Gold Coast Mansions
Grand entrances give way to opulent staircases, dazzling chandeliers, vaulted ceilings and ballrooms fit for kings. These are the great mansions of Nassau County’s Gold Coast. Today, these lavish mansions have opened their wrought-iron gates to the public. Tour the baronial interiors. Stroll the lush grounds. Step back into another time, and another world.
The Gold Coast earned its nickname during the Gilded Age. The great estates with ornate gardens and unique manses were the weekend getaways and summer retreats of financiers and robber barons alike. The homes had names like Cedarmere, Coe Hall and Chelsea Mansion. Their owners went by Morgan, Woolworth, Chrysler, Vanderbilt, and Phipps. Their lifestyles, and parties were legend. Their visitors ranged from Caruso to Chaplin. And of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the spirit of the age in his classic Gold Coast novel, “The Great Gatsby,” which fictionalized Kings Point and Sands Point as West Egg and East Egg. Among the preserved Gold Coast mansions open to the public for touring are:
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
From 1902 to 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt served as the 26th President of the United States, this was the “Summer White House.” He lived there until his death in 1919, and it remains just as it was when he was in residence--moose heads and all. The grounds include an Audubon Center and songbird sanctuary. History buff or not, the Roosevelt home is not to be missed. And because the National Parks Service manages it, you don’t have to travel all the way to Yellowstone to see a real life ranger.
Old Westbury Gardens
The former estate of John S. and Margarita Grace Phipps, and today site of numerous concerts, lectures, special events, and feature films, Old Westbury Gardens is perhaps the most recognizable of all Gold Coast properties. Its centerpiece is Westbury House, a Charles II-style mansion where the Phipps family lived for 50 years. The 160-acre property also features world-renowned gardens with sweeping lawns, woods, ponds and lakes, and more than 100 species of trees. Tour the palatial home, walk its grounds, and enjoy a window on Long Island’s Gilded Age.
Sands Point Park and Preserve
The Sands Point Park and Preserve features three castle-like mansions; Hempstead House, Castle Gould, and Falaise. Falaise, built by Harry S. Guggenheim, is open to the public and has many distinctive architectural features including thickly mortared walls, steeply pitched tile roofs and a round tower that echoes a medieval fortress. Furnished with antiques dating back to the 16th century, Falaise also boasts paintings from the Renaissance, and several important pieces of modern art.
But maybe the outdoors is more your thing. The Sands Point Park and Preserve has wooded hiking grounds as well as trails that lead down to its beach on the Long Island Sound—perfect for a leisurely stroll or cross-country skiing on a winter day. And all activities including tours of Falaise are open to the public.
The 40-room mansion, located on the northern end of Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich, was built by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Moore in 1924. It is a prime example of the leading design ideas during the latter part of the Gold Coast era. Not to be missed: the moat.
Mill Neck Manor
Originally called Sefton Manor, the 86-acre estate was purchased by Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (the founding group of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations) from Lillian Sefton Dodge in 1949 for $216,000. Still owned and operated by the Mill Neck Family, the campus includes an historic Manor House, formal sunken gardens, a state-of the art Deaf Education Center, Early Childhood Center, community audiology facility, as well as administrative offices coordinating services for people who are Deaf and/or have other special needs locally, nationally and around the world.
American poet William Cullen Bryant lived in this house in Roslyn from 1843 until his death in 1878. The seven-acre estate was bequeathed to Nassau County by his descendants, as a memorial. It features a Gothic mill, a pond spanned by a stone bridge and a small formal garden.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
The former home of Standard Oil heiress Mai Rogers Coe, and her husband, William R. Coe, the 409-acre Oyster Bay estate features a public garden, an arboretum, greenhouses, and the 65-room Tudor Revival Coe Hall mansion. Its rooms are restored to Gilded Age standards, and Camellia House, an “out building” contains the largest collection of flowering camellia bushes in the Northeast.
The Nassau County Museum of Art
Housed in the former estate of Childs Frick, son of U.S. Steel co-founder Henry Clay Frick, the museum features a 145-acre campus including the main museum, the Tee Ridder Miniatures Museum, formal gardens and a collection of monumental outdoor sculpture.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy
The former Kings Point estate of auto magnate Walter P. Chrysler was acquired by the federal government in 1943, and dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A little known gem on the estate: the American Merchant Marine Museum.
C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University
The 307-acre campus contains the Tudor/Elizabethan-style mansion of its onetime owners, Post Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband Edward F. Hutton.
Hofstra University administration offices on the South Campus are housed inside The Netherlands, the former home of lumber and pulp paper millionaire William S. Hofstra and his wife, Kate Mason Hofstra. The building is now known as Hofstra Hall.
The de Seversky Center
Alfred I. DuPont, a businessman, inventor and philanthropist, commissioned the neo-classical Georgian mansion in 1916. It was purchased by the New York Institute of Technology in 1972. It is located in Old Westbury and named in honor of the famous Russian aviator, Alexander P. de Seversky.
Other points of interest on the Gold Coast include historic structures from earlier eras, such as the Saddle Rock Grist Mill in Great Neck, one of the oldest tidal grist mills in America, and the c.1680 Van Nostrand-Starkins House Museum in Roslyn.