maps and brochures available for self-guided tours). Guided public nature walks and school educational programs are available by appointment. Rooms in the Chelsea Center are available for rental to non-profit educational and public service organizations, excluding fundraising events. The circa 1904 Nassau Hall, home to the Nassau Parks Conservancy, is open to the public weekdays. Chelsea/Muttontown Preserve