A 25-ROOM LONG ISLAND, US, mansion that some believe inspired F Scott Fitzgerald’s portrayal of lavish lifestyles in his Jazz Age classic the Great Gatsby is being razed, the latest in a long cadence of estates disappearing from what’s known as the Gold Coast.
Known as Land’s End and sitting on a 13-acre lot on Long Island Sound, the 24,000-square foot house is being torn down to accommodate five $10m (€7m) custom homes.
“It’s really a sad thing. The Gold Coast social country life is part of Long Island’s legacy, a reminder of a grand and romantic era,” said Alexandra Wolfe, director of preservation services for the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
“It’s such a shame that people find it difficult to honor that, to preserve that.”
Estate agent Paul Mateyunas estimates that through the end of World War II, the region once boasted about 1,400 estates inhabited by a Who’s Who of the nation’s financial titans. Now, only about 400 remain.
The trend in recent decades has moved away from mega-mansions, he said, largely because even for millionaires, they are very expensive to maintain.
Road to demolition
David Brodsky ,who bought the home with his father Bert Brodsky for $17.5m (€12.3) in 2004, told the Long Island newspaper Newsday that taxes, insurance and maintenance on Land’s End became prohibitive — about $4,500 a day — prompting the decision to build anew.
The property passed through numerous hands before the Brodskys bought it from Virginia Payson, the late wife of former Mets owner Charles Payson.
Demolition crews began leveling the property over the weekend; today work crews could be heard but hardly seen from a service road outside the estate.
The entrance features a dilapidated white picket fence reminiscent of Grey Gardens, the East Hampton home occupied by relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that fell into disrepair and became the subject of a beloved documentary and Broadway play.
In its glory days, Land’s End was said to feature marble, parquet and wide wood-planked floors, Palladian windows and hand-painted wallpaper. The property includes a caretaker’s cottage, two greenhouses, a tennis cabana and a pool house.
Mateyunas said that documenting Long Island lore that the St. Paul, Minn.-born Fitzgerald used Land’s End as his inspiration has proven difficult, but that it doesn’t matter; the house is significant in its own right. The likes of Winston Churchill, the Marx Brothers and Ethel Barrymore actually did attend parties there in the ’20s and ’30s.
Set during Prohibition, Gatsby focuses on a young man’s pursuit of the American dream and the woman he loves with a subtext of the age-old friction of old money and new money.
“There’s a lot of ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ sentiment out there,” Wolfe said. “People have contacted me who want to save it, but it’s too late. It kind of got swept by and wasn’t on the radar screen.”