Jay Gatsby knew how to throw a party. As movie fans watch the party scenes in the new Great Gatsby movie, they may marvel at his luxurious lifestyle, and wonder about the people who lived like that during the Roaring ’20s.
Gatsby was a fictional character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, but in the early 1920s, wealthy New Yorkers did build summer homes on the north shore of Long Island — an area that became known as the Gold Coast.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived on Long Island for a time, and he became fascinated with Beacon Towers, a huge Feudal castle that stood on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound in Sands Point. This was believed to be the model for Gatsby’s home in The Great Gatsby, but it was demolished during World War II.
At one time, there were more than 600 mansions on the Gold Coast. Today most of them are gone, but a few of the remaining mansions are open to the public, and some even offer overnight accommodations so you can live like Gatsby — if only for a weekend.
Glen Cove Mansion
Book a “Roaring ’20s Decadent Bed and Breakfast Package” at the Glen Cove Mansion, and champagne and chocolate truffles will be waiting in your room, while 1920s-style drinks await at the pool. You can enjoy a private screening of The Great Gatsby (the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow) in your room, and the next morning enjoy breakfast on the patio.
Glen Cove Mansion was once the home of attorney John T. Pratt and his wife, Ruth Baker Pratt, the first Republican congresswoman from the state of New York. Guests are greeted with the same warm tradition set forth by the Pratt family.
In 1967, Glen Cove Mansion became one of the first conference-center hotels in the United States. Since then, the mansion has received many awards and been a setting for motion pictures. It also hosts weddings and social events.
Designed by architect Charles Adams Plat in 1910, the brick Georgian mansion is in the Dosoria Park area of the Gold Coast. Guests enter via a two-story portico and are greeted by a double staircase, imported paneling and antique fixtures.
Guests enjoy the family’s original swimming pool, tennis courts and surrounding gardens on the 55-acre estate. In addition to the “Roaring ’20s,” other special packages are available. For reservations call 866-850-9521 or visit www.glencovemansion.com.
Old Westbury Gardens
Old Westbury Gardens provides a quiet escape, with 200 acres of elbow room in otherwise crowded Nassau County. The grounds are essentially a big, beautiful backyard where the landscape is faithfully preserved, acknowledged by gardening experts as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Old Westbury Gardens is the former home of John S. Phipps, his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, and their four children. Westbury House was built in 1906 by English designer George A. Crawford and features English furnishings, hand-painted wallpaper, silver chandeliers and busts designed by Josiah Wedgewood.
Concerts and other events take place throughout the summer, and yoga, tai chi, photography and painting classes are held in the garden. Old Westbury Gardens is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday, May through October, and weekends in April and November.
For a schedule of events call 516-333-0048 or visit www.oldwestburygardens.org.
Don your best ’20s attire to attend the Gatsby Garden Party held each year at Oheka Castle. This year the party takes place on June 12, and will celebrate 30 years of Gary Melius’ ownership of the historical home.
Oheka was built in 1919 by Otto Hermann Kahn, a financier, philanthropist and patron of the arts who used the French-style chateau as his summer home. It is the second-largest home in the U.S.; only the Biltmore in North Carolina is larger. Kahn’s lavish parties drew heads of state and celebrities including Enrico Caruso and Charlie Chaplin.
After Kahn’s death in 1934, the home fell into disrepair until Melius bought it and spent more than $30 million to restore it to its former glory, the largest restoration in American history.
Today, Oheka Castle is the setting for weddings, corporate retreats, parties, meetings and receptions. It probably looks familiar since many photos, films and TV shows have been shot there, including Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Royal Pains on USA Network.
Tours of the mansion are available as well as overnight stays. There’s a Gatsby Suite that was seen in the movie What Happens in Vegas. Rooms overlook the vast gardens with Long Island Sound in the distance.
To book a Great Gatsby experience, call 631-659-1400 or visit www.oheka.com.
The Planting Fields State Park and Arboretum is located in Oyster Bay, where rolling lawns, formal gardens and woodland paths are reminiscent of the Gatsby era. Coe Hall, the mansion on the 400-acre estate, was built for William and Mai Coe, designed in the style of an Elizabethan country home, but with a hidden bar in William Coe’s study, used during Prohibition.
The 400-acre Planting Fields Arboretum contains 1920s-era greenhouses that feature extensive collections of hibiscus, orchids, and camellias, as well as seasonal flowers in raised beds. The Camellia Greenhouse has the largest collection of camellias in the Northeast. Flowers and plants in the gardens are interspersed with reflecting pools and bridges.
William Coe favored dahlias because of their bold texture and rich colors. In 2011, a breast cancer awareness bed of pink dahlias surrounded by pink petunias was added to the gardens.
Coe sold the estate to the state of New York in 1949 for $1 so that it would be preserved and enjoyed by visitors. Tours run May through October, and concerts and theatrical events are offered monthly. For more information call 516-922-9200 or visit www.plantingfields.org.
For more information on the Gold Coast Mansions, contact the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau at 877-386-6654, or visit www.historiclongisland.com.