Crumbling $30m ‘Great Gatsby’ mansion – Not So Secret Obsessions

This really combines so many of my ‘Not So Secret Obsessions’ into one article:  F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby,” crumbling and faded opulence and site-specific architectural history.  I do with the overall feeling was more of a happy one, but it rarely is when they are tearing down something beautiful to create anything new.

In its Gilded Age heyday, it was the scene of lavish parties attended by the likes of Winston Churchill, the Marx Brothers and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But now Lands End, the grand colonial mansion said to be the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan’s house in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, is set to be torn down – because no one will buy it.

The 1902 property, set in 13 acres on the tip of Sands Point, Long Island, is slowly crumbling and costs $4,500 each day to maintain.

Crumbling: Lands End, the $30million mansion said to be the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan’s home in The Great Gatsby, is set to be torn down.
Sad end: The dramatic but dilapidated property on the tip of Sands Point, Long Island, will soon be reduced to rubble because no one will buy it.
Past its glory days: Broken and boarded-up windows of the once-opulent mansion.

David Brodsky, who bought the estate with his father Bert in 2004, has had the dilapidated mansion on and off the market for several years, but has never found a buyer for it.

Now he plans to demolish the house, valued at $30million, to make way for Sands Point Village, a community of five custom-made homes which will cost $10million each.

The project’s construction manager, Clifford Fetner, told Newsday: ‘The cost to renovate these things is just so overwhelming that people aren’t interested in it. The value of the property is the land.’

The faded mansion will become one of hundreds lost along the Gold Coast in the last 50 years.

The stretch of Long Island earned its name from the opulent properties built by New York’s wealthiest families during the early 20th century.

Beacon Towers, the property said to have inspired Gatsby’s home in Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, was torn down in 1945.

Ruin: The 1902 residence, set in 13 acres, costs $4,500 each day to maintain.
Rust in peace: The empty swimming pool and rotting diving board reflect the state of disrepair.

Fitzgerald’s own house is still standing though. He and his wife Zelda lived in Great Neck, Long Island, from October 1922 to May 1924.

He drew inspiration for his nouveau-riche West Egg society from the Great Neck community, home to celebrities and writers including Groucho Marx, Basil Rathbone and  P.G. Wodehouse.

Lands End, which scholars believe is the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan’s house, is in the ‘blue-blooded’ Sands Point across the water, the basis for East Egg.

In the book, the house has a green light at the end of the dock which Gatsby gazes at every night from his mansion.

Lost landmark: Beacon Towers, thought to be the inspiration behind Jay Gatsby’s West Egg mansion, was demolished in the 1940s.

The estate, originally called Keewaydin, was once owned by the executive editor of the New York World newspaper, Herbert Bayard Swope.

According to Forbes, he used to throw extravagant parties for guests including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Dorothy Parker, Groucho Marx and  the Fitzgeralds.

They danced on the roof of a rounded cabana by the 75ft swimming pool, and would have stayed in one of the six family-sized bedrooms while the Swopes lived in  the three-room master suite.

The 24,000 sq ft mansion has 25 rooms, which in its heyday had Palladian windows, marble floors and hand-painted wallpaper.

It’s in an idyllic setting. As well as views across Long Island sound, it has its own tennis court, two private sandy beaches and a 75ft swimming pool. There’s even a bird sanctuary next door.

But now the opulent waterfront house is slowly crumbling. Its Doric columns are unsteady, some of its windows are missing and the front door has come off its hinges, according to Newsday.

Mr Brodsky’s father bought the mansion – which his son termed a ‘white whale’ – for $17.5million from Virginia Kraft Payson, the late wife of former Mets owner Charles Shipman Payson.

He planned to renovate it and turn it into a family home, but it proved too costly. In 2006, Mr Brodsky estimated it would cost around $2million to make it liveable.

He told the New York Times a developer would need to rip out the banana-yellow countertops in the kitchen, take out the neon flower-power 1970s-style carpeting and overhaul many of the house’s 14 bedrooms.

Mr Brodsky believes its heritage is not all it seems. He told the New York Post: ‘To be honest with you there isn’t anything really special about it.

In the novel, Jay Gatsby watches a green light burn in Daisy’s house in East Egg across the water every night.

‘And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.’

‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay… You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’

‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’

Opulent lifestyle: Mia Farrow as Daisy dances with Robert Redford as Gatsby. Lands End was the scene of lavish parties in the 1920s and 30s

‘We did a lot of research on its history and there is really no evidence that Fitzgerald was even ever there.’

But Professor Ruth Prigozy of Hofstra University, a Fitzgerald expert, told the newspaper: ‘I think it’s probable that he used the physical aspects of Lands End as a model.

‘It was the view – that’s what set it apart.’

Monica Randall, of the North Shore Preservation Society, told Newsday: ‘I just know that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a frequent guest.

‘Fitzgerald is one of our great writers, and if it goes down it will because money seems to be the big thing in our society.

‘Why can’t it stay there. We don’t have the capacity or the wherewithal to reproduce it. I don’t think we have the right to destroy something we can’t recreate.’

The book was turned into a movie in 1974, starring Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan and Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby. 

But producers chose not film it on Long Island, instead using Heatherden Hall in England for Daisy’s mansion, and houses on Rhode Island for Gatsby’s home.

The demolition of Lands End was completed last year


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