Sunday, March 8, 2015

Vanderbilt--Mansion, Museum, Planeterium



On my last visit to New York, a friend Rosemary and I decided to take a drive out to the north shore of Long Island to the town of Centerport, in Suffolk County, where through these elegant iron gates stands "The Eagle's Nest," an estate of William K. Vanderbilt II, the heir to one of America's greatest fortunes.  Upon Vanderbilt's death in 1944 the property became the Vanderbilt Mansion, Museum and Planetarium. (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge fro easier viewing by clicking on them)


The estate property includes 43 rolling acres and a panoramic view of Northport Bay and the Long Island Sound that delighted Vanderbilt when he had the estate constructed in three stages during the years 1910 through 1936.


The first phase of construction was the building of a 24 room Spanish revival mansion, designed by the famed New York architecture firm of Warren and Wetmore, the same architects responsible for designing and constructing New York's Grand Central Terminal.


Gorgeous architectural details could be seen everywhere, and it was evident no expense had been spared when the complex of buildings were constructed.


As my friend and I walked into the central courtyard, and glanced around at all the structures, I was transported back to the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby...


,,,. where once rich and privileged socialites gathered in summer mansions along what was called the Gold Coast of Long Island. They held glittering parties, listened to jazz, and filled their homes with expensive art, furnishings and priceless possessions.


The grand splendor of the Vanderbilt Mansion was still visible, but, sadly, there was also a sense of an era long past its elegant glory and in faded decay. Just as the enigmatic flapper Daisy Buchanan, from the Great Gatsby novel, would have aged by now to have become a wrinkled old crone, the Vanderbilt Mansion showed the ravages of age, weather and neglect on its body.


The mansion and grounds are now operated by Suffolk County, and this Wikipedia article states that "..there has been a tumultuous relationship between the parties who own and the parties who oversee and run the museum. Currently, Suffolk County officials are experiencing difficulty receiving and allocating funds to keep the museum running. The museum's endowment from previews occupant, William Vanderbilt, was tied up in stock and bonds, which as a result of the economy proved to be a less than desirable financial safety net...."



It would be a shame to let this enchanting time capsule, and one of the last remaining Gold Coast Mansions, to fall into ruin, and we did see some efforts being made to maintain the property during our visit.  I wish I could show you the rooms and artifacts inside the mansion, especially Mrs Vanderbilt's elegant dressing room and closet, filled with hat boxes and rotating hangers, which my friend and I found very interesting, but unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the mansion,


I managed to take this photo inside the museum portion of the property, before I was told no photography was allowed inside the museum either. If you are not impressed by touring the rooms of the mansion, then the museum of Vanderbilt's personal collections would be a reason enough to visit! William K Vanderbilt II, during his oceanic expeditions on his various yachts, sailed around the globe and collected thousands of specimens of birds, invertebrates, and marine life for his museum, They are all on display in different exhibitions. He also worked with artisans from the American Museum of Natural History to create a room of marine and animal taxidermy dioramas, including a 32 foot whale shark and a 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy! It was really fascinating to see his well curated collections.


The Vanderbilt property also includes the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.  It recently underwent a 4 million dollar renovation, with cutting edge technological updates, and it is now considered one of the finest and most advanced in the United States.  Seasonal shows and special features for children, families and school audiences are produced and conducted by trained astronomy educators.


The Vanderbilt Mansion, Museum and Planetarium has one of the most impressive views of the Long Island Sound, although as time marched on in the area it now sadly came to include a view of the ugly Northport Power Station in the distance.


F. Scott Fitzgerald was influenced by his visits to various opulent Long Island Gold Coast homes during the roaring, 20's  and perhaps the Vanderbilt Mansion was one of them?


Once over 500 Gold Coast Mansions existed on Long Island's north shore in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and today less than 200 survive. The remaining mansions are used as hotels, event venues for tours and parks and some remain privately owned mansions and a few are for sale.

If you want to take a step back into the past, the Gold Coast Mansions open to the public are the place to begin. My friend and I enjoyed our visit to the Vanderbilt Mansion, Museum Planetarium, and we both hope to visit a few more of  these beautiful mansions in the future.

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36 comments:

podso said...

Those old mansions are amazing, aren't they. So much beautiful detail. And yes, what a blight to the landscape are the power stations. Thanks for taking us on the tour.

Parsimonious Perfection said...

Gorgeous post, it must have been so exciting to see! Even in its state of decay, it's fantastic. Thank you for sharing!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I have never heard of this. I love it. 43 acres and such a huge building. I can't even imagine the wealth it took to build such a thing.

I'm a rule follower also on photography in museums. Many of them have liberalized their rules but I think more should follow suit. I understand that they generally can't allow it due to contractual issues when they bring stuff in for a special exhibit but they should allow it for their own collection.

Barb said...

It's hard to imagine the opulence of these mansions in their heyday. Not only their cost of construction, but the ongoing maintenance cost must be enormous. I enjoyed reading the history of the estate.

The Gathering Place said...

Oh, I hope someone will be able to preserve these wonderful old places. Thanks for sharing an interesting tour.

eileeninmd said...

What a grand estate.. I loved the tour and your lovely images.. Thanks for sharing your visit, Pat. Have a happy new week ahead!

Michelle said...

Homes are just not made like this anymore! Such a beautiful place!

Betsy Adams said...

Sad about the mansion --and all of the politics that play into the upkeep, etc... Hope they work it out and save that beauty.. Sounds like the planetarium is doing well...

I agree about the power station in the distance... Guess we need the power --but oh, how ugly it is...

Great set of photos and thanks for taking us with you on your tour.
Hugs,
Betsy

diane b said...

How some people lived back then is amazing. So much wealth. It is a shame this beautiful mansion with a rich history couldn't be restored better.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

The wealth and opulence...hard to imagine / what a gorgeous place and it's too bad that they did not allow photographs inside! :)

Shelia said...

Hi Pat! OH, how wonderful and sad at the same time. It's a shame to see such a beauty in her decline but I know it must take zillions of dollars to keep this sort of mansion going and looking beautiful. I do want to see it. Thank you for sharing it with us and for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

It's another world, isn't it? Thanks for playing today.

Happy Blue Monday!

Vee said...

Lovely grounds and a beautiful estate...premier location for sure! It is worlds from my reality, but I would love to see a period piece filmed there. Thank you for the tour.

La Petite Gallery said...

This was an awesome post. I would love to visit those homes when I am on LI.
The Vanderbuilts have a huge estate in Asheville, MC. I used to take my quests there. Can imagine the inside of this one. Thanks for the comment on the Deer. Maine deer's are skid-dish, they come up at night and never in the day, they stay on the shore. Well we are getting days in the 30/40 and it is heaven. The snow is still here, not melting. When it does what a flood.

LV said...

Enjoyed so much this great tour of a place I would never see except through your lens.

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Hi Pat! I'm putting this mansion on my tour list for the fall. Next month we are going to Asheville, NC to see Biltmore, the home of William K.'s youngest brother George Washington Vanderbilt. It has been kept up beautifully and is still owned by the family. They have managed to turn it into a profitable enterprise complete with outdoor activities and a winery, and the Downton Abbey costumes will be on display when we are there too. And I highly recommend the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Cornelius V.: The First Tycoon, by TJ Stiles. The history of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and SI as it develops during his lifetime is fascinating! Thanks for the tour of the mansion. Hope you are warmer out there than we are here! Linda

bj said...

How beautiful...thanks so much for showing us the mansion.

Donna said...

My goodness what a stunning place...

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Wow! What a shame that so many of the beautiful 'gold coast mansions' have already disappeared. Thanks for taking us along for the tour.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of the place. Very grand structures.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

My kind of place to tour Pat, thanks for showing us around.
Thank you for linking to Mosaic Monday.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a magnificent place. I can only imagine the grand parties that took place here and the views, wow. Long Island Sound is as gorgeous as I've ever seen it. I'm sorry to read about the funding issue. I think I'll just sit by the pool and enjoy the views. Thanks for taking us along.
Sam

Daniela said...

My dearest Pat, actually you say it's in decay and it's visible, outside, here and there, but immediately all these photographs of gardens and terraces made me think of the Great Gatsby too, to the jazz and the charleston age, to the age of great parties among very wealthy people .. it's a pity you couldn't had any shots inside, I wonder how lovely the rooms were !
Thank you for made me dream :)
Sending much love and gratitude
xo
Dany

Photo Cache said...

beautiful mansion.

Worth a Thousand Words

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Thank you, Pat, for sharing your tour with us at this beautiful place! I would love to see it some day.

edenhills said...

What an amazing place!

Al said...

This exact area is where I spent many of my teenage years. I've had the private tour of this museum - thanks for the memories!

ladyfi said...

That Spanish mansion is lovely!

Cindy @ Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home said...

Beautiful architecture.
Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!
Blessings,
Cindy

happywonderer.com said...

I'm always intrigued by these amazing dwellings and the history of people who own them!

Linda H said...

Looks like a beautiful place to visit and tour! Sigh... So many places, not enough time.. Thanks for the lovely tour.

Pondside said...

I'd love to visit the Gold Coast and tour some of the mansions. I'm not sure of the Spanish style in a place that gets snow - I never feel that the style transfers well east of the plains!

Rue said...

It's amazing that people will pay 105 bucks for a trip to Disneyland, but they can't charge enough to keep these beautiful pieces of history running well.

So sad....

It's a beautiful place though.

xo,
rue

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

It all looks straight from the pages of Gatsby! Hope they do save it; a part of the State's history!! What a great tour.

Pamela Gordon said...

What an interesting post. I enjoyed seeing this mansion but it's sad that it's deteriorating a bit. The end of an era in history has taken it's toll I guess. You got some really great photos of the property Pat.

Gracie said...

Didn't know about the place. Thanks for bringing me along there with you