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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."


Fitzgerald's Gatsby house is doomed

-- 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.

Comments () | Archives (21)

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The manner in which this building was razed demonstrates the disconnect between the green economy and the fossil economy. The materials that constituted this structure were valuable. There exists a market for these. But it's so much easier to dump it, when costs, monetary and environmental, are of no concern. Your article is an illustration of the norm, in this country, which reminds us of how far we are from the obvious. Don't replace, Add. Period.

If I had the millions, I would have restored that spectacular home. You simply can't get things built with such attention to detail anymore, no matter the cost.

The usual - rip up history by the liberals so that they can impose their iron clad million dollar cupboard size apartment complexes.

It would be comforting to think that a salvage company was given the chance to remove all the beautiful and historic architectural heirlooms in this house. Miles of flooring, fixtures, doors, baseboards and masonry were salvaged... right?

"The usual - rip up history by the liberals so that they can impose their iron clad million dollar cupboard size apartment complexes."

Are you on crack?

If anything, liberal type people would want to preserve this structure.

Seriously... get some help.

I'm sorry, "liberals" are tearing up history? That comment made me laugh out loud. I'm fairly sure that was not your goal.

The humbling sadness of life is overwhelming! I remember this book "Gatsby" and I really dislike reading at all! Our High school English teacher had this as an assignment one year in 1987. I don't quite remember what the story was about but the title was as big as Christmas! It's sad that even such a house with its history wasn't respected enough to keep at least as a tourist attraction! It just shows us that no matter how great or small we are nothing really lasts forever, our lives are very short and our individual greatness and importance on this little blue planet wither away from one new generation to the next! I wonder what Beethoven would think of Lady Gaga today? Gaga has Some catchy melodies but I don't see her popularity lasting more than 30 yrs and Beethoven will probably still be played for the next 300! This is the same as the Bible if its really that great it will stand the test of time! And as for structures The Egyptians got it right the first time! Pyramids are still standing after thousands of years and no maintenance! Why is that so! Table of elements, The pyramids are made of a stone that is limestone based, what is limestone? It is composed of millions of years of mineral deposits caused by the lapping of the ocean waves upon a shoreline leaving a thin layer of sediment with every lap of a wave much like soap scum on your bathtub. Rain and weather rott our homes over time Water cant destroy a house that was built by water just as fire cannot harm fire! Did i read this? No way! i just figured it out over the years I wondered what was the oldest house in the world that was still standing! I said the Pyramids then i questioned WHY? Point is if this house had been built like the pyramids no bolldozer could move a stone it would be too much of a task to tear it down and thus withstand time and peoples!

@Trevor: I've seen video footage of the house by CNN and CBS right before it was torn down, and the interior was clearly stripped of anything of value (i.e., doorknobs, fixtures, walls, fireplaces, etc). I was onsite taking the photos yesterday, and I didn't even see bricks in the demo rubble. So I am going to assume that those were all saved/sold pre-destruction.

It is sad that this house could not be saved. So many old mansions along the Gold Coast are being demolished.

So we beat on, boats against the current,..

Click on the link and see the interior photos of this architectural gem. The value of the oak planking and the parquet flooring, alone, would be worth a small fortune!

Ford's Theatre Society has a Brick Fundraiser.

I'd be disappointed if none of the interior was stripped away before razing the property. They're all elegant and look like they could be reused (especially the hand-painted wallpaper).

It is unfortunate that a place like this couldn't be refurbished or deemed as a historical home. Would've been great to host lavish parties themed to the '20s - '40s.

@smoon: Liberals, really?!? It's being developed by people who want money, a.k.a. conservative "bourgeois".

this is why are culture is strip malls, monster trucks and chipotle grill - at least there's nascar weekend with "stock cars" that are just like what we see on the street - to bring it home to the fans.

It's such a shame that this house was demolished. Why didn't some wealthy guy like Donald Trump buy it, restore it and it into a resort? Such history. Such grace. The land and grounds were beautiful. A total waste of a historic building.

An absolute tragedy! Horrible, selfish, shameful. The destruction of an American literary icon... Why save a piece of exceptional history when you can tear it down and make a buck?? Thanks, once again, to the East Coast Liberal elite for the showing the rest of the country what contemptable creeps they truly are...

Selfishness and greed will be, (is) the downfall of this great country.

can't help but think this is symbolic of the butchering Baz Luhrman's going to do to Gatsby in his upcoming 3d adaptation.

Wow! The Great Gatsby! One of the greatest books ever! A story that captivates you as an American and yet this house could not be saved? All the billionaires around and not one of them could use their money to save this jewel of Americana? When you die you cant take the money with so why not use some of it to preserve grand Americana? This House could have been restored to hold parties and serves as a tourist attraction. Kids could read Gatsby and walk thru the halls and dream and get a tactile sense of what F Scoot Fitzgerald was talking about in his book. That is what our culture needs. Im disappointed in how these billionaires make these tremendous fortunes off of the addictive consumption of the American people, never have to work another day in their lives and it seems like that still is not enough! We lose great Americana like this and move faster into a throw-away society.

I am very disappointed to see this. Why was it demolished btw? It looked totally new still. Complete disrespect in which it was destroyed. It should have become a national landmark. Such hatred for beautiful structures. What a complete and total waste. Oh humanity, what is to become of thee!!!!! I can't stand to watch such destruction. Who is responsible for this crime?

Wow ... what a great old place ... and what a great last line in the article ... perfect for some people, governments and societies ... a great example in pictures and in prose of great increases in debt and deferred maintenance ...

Liberals rip up history? It's the ultra conservatives that don't care about history and preservation. Tear it down and build new. Our typical throw away society. They want to build boring mcmansions instead of preserving something with history and character.


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