Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Gold Coast Mansions Visit NYC...

Last week representatives from the Gold Coast Mansions visited NYC's Grand Central and Penn Stations to participate in Metro-North's Getaway Day Staycation Showcase and the 9th annual "New York By Rail Day."

Both events were affiliated with New York State's Path Through History, an initiative that connects historic and cultural attractions throughout the state. For more information on PTH's events, visit:

Brandon (intern at The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum)
and Vince Kish (director at Old Westbury Gardens) at Grand Central for the 1st annual Path through History event. 
Nancy Leghart from Mill Neck Manor at Grand Central

Actors Christopher and Martina man the GCM table at Penn Station
Martina and Nancy Melius of Oheka Castle

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gold Coast Grand Gestures, Part 3

The third post in a series. For Part 1 and Part 2.
Some Gold Coast residents received such decadent wedding presents from their parents as their own North Shore estate.
Apple Trees, home of Junius S. Morgan © Long Island's Gold Coast
Frances Tracy Morgan and siblings © Long Island's Gold Coast
Paul Pennoyer, husband of Frances Tracy Morgan © PJM
Round Bush, home of Paul and Frances Tracy Pennoyer (née Morgan) © PJM

Financier J.P. Morgan gave his children approximately 30 acres each on Duck Pond Road and a home designed by Roger Bullard.

Harry Guggenheim and wife.
Falaise © Sands Point Preserve
Daniel and Florence Guggenheim gave up their private golf course in order to give their son Harry and his bride, Falaise, a French Norman style home perched on a bluff overlooking Hempstead Harbor.
The Field's Caumsett © North Shore Long Island Country Houses, 1890-1950
Marshall Field and his wife Evelyn build their dream homes together in Manhattan (at 70th and 5th Avenue, razed) and Lloyd Neck (now Caumsett State Park).
Friends and family at Chelsea © Long Island's Gold Coast

Bridge near Yangtze River, inspiration photo taken by Alexandra Moore, 1921
Long Island's Gold Coast
The Moore children on the Moat Bridge at Chelsea © Long Island's Gold Coast
Benjamin and Alexandra Moore designed Chelsea in Muttontown with the help of Delano & Aldrich and hundreds of pictures taken on their honeymoon trip to Europe and Asia. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gold Coast Grand Gestures, Part 2

The second post in a small series. 
For Part 1, click here.
Elaborate weddings were also commonplace in this era, with great country houses serving as backdrops for well-to-do brides and grooms, like F. W. Woolworth’s daughter, who utilized her future in-laws playhouse for their wedding, transforming the indoor tennis court into a lush garden of flowers that is rumored to have exhausted supplies of local florists.   
© Long Island's Gold Coast
Herbert Pratt of the Braes (now Webb Institute) had the ceremonies at their home and the couple received a charming home in Glen Head by renowned Carrère & Hastings.  
© Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate
Besides being one of the most desirable locations for brides to be married today, Oheka was the first choice for owner Otto Kahn's daughter, Maude, to be married—the home movies of which can be seen on the Oheka website.

© Planting Fields Foundation

© Planting Fields Foundation
Natalie Coe got married at her parent’s estate Planting Fields with an elaborate garden party in May of 1934.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Gold Coast Grand Gestures

© Old Westbury Gardens, Jim Large
February is always a romantic month and a time for grand gestures, but many of the residents of the North Shore took gift giving and wedding proposals to a whole new level. 
© Old Westbury Gardens
© Old Westbury Gardens
Most memorable was John S. Phipps's wedding proposal to his future bride Margarita Grace. To fully convince her to leave her beloved England, Phipps promised to build her an English-style home and garden like the one she would be leaving behind.  
© Old Westbury Gardens
Halcyon Days by Peggie Phipps, Richard Gachot, 1905
He did not disappoint, after their wedding the couple broke ground and began construction on Westbury House (now Old Westbury Gardens).
© Old Westbury Gardens, Richard Cheek
Margarita’s beloved walled garden stands a reminder of that romantic promise and inspires countless visitors to the gardens every year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter at the Vanderbilt Museum

© Vanderbilt Museum

Back in November, on a frigidly cold Sunday, I was fortunate enough to take a visit to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

The bitter winds did not encourage lingering around the lovely grounds, but we braved the walk over to the Marine Museum's Hall of Fish to while away some time before our late afternoon tour of the Mansion. I love the vintage hand-lettering and wording of the signs here--it really brings you back to the time of WIllie K, when the hall would have been open to the public on Wednesdays, with the live-in curator eager to give tours.

© Keriann Kohler
The Stoll Wing animal-habitat dioramas are currently under renovation, and sure enough, on our quick exploration of the area we heard drills and saws buzzing away behind the plastic-shielded entrance. I would have loved to see the newly restored 8-ton, 32 foot whale shark--the largest example of fish taxidermy in the world--but am equally excited to see the entire museum reinvigorated.

Hall of Fishes © Vanderbilt Museum
Our last stop was the mansion itself, where we were able to warm up looking at all the specimens in the Memorial Wing while waiting for our tour to start. Bird lovers will be enchanted by the collection of Birds of Paradise from New Guinea, and fisherman will appreciate the continued array of aquatic specimens. Don't miss the small room around the corner that displays trophies and ephemera from Willie K's yachts. I was especially impressed by the photos of the staterooms of the Alva--they were enormous! They could easily be a suite at The Plaza, rather than the stateroom of a yacht. You can watch highlights from the Alva's around the world journey in 1931 here and learn more about the journey on the Vanderbilt's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Library with tree © Vanderbilt Museum
Touring the mansion's living quarters, we were lucky to be treated to a sneak peek of the lovely Christmas decor that had been painstakingly arranged by the Dix Hills, Centerport, Honey Hills, Nathan Hale and Three Village garden clubs; Michele Boyer; Harbor Homestead & Co. Design; Claudia Dowling Interiors, and the Cornell University Cooperative Extension master gardeners.

Michele Boyer trims a tree in Rosamund Vanderbilt's bedroom. 
A drawing of Rosamund hangs on the wall.
Rosamund Vanderbilt's bedroom. © Vanderbilt Museum

Krishtia McCord and Mary Schlotter decorate
William K. Vanderbilt II's bedroom.
As the sun set over the harbor, the rooms were softly lit by the Christmas lights, and one got a real sense of what it would have been like to inhabit this home at the beginning of last century. It was a new way of seeing the mansion for me, and I highly recommend scheduling your visit for a 4pm tour, or even better—from December 26th to 28th the Vanderbilt hosts candlelit Twilight Tours of the decorated mansion from 7-9pm. It's a wonderful place to spend a cold winter's afternoon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inisfada, The Final Chapter

Rear Facade
© Paul J. Mateyunas
We are sad to say that today marks the loss of America's fourth largest home, Inisfada. For its century-long lifetime, Inisfada was the largest residential project, and only on Long Island, in existence by noted Philadelphia architect John Torrey Windrim. 

It is truly devastating that those responsible for the demolition of this significant piece of local and architectural history have further erased the kind of landmark that makes the North Shore unique, and plan to replace it with a high end version of tract housing.

Loss of the Great Room with many details still left in the building
© Paul J. Mateyunas

Example: carved beam ceilings still clinging to the ceiling and now exposed to the sky 
© Paul J. Mateyunas

During the course of its history, Long Island has inspired numerous artists and writers, among them William Cullen Bryant, Walt Whitman, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few. Novels and movies like The Great Gatsby and Sabrina have become American classics. Current pop culture is providing a resurgence of interest in our history, and works like Downton Abbey and Baz Luhrman's remake of The Great Gatsby are causing visitors to flock to places like Newport, RI; Long Island's Vanderbilt Museum and Old Westbury Gardens; and Biltmore in Ashville, NC by the thousands and watch shows like Selling Spelling Manor and The Queen of Versailles. Vast and imposing, the awe-inspiring Inisfada could easily have become "America's Downton Abbey", but now that its physical presence is lost, it is likely that future generations may never even hear about this snippet of our history.

© Paul J. Mateyunas

Inisfada is the most significant house to be razed on Long Island in over three decades, and we suggest that our community take this as the North Shore equivalent of a wake-up call like Manhattan's Penn Station. We hope a loss of this magnitude will finally spark a local movement for mix of new and old buildings and the kind of adaptive reuse that enables us to keep the fabric of our community unique. Let's use this horrible loss as a lesson to appreciate and preserve what we have left.

Leaded glass windows, crushed and smashed in the rubble© Paul J. Mateyunas

© Paul J. Mateyunas

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Inisfada, Continued

Inisfada © North Shore Long Island Country Houses

As discussed in our last post, the future of Inisfada remains the most pressing topic in Long Island's historic mansions today. According to the mayor of North Hills, Marvin Natiss, the group that has purchased Inisfada is interested in fully developing the property, and has not mentioned incorporating the house. (1) Over the past few weeks, asbestos abatement has been going on. This can be a sign of demolition or restoration, but in this case it is most likely the former. (2) If this story ends in the demolition of the house, it will join a long list of other impressive properties that have succumbed to suburbia on the North Shore—though perhaps none quite so large or significant throughout the community as Inisfada.

 Von Stade Estate © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Von Stade Estate © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
• Von Stade Estate, Old Westbury - also William Entenmann's Timber Point Farm
Once a thriving horse farm, built by equine enthusiast F. Skiddy Von Stade and later part of the Entenmann family, the house was left to ruins for decades before finally succumbing to the wrecking ball to make way for a housing development in February 2012.

Dark Hollow © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Dark Hollow © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
• Dark Hollow, Cold Spring Harbor - Oliver Burr Jennings
Designed by architects Mott B. Schmidt and Mogens Tvede in 1930, the centerpiece of the home was the barrel vaulted living room and a two-story rotunda with a repeating star pattern in its large skylight, chandelier, and terrazzo floor. Occupied privately up until 2010, new owners left it to ruin before razing it in January 2012.

© Paul J. Mateyunas
© Paul J. Mateyunas
• Keewaydin, Sands Point - John Scott Browning
Long credited as an inspiration for Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (and once owned by F. Scott Fitzgerald's publisher Herbert Bayard Swopes), Keewaydin was last sold in 2004, and torn down in 2011, when the new owner claimed to be unable to keep up with the costs of maintaining the aging property.

Flora Whitney House © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Flora Whitney House © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Flora Whitney House © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
• Flora Whitney House
The Delano & Aldrich designed home was sold in 1963 to the New York Institute of Technology, who used it until 1999 when it and its 113 acres was sold again for approximately $10 million. It was demolished by its new owners in 2001, when it was replaced by a newly built, even larger home.

Little Ipswich © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
• Little Ipswich, Woodbury - Ruby Ross and Chalmers Wood
Another Delano house, Little Ipswich was a favorite of the architect. The classically styled country home was called "gemlike" by Architectural Digest, and sold to Count Uzielli after Ruby Ross Wood's death. In 1995 it was razed and replaced by a modern development called Peroni Estates.

Burrwood © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Burrwood © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Burrwood © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
Burrwood © North Shore Long Island Country Houses
• Burrwood, Cold Spring Harbor - Walter Jennings
Designed by Carrère & Hastings in 1898, with its grounds done by the Olmsted Brothers, Burrwood sat on 400 sweeping acres with an impressive 4 stories and 50 rooms. Occupied by Jennings for 50 years, Burrwood was occupied for the next 40 years by the Industrial Home for the Blind until it was sold off to a developer and razed in 1993. Not unlike Inisfada, this was a very unpopular and contested decision at the time.

Check back here in the upcoming weeks as crucial meetings and other developments in the story of Inisfada unfold.