Last gasp of the Gatsby house
A Long Island mansion said to have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing his classic American novel "The Great Gatsby" has poured its last drink, rolled up the dance floor and kicked out the guests for good. No more parties, no more gazing out of windows. Heck, no more windows. The once-elegant mansion has been razed.
A planned demolition took place this week, but not before writer Christine Lee Zilka rushed out with her camera to capture the home's last moments. Above, the demolition of the Sands Point mansion nears completion in April 2011. Below, the mansion as it stood in 2009, already entering its decrepitude.
The 1902 home was owned, during its jazz-age heyday, by journalist Herbert Bayard Swope, one of the first recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and editor of the New York World. F. Scott Fitzgerald was said to have attended Swope's parties; the house, in Sands Point, N.Y., was the model for Daisy Buchanan's place, according to local legend.
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. Demolition began this week.
In soft light, the old gal still looked pretty good. She was a 25-room, 20,000-square-foot mansion with 15 bedrooms and 14 baths, a living room with two fireplaces, hand-painted wallpaper, a formal dining room, huge kitchen, elaborate moldings, and, of course, a library.
In her heydey, Winston Churchill, the Marx brothers, Dorothy Parker and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor attended parties there. And F. Scott Fitzgerald, who they say was spotted drinking on the patio. But by 2011, the ravages of time, an extended vacancy and the sea air had taken their toll.
Amenities like a pool, a pool house topped by an outside dance floor that looked like a helipad, an exterior dance floor, a beach, a tennis court and pavilion, guest house and seven-car garage couldn't save it.
As the bulldozers ripped away, the interior of the house came into view. Photographer Jen Ross went inside recently, however, and took these stunning photos that do a much better job of telling the house's story.
Now, there is no house left at all. But since this was the model for Daisy and Tom Buchanan's house, perhaps its loss is fitting. "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy," Fitzgerald writes. "They smashed up things and creatures then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photos: Top, the remains of the house in April 2011. Credit: Christine Lee Zilka.
Second photo: The house in March 2009. Credit: John Dunn /Newsday / Associated Press Photos
Third, fourth and fifth photos: The first day of demolition. Credit: Reuters
Last photo: The remains of the house in April 2011. Credit: Christine Lee Zilka.