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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inspiration cannot be dismantled.
More links on the Great Gatsby mansion:
- LA Times Jacket Copy by Carolyn Kellogg
- My complete flickr set of Great Gatsby Mansion demolition photos
- Jen Ross’s photographs of the mansion from yesterday and before demolition
- Really, rrrreally old listing photos of the estate back in its prime
- Huffington Post
- A list of daily links to news of the mansion’s demolition
- Home of the Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald on Long Island
- Fitzgerald’s Great Neck mansion up for sale, 2015