Land’s End Great Gatsby Mansion: Last Moments

1.
A Sands Point Gold Coast mansion known as Land’s End is being demolished this week. The house is also known as the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan’s mansion in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Fitzgerald lived for a time in Great Neck, across the water from Sands Point. I imagine he sat, with pen in hand, seeking inspiration and staring across the Long Island Sound, at the houses along the water with their carefree parties…just as Jay Gatsby stared across the Sound from the same vantage point and reached out his arms to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.

Long Island Sound

2.
I once spent an afternoon with a photographer who told me he went up to the Sierras to photograph Autumn foliage, but he got there too late after a storm–the leaves had fallen. So he photographed the forest floor, which was lit up with the confetti of golden Aspen leaves.

Today, I woke up in pain with a locked neck, but knowing the mansion was going down any minute, the demolition having started a few days ago on Saturday, we raced out to Sands Point, meandering the roads, passing numerous residents walking dogs in the mid-day fog, until we found the estate. My husband is a genius at locating obscure destinations.

We told ourselves that even if razed to the ground, it would mean something to stand on the site. What remained were two very large chimneys, and a small vertical section of the house, also containing two chimneys, still standing.

To see this, the last remaining day of a grand house of privilege that inspired an even grander idea, was privilege.

It was awe inspiring. Ghastly. A ghost.

It was not gone yet.

Land's End: gate unlocked

3.
The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel of all time, and has been for 20+ years, for myriad reasons. For language. For structure. For its innovation. For its portrayal of the American Dream. For Gatsby. Because I am a child of immigrants who believe in the Dream. For my love of the 20s. For my childhood in the 80s, paralleling the 20s. For desire.

The object of Jay Gatsby’s desire was Daisy Buchanan, who resided in the house with the green light at its dock. This place with the pool at the edge of the land, and a lawn that runs all the way to the pewter water. It was Fitzgerald’s desire, too.

Land's End: gate

4.
I like to follow rules. I am such a rule follower that when someone tells me to “chill out,” I tell myself, “The rules are there are no rules.”

My husband has been convincing me to break a few rules here and there. For the last two weeks, he has been regaling me with tales of trespassing.

We didn’t know I’d trespass today.

I broke a rule for these pictures–the gate was unlocked, and I walked past the no trespassing signs. I walked no farther than halfway to the house, way short of the detritus and the one or two lonely and steadfast workers dismantling the structure.

5.
I once held a cat, a victim of a car accident, and watched it die in my arms. Its amber eyes lost a depth to them when the cat died, the color turning into straw.

The ghost of the house remains–I can still see the outline of its great shadow, and its footprint underneath the rubble, void of valuables and brick, long auctioned off before destruction. It was huge and looming.

6.
Inspiration cannot be dismantled.

More links on the Great Gatsby mansion:

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84 Comments

Filed under Life, New York City, The Personal, The World, Travel, Writing

84 responses to “Land’s End Great Gatsby Mansion: Last Moments

  1. I have a real issue with rules too (following them slavishly, that is). Good for you for trespassing to see this.

    • @Naomi: You are so right (you know me well!). I guess this is all about trespassing–about how doing so brought about inspiration…and how breaking a rule brought me access. And in a way, Gatsby is about trespassing social domains, too. I have to think some more now.

  2. michelle

    your post is soooooo well written…..evocative of the emotions you felt…..your photos are great…..I think Fitzgerald would be prouder that you captured the last remains standing than the house fully refurbished……now those new mansions they are building…….somehow smack of the world today, disposable, self gratifying…..without respect for what came before……..seriously would love to see you graft some plant or tree starts from those gorgeous pink trees or bushes! your own personal “garden party”……thanks for sharing this!

    • Oh, YES!
      What a wonderful, glorious and new idea…I am a gardener (with mixed results) and the idea of going back, not so much trespassing, but on a mission for us all who love Fitzgeralds writing- you just MUST consider this option. Go cut some branches, dig up a tulip or two…you must perpetuate something of this grand old estate. You can buy ‘hormone’ powder at a local nursery, which allows you to take almost any tree cutting, dip it, and keep it growing. Digging up bulbs is easy enough. NO workers will bother you, I am sure. Certain. They could care less, and will probably applaud you for your guts!

      What a heartbreaker of a movie.

  3. Wow — what a haunting image!

    I recently heard about the demolition of the mansion — this is a loss for our culture, to be sure.

    Thank you for sharing — and for trespassing!

    🙂

  4. What a sad, stark picture. Wonderful, thoughtful post.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I liked the pictures 🙂

  6. Thanks for your great post. I found it a bit depressing, but appropriate for this rainy Thursday. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read The Great Gasby … might have to check it out soon.

  7. I had been waiting for this; thanks so much for breaking the rules and giving us some intimate moments of the end of this building (and culture).

  8. Emily929

    I’ve been teaching The Great Gatsby in my high school literature classes for a number of years now. This is such a tragedy, but somehow it fits the themes of the book. Like Tom and Daisy, many of us go around nowadays smashing things up, not caring what we hurt (or lose) along the way.

  9. Those are eery photos. Excellent job. The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time faves as well.

  10. The Great Gatsby…marvelous novel. Super interesting post! 🙂

  11. A novel I couldn’t understand when I first read it as a kid, but it’s truly my favourite novel now! The house (or what is remaining of it) and its surroundings are exactly how I imagined it. This is an interesting post. 🙂

  12. Ohwow–thank you, everyone. I’m glad to have shared my experience with you, and glad to know that it has stirred up some edifying thoughts and emotions!

  13. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorites too! How sad they tore this mansion down. I wish I’d known it was out there, I would love to have photographed it. Love your photos of it, especially the last one.

  14. This is especially inspiring to my creative writing group here in Oxford, UK – as we were reading the Great Gatsby just a few weeks ago. I’d read it years ago, but this time it came alive. Thanks for sharing its death.

  15. Thank you for sharing these pictures – I was so sad when I heard about the demolition 😦

  16. Good for you for breaking the rules. You got some great pics!

  17. Michele

    I have heard that they may demo the house, but I never really thought it would happen. I am extremely sad that they actually did do it. It’s almost like a piece of history has been torn down.
    Your post brought so much emotion my eyes welled with tears. I am truly glad your trespassed this time, as this was the time to do it.
    The house may be gone but for now… the chimneys stand strong.

  18. This is really well written and poignant! Thank you

  19. Between this and the upcoming 3-D Gatsby movie, Fitzgerald is rolling in his grave.

  20. I love how you wove personal memories in as metaphors– the story about the photographer, the cat, the trespassing… that’s what made this piece interesting for me, not just another story about the mansion. Artfully woven! Wonderful to read!

  21. G. T. E.

    “Ideas are bulletproof”…buildings are not.

  22. Pingback: Land’s End Great Gatsby Mansion: Last Moments (via 80,000 words) « Preternatural Post

  23. jule1

    So sad. Why does everything old in this country have to be torn down and replaced? Seems like it should have been a museum or donated as a landmark, or something. Haunting pics.

  24. That was so incredible that you were able to get so close. All of those chimneys are fascinating. Congrats on some great shots and getting pressed.

  25. These are ghostly images of the mansion, gave me goosebumps. Love it. Great photos. Congrats on Freshly Pressed.

  26. What a terrific post! As a lover of all things historic (living on the west coast where buildings are decidedly un-historic by comparison) I was sad to read about this house. But glad I got to see it in its final stages. Thanks for the post (and perfect photos!) and thanks to Word Press for alerting me to your blog.

  27. Thanks for this post. I wonder which mansions inspired the other homes in the book as well. Wonderful stuff.

  28. Thank you for your post, I was interested in knowing about the mansion, but your writing is so strong, section 5 particularly arrested me. I look forward to reading your work.

  29. Muirhead Daniel

    Maybe a photoshopped photo with a yellow mansion would of enhanced this post. Thanks for writing.

  30. Thank you for sharing. I am also a big follower of the rules. Though I admit that when I was a preteen/teenager I thought no trespassing signs were more of a challenge than a rule (oh yes I can too trespass!).
    I am glad you were there to witness and tell the story.
    Thank you.

  31. beckyspringer

    Oh how sad to see such a beautiful place dismantled. Thank you for sharing, i’m glad you snuck in!!

  32. Great post. Thanx for sharing. Please say hello to Long Island for me!

  33. I just have to say this hurts my heart a little. Glad you were there to photography it though!

  34. Strange and sad that they would demolish a historic house.

  35. Just Jocie

    Beautiful post! Captivating words that allow the reader to truly feel and relate to what you are feeling and great pictures.

    I read The Great Gatsby in high school and don’t think I truly realized its meaning then so your post has inspired me to reread it.

    Thank you 🙂

  36. Thank you for breaking the rules… it was worth it, the pictures are beautiful. It is a sad state of the world today… no doubt something ulgy will be built in its place. I saw on the Today show that it was being torn down soon… guess they were right. What an amazing place it once was. Thank you for sharing the last of it.

  37. This is a wonderful way to bid goodbye to the physical inspiration. There is something sad and wonderful about seeing the pictures above. Thank you.

  38. lastboomerstanding

    Beautifully written and fantastic photographs. Well done…


  39. Great Gatsby is my favorite.
    I wish I could have seen the house when it was still standing.

  40. Wow, I can’t believe that a home with that much cultural and historical significance could just be razed like this for what looked like a resort, maybe? High end Inn? How sad. Thank you for documenting it’s last moments, of sorts! I love your poetic depiction of the events!

  41. nefny

    Really atmospheric post, thank you from a first time reader of yours. Why did they demolish the mansion?

  42. So sad. In my work in historic preservation and architecture, I have stood on the ground and sifted through the remains of many buildings that have lost the fight between preservation and development. It always sickens me too see beauty, age, craftsmanship, art, and inspiration on the losing end of the battle.

  43. Alive aLwaYs

    4th point is good.
    “The rules are there are no rules”. It’s like you are a robot, who is being manipulated. Nice post.

  44. Wow, the pictures are just gorgeous, I love the lighting. And, you got to break a rule or two and it doesn’t matter because you got some beautiful pictures and have a great experience to share because of it too.

  45. Thank you everyone–a thousand blushes on my end! I think the current owner said the upkeep was too expensive, his family didn’t want to live there as he had initially wished, so he is razing the house…the plan is to build 5, multi-million dollar houses (I think valued at $10M/each) in its place (this, I know from watching some of the news reports on CNN and CBS). I saw a picture of plans on a sign posted on the property: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cristine/5637964275.

  46. Was there any reason it was knocked down?

  47. judithornot

    I remember photos of the house; it was beautiful.

  48. Lovely post! The pictures are gorgeous and your writing is beautiful.

  49. I have never made the connection between the 20s and the 80s…but you are so right! Those photos are very touching in a way….ghosts of a bygone era…sad to see it all go….

  50. Marvellous post! I so enjoyed reading it, and now I will definitely re-read The Great Gatsby. The novel was the reason for my screen-name http://kattsby.com/about/why-2/

  51. Like you, I have loved THE GREAT GATSBY for over 20 years. Loved reading it and loved teaching it. Over and over again. I wrote a post about the house being demolished and folks have been sending me pictures as it was razed. I sighed, thinking how life copies art: A Valley of the Ashes, indeed.

    I am glad you attended the funeral.

    *Weep.*

  52. How sad. I hate to see old structures, especially houses, torn down. They have such stories to tell, but sometimes money and convenience speak louder, I guess. Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us; I had no idea any of this was going on. Great pictures! 🙂

  53. kylometers

    Great shots! They truly capture the feeling. I’d say you arrived just in time!

  54. I love that novel also. The characters are awsome. I used to talk to my students about Fitzgerald and J. Gatsby. But it’s all vanity and time-worn.
    It’s about time for another 1920’s cycle. Maybe a little prohibition. And some drug runners. It’s cyclical, but nice. If only someone could write characters like Fitzgerald.

  55. Congrats on being FP! Really enjoyed your post. I have yet to read the Great Gatsby – but I now feel inspired to seek the book out and read it. Thanks for sharing.

  56. Pingback: Land’s End Great Gatsby Mansion: Last Moments (via 80,000 words) | i before e.

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  58. Eva McCane

    I had no idea! Sad, but I’ll have to pick the Great Gatsby back up and revisit. Thanks!

  59. How sad. I hate to see old structures, especially houses, torn down. They have such stories to tell, but sometimes money and convenience speak louder, I guess. Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us; I had no idea any of this was going on. Great pictures! 🙂

  60. What a fantastic tale you tell! So similar to my own. We are lucky… I know how intense this must have been for you because your story is so similar to my own. When I went in the house to photograph, I completely forgot about the nervousness I felt approaching the property. I was already standing the backyard by the walled garden when I heard an ATV quickly approaching the house. My friend could barely continue running because she said I ran so fast that it was unbelievable and comical at the same time. Crossing the moat was a mess! Thanks for linking my photos… I feel that we are connected in some way through this rare and beautiful experience. I really felt as if I was reading my own story as I read your blog.

    • @Jen: Thank you for stopping by! I really just loved your photos–and yes, I noted the similarity in ethos–I think the property is just that amazing to evoke such a mood in all its visitors. And if an ATV started to approach, I think I would just, just–I’d probably wet my pants! LOL. I’m glad you took the risk, though, and captured such wonderful shots. I think, from looking at those photos, you probably got MUCH closer to the house than I ever did. There were workers at the house, and I figured they’d chase me off if I got any closer, given what would probably be huge liability near the structurally unsound remains.

      I am so glad our paths crossed in this way. 🙂

      • ha! I did wet my pants in a way… booking through the small moat that separates the house from the beach. My friend said she has never seen me run so fast in my life and did not think I was capable of such athletic feats! 🙂

        • Hi Jen: I feel better about my own fear, now, to know that you had your own to surmount for your pictures! I once witnessed a great crash while watching friends on a race track–I had my camera with me, and I was looking through the viewfinder at the exact point of the crash, but I didn’t take pictures.

          A professional photographer standing next to me looked at me in astonishment and asked why I didn’t take any; he had missed the shot himself.

          “I was uncertain as to whether I should take a picture of that,” I said. He chuckled. “Take the picture FIRST, then ask questions later!”

          Anyway, I am thankful you took your pictures! And here, for you and for everyone else to view, are pictures from an old listing of Land’s End (looks several decades old):
          http://curbed.com/archives/2011/03/10/gatsby-house-really-old-listing-photos-reveal-former-grandeur.php

  61. That’s one of the eeriest pictures I’ve ever seen, and quite sad. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is also one of my favourites. I remember the first time I read it, when I was about 16, I just didn’t get it. After a few more reads, and almost a decade later, it’s now one of the most worn, tattered books on my shelf. Hope Dicaprio doesn’t f*#k it up!

  62. Pingback: Land’s End « Preservation in Pink

  63. Although the house is gone, it does live on forever in Fitzgerald’s novel. It will never die in our imaginations because of the descriptions in The Great Gatsby. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  64. The picture of the nearly gone house seems a fitting post script to the story. The end of Gatsby, of Fitzgerald, or literature. The only thing left is to make a movie of The Great Gatsby in 3D.

  65. What a fantastic article! The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite novels ever- Gatsby’s mansion is iconic- I never knew that there existed an inspiration for it. And now it’s being destroyed. Thanks for sharing.

  66. This is just wonderful! Your pictures are beautiful, and Gatsby is one of my favorite novels, thank you for letting us all see the Gatsby mansion before it was gone for good!

  67. Pingback: Land’s End Great Gatsby Mansion: Last Moments (via 80,000 words) | The Calculable

  68. Very well written, but I can’t help but feel sad over the loss of a once beautiful home. I hate how people rip down and destroy old homes, or leave them abandoned to fall in on themselves. Its heart breaking. There is so much history being lost with all of that. I love the pictures btw. Beautiful and Sad.

  69. M.Amaral

    “Inspiration cannot be dismantled.” I love it, what an awesome statement, especially in this context!

  70. Pingback: They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot | 101 Books

  71. Sad to see the house go, but that happens with old buildings. They become too difficult to maintain as time inflicts it’s inevitable march. However, Gatsby is one of the great novels of our time. I hope that it continues to be taught in schools since works like that should never suffer the same fate as an old house.

  72. Pingback: a house is more than a home: gatsby mansion destroyed | affluent ANGST

  73. It is almost physical pain that I feel looking at those pictures: nothing in the world saddens me as much as a beautiful old house being demolished. I am all for preserving. Demolition is always a barbaric act. Especially in a case like this. It´s as if the book and the house were one. I am very, very happy to have stumbled upon your post. Thank you.

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  76. My heart literally hurts. It cries for what was. its a sin these places are demolished. All for the sake of more $$ when will enlighten be enough. Soon there will be nothing left of a time that seems so long ago but actually really wasn’t.

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