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Gold Coast Mansions on Long Island

In a forty year period that spanned from the 1890s through the 1930s, more than 1,200 mansions were built on the Long Island’s North Shore – the Gold Coast – by some of America’s wealthiest men and women. Of the more than 1,000 grand estates that once existed, today less than a third remain. Many of these have been completely demolished but many others have been re-purposed and renovated, functioning as venues for special events and weddings. The others have been converted into educational centers and museums.

Here’s a look at some of the beautiful estates on the North Shore that are open to the public today.

Oheka Castle

Oheka Castle, also called the Otto Kahn Estate, was built during the 1910s by philanthropist and investment financier Otto Hermann Kahn. Situated on the highest point in Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor, the estate is the second largest private home in the United States boasting 127 rooms and over 109,000 square feet. The estate also features an 18-hole golf course, one of the largest private greenhouse complexes in America, and a sprawling French Formal Garden in the front of the house. During the heydays of the Gold Coast of Long Island during the 1920s, Kahn used the lavish estate to host extravagant parties, and entertain royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars.

After Kahn’s death in 1934, the estate changed hands multiple times, and was utilized for various purposes, including a retreat for New York City Sanitation workers. From 1948 to 1979, the Eastern Military Academy used the school. However, after the closing of the school in 1979, the building remained dormant for four years, during which over 100 documented arson attempts occurred and the mansion deteriorated to a state of complete dilapidation.

In 1984, Long Island developer Gary Melius purchased Oheka and commenced the largest private residential renovation project in the United States, even striving to recreate the gardens from the original drawings. However, after ten years Melius was unable to fund the exorbitant renovation process and he ultimately sold the estate to Hideki Yokoi. Interestingly, after ten years, and a lawsuit, Oheka Castle returned to Melius who operates it as a weddings and events venue, luxury hotel and conference center.

Oheka Castle exemplifies the estates of the Jazz Age, also known as the roaring 20’s, and is said to have served as partial inspiration for Gatsby’s estate in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In addition, it has been featured in pop culture, including the acclaimed movie, Citizen Kane, and Taylor Swift’s 2014 song Blank Space.

William Kissam Vanderbilt House: Eagle’s Nest-Vanderbilt Museum

Currently a museum, planetarium, education facility, and wedding venue, Eagle’s Nest was the sumptuous Long Island mansion of the William Kissam Vanderbilt II. William K. Vanderbilt was an automobile enthusiast, and would compete in the Vanderbilt Cup, located on Long Island himself. In order to improve crowd control and accessibility to the races, Vanderbilt formed a company that would build the Long Island Motor Parkway (also known as the Vanderbilt Parkway) – which also induced economic development on Long Island

Afterwards, William K. Vanderbilt began construction on “Eagle’s Nest” at Centerport, Long Island in 1910. The estate started off as a modest, two-story building, but was transformed into an opulent mansion complex in a Spanish Revival style rare in the region. The first expansion was after his inheritance of $21 million after his father’s death in 1921 and his subsequent marriage, and the second after the death of his son in 1933 in a automobile accident.

William Kissam Vanderbilt’s death in 1944, bequeathed the estate to be donated to the county and used as a museum to house his marine, natural history, and ethnographic collection. In 1970 a planetarium was also constructed on the grounds. Today, the Vanderbilt Museum serves as a mansion, museum, and planetarium. The venue can be rented for wedding and birthday events, while numerous school tours visit the planetarium and other exhibits. The mansion itself can be toured, allowing visitors to gain an intimate look inside an estate from Long Island’s Golden Coast.

Old Westbury Gardens

Nestled among 200 acres of formal garden, woodlands, lakes, and ponds, Old Westbury Gardens was the estate of Hohn Shaffer Phipps. Construction on the estate began in 1903, when Phipps promised his British fiancée he would build her a home in the United States similar to her family estate in Battle Abbey. After Phipps’ death in 1958, the estate became a non-profit organization and the well-preserved gardens and estate were open to the public. It is also used for wedding photography and ceremonies. Today, Old Westbury Gardens is possibly the most well-preserved of the Golden Coast estates hosts historical tours, educational programs and lectures about nature, and even outdoor concerts and festivals.

Moreover, Old Westbury Gardens has been the sight of numerous movie filmings, including scenes in “North by Northwest” and “Cruel Intention”.

Hempstead House (Guggenheim Estate)

Hempstead House is one of the four mansions that constitutes the Guggenheim Estate, located in Sands Point. Construction of the mansion was started by Howard Gould, son of the railroad tycoon Jay Gould in 1912. Gould built two castle-like buildings, the main house called Hempstead House, and the smaller house known as Castle Gould. The other two mansions are called Mille Fleur and Falaise. Hempste