SANDS POINT, N.Y. — A 25-room mansion some scholars believe inspired "The Great Gatsby" is to be razed for a subdivision.
Randy Bond, village clerk in Sands Point on New York's Long Island, says it will be replaced by five houses priced at $10 million each. The location faces the Long Island Sound.
Some F. Scott Fitzgerald experts believe the author used the sprawling 1902 property as a model for the home of character Daisy Buchanan, though the current owner believes the mansion's "Gatsby" link has been overstated.
David Brodsky says his family bought it in 2004, but says the house is beyond repair.
Historians tell Newsday, which reported the deal Sunday, that hundreds of the mansions have been lost in the past 50 years because of rising taxes and maintenance costs.
I very much doubt that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have mourned the loss of Lands End, a 25-room house on the Gold Coast of Long Island that provided inspiration for "The Great Gatsby." Newsday reported that the ramshackle mansion, which once hosted not only Fitzgerald but Winston Churchill and the Marx Brothers (not all at the same time, I assume) is being torn down to make way for a condominium subdivision.
After all, "Gatsby," that most American of novels, celebrates destruction, that most American of acts.
In the novel, the stately mansion belongs to Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway's dissolute cousin. As he arrives there for the first time, Nick is awed by the "cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens."
I first read those sentences in the ninth grade, and my response was very likely similar to that of the millions of American students who've been forced to read them since: This book is stupendously, unremittingly boring. The party scenes on Long Island are boring and the Manhattan scenes are boring, too. As for Nick sitting on the dock of Gatsby's empty house, "brooding on the old, unknown world" - that scene was only memorable because it was the last.
"Gatsby" remains one of the most taught books in America, right up there with (speaking of brooding) "The Scarlet Letter," "Catcher in the Rye" and "Hamlet." Few novels bring teenagers so much suffering in so few pages. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the developers of Lands End were razing the poor manse in a longstanding, collective grudge against their English teachers.
But we are bored by "Gatsby" only because we are dishonest with it. If it is "about" anything, it is not "the disintegration of the American dream," as SparkNotes (that lazy student's salvation) claims it is, or the corrosive power of love, or the romantic imagination or even the Jazz Age. These may have been Fitzgerald's topics, but they were not his great central theme.
"A huge incoherent failure of a house" is what Nick calls the mansion of his neighbor Gatsby (in the novel, it is across the bay from the one now being razed).This was also Fitzgerald's conception of his homeland as he wrote the novel - fittingly, from France ("The American in Paris is the best American," he once said in an interview, leaving little doubt about his allegiance). America, in "Gatsby" but also perhaps today, is a country fated to ruin what it creates, much as Gatsby is ruined by his unending stream of guests, "who accepted Gatsby's hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him."
Fitzgerald's Gatsby house is doomed
March 8, 2011 | 11:33 am
The house that some say inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write "The Great Gatsby" is doomed. It's slated to be razed and its property parceled up into new developments.
The once-grand home called Lands End has fallen into disrepair. But back in the day, the 25-room, 20,000-square-foot Colonial Revival mansion was home to parties attended by Winston Churchill, the Marx brothers, Dorothy Parker and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. According to local lore, Fitzgerald drank there too, Newsday reports.
The home was built in 1902 and came to be owned by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope, one of the first recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and editor of the New York World. It was Swope's parties that Fitzgerald was said to have attended. The history of the house -- and its legendary influence on Fitzgerald -- was reported by Forbes when the house was for sale in 2005.
Located on 13 acres in Sands Point, N.Y., on Long Island Sound, the property has a private beach, a grand pool and wide patio (where, according to legend, Fitzgerald was spotted.) In January, Sands Point Village approved plans to raze the house and divide the property into lots for five custom homes, to be sold for $10 million each.
When the house was sold in the mid-2000s, it still had, according to the New York Times, "banana-yellow laminate countertops in the kitchen... neon flower-power 1970's-style carpeting in some of the bedrooms" and other design offenses that called for a full renovation.
Seems to me that an inspired eye could make that work -- although it would have to be an inspired eye with deep pockets -- upkeep was said to be $5,000 a day.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Beautiful but damned: the house that inspired Gatsby
A mansion on Long Island that was frequented by F Scott Fitzgerald in the Roaring Twenties is to be redeveloped
By Guy Adams
Come what may, rich Americans will always, as F Scott Fitzgerald declared, be "different from you and I". In the novelist's roaring heyday, that meant they could throw grand parties fuelled by mint juleps and other Prohibition-era cocktails. Today, they can meanwhile devote their lives to realising obscene profits from real estate.
That is the conclusion one might draw from the news that Land's End, a 25-room mansion on New York's Long Island believed to have inspired Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, is to be razed by its moneyed owner and converted into five shiny new McMansions, worth $10m each.
The property was designed in the Colonial Revival style by Stanford White. It was built in 1902, amid 13 clifftop acres of mature woodland and manicured lawns, but will face the wrecking ball this month.
It's a sad end for a building which scholars believe provided a template for East Egg, home of the fictional Gatsby's neighbour Daisy Buchanan, and which hosted some of history's great cocktail parties.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Winston Churchill, Ethel Barrymore and the Marx brothers are purported to have stood on the veranda, enjoying the sweeping view over Long Island Sound. William Randolph Hearst, who kept a home nearby, is said to have greatly admired the main house's hand-painted wallpaper, Palladian windows, and marble floors.
Fitzgerald, a friend of one owner, the journalist and socialite Herbert Bayard Swope, is believed to have attended several lively social events there. Now the property seems as doomed as his novel's party-loving protagonists.
"I think it's probable that [Fitzgerald] used the physical aspects of Land's End as a model," said Professor Ruth Prigozy of Hofstra University, a specialist on the author, in an interview with the New York Post yesterday. "It was the view... That's what set it apart."
Land's End was one of many great estates built at the turn of the 20th century by wealthy New Yorkers seeking to escape the bustle of the Big Apple for the sea breezes of a picturesque region which became known as the Gold Coast.
Today, like many other mansions of the era, it sits in a state of genteel decay. Reporters peeking up its sweeping driveway at the weekend reported that the front door was flapping off its hinges, windows were missing, and wooden floors had been ripped up for salvage. Even the view isn't what it used to be, thanks to a century of urban sprawl.
The current owner of Land's End is a property developer called Dave Brodsky, whose father, Bert, bought it for $17m in 2004 from the widow of an owner of the New York Mets baseball side. He said he had hoped to restore the building and sell it as a family home, but it turned out to be beyond repair. Property taxes, insurance, and routine maintenance are costing him up to $4,500 a day, he complained. In the era of minimum wages, he cannot afford to maintain the servants that the household would require to run properly.
"In its heyday, it had 20 in help," Mr Brodsky told Newsday. "It was a true Gold Coast estate."
In 2009, to try to stop Land's End from being broken up, he put the estate on the market, for $30m. There were no takers.
The fate of the property mirrors that of many other historic homes in the Gold Coast region. In the Roaring Twenties, it boasted hundreds of large properties. Over the years, it crept ever closer to the urban sprawl of New York (it is surprisingly close to the Bronx), and began to fall out of fashion. At least 500 of the 1,400 major "north shore" properties were demolished during the 1950s and 1960s. Hundreds more went later as the great and the good moved to more secluded areas of Long Island, such as the Hamptons.
Today, while a smattering of historic Gold Coast houses are still standing, relatively few are in private ownership: many have been converted into religious retreats, conference centres, and schools. A former estate owned by the Chrysler family, for example, is now a military academy.
"The cost to renovate these things is just so overwhelming that people aren't interested in it," said Clifford Fetner, the manager in charge of overseeing the development of Land's End, which will become five "custom" homes with garages big enough for SUVs. "The value of the property is the land."
Unlike the UK, America does not have a system whereby historic buildings can be "listed" to prevent them being altered or destroyed. Instead, to the dismay of preservationists, America's architectural heritage is largely governed by market forces.
For Gold Coast historians, "the priority is now drawing attention to these mansions, saving what we can," the local writer Monica Randall told Newsday.
The destruction of important buildings "is becoming more and more of an epidemic," added Alexandra Wolfe, director of preservation services at the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
Fitzgerald would doubtless be appalled. But the loss of Land's End isn't the only thing that may have him turning in his grave this week. The film company Warner Brothers, which is making a movie version of The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio, announced yesterday that the picture would be filmed not on Long Island, or even in the United States, but at a studio in Sydney.
The 17th-century building that inspired Charles Dickens for Miss Havisham's home in Great Expectations has seen its own fortunes fluctuate. Restoration House in Rochester, Kent, was once owned by Rod Hull, the comedian of Emu fame, who bought the dilapidated building in 1987 and started its restoration. It is now open to visitors.
Arundel Castle inspired the author Mervyn Peake for his Gothic classic Gormenghast, published in 1950. The castle, built at the end of the 11th century, has been restored and is the home
‘Gatsby’ or Not, Mansion Slipping Into Past
By Dawn Wotapka
This mansion, which might have inspired parts of “The Great Gatsby,” will be torn down.
The dilapidated Sands Point, N.Y., mansion that might have inspired parts of “The Great Gatsby” will be torn down, Curbed and the New York Post report.
The owners of Lands End, a 25-room mansion that sits in stately isolation above picturesque Long Island Sound, will bulldoze the Colonial turn-of-the-century structure and carve the site into a five-lot subdivision with multiple $10 million homes.
The house will be the latest Gold Coast mansion to see the wrecking ball as the era of the rich-and-famous sipping martinis on waterfront estates slips further into the past. Historians say hundreds of the stately mansions have been lost in the past half-century as owners face increasing taxes and high maintenance costs on aging homes, Newsday reports. At the 24,000-square-foot Lands End, taxes, insurance and maintenance total as much as $4,500 a day. Increased land values also make it very tempting to profit from subdividing lots.
The current owners are downplaying the house’s literary significance — likely to prevent any history buffs from complaining. “To be honest with you there isn’t anything really special about it,” David Brodsky, who purchased property for $17.5 million in 2004 with his father, tells the Post. “We did a lot of research on its history and there is really no evidence that [Gatsby author F. Scott] Fitzgerald was even ever there.”
Brodsky could not be reached for comment.