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The North Shore of Long Island is the area along the northern coast of New York's Long Island bordering Long Island Sound. Known for its extreme wealth and lavish estates, the North Shore exploded into affluence at the turn of the 20th century, earning it the nickname the Gold Coast. [1] Historically, this term refers to the affluent coastline neighborhoods of the towns of North Hempstead (such as Great Neck and Port Washington) and Oyster Bay in Nassau County and Huntington in Suffolk County. Some definitions may also include the parts of Smithtown that face the Sound. The region is also largely coextensive with the Gold Coast region of Long Island, though this region excludes Smithtown, as the easternmost Gold Coast mansion is the Geissler Estate, located just west of Indian Hills Country Club in the Fort Salonga section of Huntington. [2] [3]

Being a remnant of the Harbor Hill Moraine the North Shore is somewhat hilly, and its beaches are more rocky than those on the flat, sandy outwash plain of the South Shore along the Atlantic Ocean. Large boulders known as glacial erratics are scattered across the area. [4]


Colonial Era

The North Shore was first settled by Europeans in the mid-1600s. Much of the area was initially controlled by the Dutch colony of New Netherland. Towns in the eastern part of the North Shore were settled by the English under the jurisdiction of the New Haven Colony and Connecticut Colony. This arrangement ended in 1664 with the English takeover of New Netherland, when all of Long Island was transferred into the new Province of New York.

In its early days the North Shore was largely agricultural. Whaling was also a component of the early economy, as is commemorated in Cold Spring Harbor's Whaling Museum & Education Center.

Gilded Era

Oheka Castle, former estate of financier Otto Hermann Kahn
Old Westbury Gardens, the former estate of U.S. Steel heir John Shaffer Phipps and now a museum home

During the Second Industrial Revolution, great fortunes were made in steel, transportation and other industries. Beginning in the early 1890s, lavish private estates were erected on what became known as the "Gold Coast" of Long Island. In all, over 500 mansions were built during this spree, concentrated in 70 square miles (180 km2). [5]

Among those were expansive faux chateaux and castles belonging to the Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Charles Pratt, J. P. Morgan, F. W. Woolworth, and others. Otto Kahn's Oheka Castle was reputed to be the second largest private home in the United States, second only to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Alternatively, some eschewed formal mansions and erected large shingle-style and clapboard "cottages", such as Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill.

The greatest architects, landscapers, decorators and firms were employed, including Stanford White, John Russell Pope, Guy Lowell, and Carrère and Hastings. Architectural styles included English Tudor, French Chateau, Georgian, Gothic, Mediterranean, Norman, Roman, Spanish, and combinations of these. Rooms, outdoor structures, and entire buildings were dismantled in Europe and reassembled on the North Shore. Complementing the great houses were formal gardens, gazebos, greenhouses, stables, guest houses, gate houses, swimming pools, reflecting pools, ponds, children's playhouses, pleasure palaces, golf courses, and tennis courts. Activities such as horse riding, hunting, fishing, fox hunting, polo, yachting, golf, swimming, tennis, skeet shooting and winter sports, were held at the estates or exclusive clubs nearby such as the Beaver Dam Club, the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club (1871), Meadow Brook Club (1881), Manhasset Bay Yacht Club (1892), Piping Rock Club (1912), and Creek Club (1923). Privacy was maintained with the huge land holdings, hedges and trees, fences, gates and gate houses, private roads, and lack of maps showing the location of the estates.

Post-War era

Following World War II many Gold Coast mansions were demolished and their estates subdivided into suburban-style developments. Only about 200 of the original 500 survive.[ citation needed] As fortunes faded some of the largest or most prominent Gilded Era showpieces, such as Daniel Guggenheim's Gould-Guggenheim Estate, Theodore Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill, William Vanderbilt II's Eagle's Nest, the Alexander P. de Seversky Mansion, Otto Kahn's Oheka Castle, and John Shaffer Phipps' Westbury House were turned into museum homes, conference centers, and resorts. Others repurposed for non-residential uses include Herbert L. Pratt's Glen Cove country home, "The Braes", turned into the Webb Institute, Walter Chrysler's Kings Point estate, "Forker House", turned into the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and U.S. Steel heir Childs Frick's "Clayton" the Nassau County Museum of Art.


Delineated perceptually by the Queens-Nassau border, the North Shore is marked by a series of necks (peninsulas) and populated harbors. North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Huntington comprise the land of this area, which is noted for its preservation of Gilded Age Estates. Beyond here, the towns of Smithtown and Brookhaven feature a similar trend of peninsulas and sheltered harbors are the sites of often similarly affluent areas such as Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Wading River, etc., though the inclusion of these areas in the North Shore region is varied.

Once the island splits into two forks at its east end, the hills largely flatten out (and enter the town of Riverhead) to an out-wash plain and becomes largely rural (and enters the Town of Southold), with an economic stronghold on agriculture, particularly in the shape of wineries and vineyards. This recent trend, beginning in the 1980s with the conversion of potato farms, has given the North Fork the distinction of being the most productive agricultural area in New York State. Despite this, the North Fork, contrasts starkly with the more populated and more well-known South Fork's Hamptons. The North Fork terminates at Orient Point, where the Cross Sound Ferry Company has a terminal for ferries bound for New London, CT. and Block Island, RI. The North Fork is almost never considered part of the North Shore, but is rather a separate, more rural geographic area.

Greenport, a village in Southold midway between Orient and Riverhead, is a major economic center for the North Fork and as such, is the eastern terminus of the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line. The North Fork is also geographically tied to Shelter Island, an island town in the Peconic Bay accessible via ferry that leaves from Greenport, adjacent to the railroad station. The island also has a ferry on its south side that connects with North Haven on the South Fork.

The demolished Beacon Towers estate, along with Oheka Castle, has been identified as an influence for the novel The Great Gatsby
  • In 1925, the North Shore is the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, which centers on the area's wealth and the aspiration of the title character to be accepted into its high society. The novel's "West Egg" and "East Egg" were fictionalized versions of the real North Shore villages of Kings Point and Sands Point, respectively.
  • In 1990, the novel Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille is set on the North Shore.

Extant Gold Coast estates

Demolished mansions

Some mansions burned down, others that were abandoned were vandalized or overtaken by vegetation. Many were torn down to make room for developments, as the Great Depression, poor financial decisions, increasing requirements for upkeep, and increasing income taxes depleted family fortunes. Some of the notable mansions that are now gone are included in the table below with some of their features.

Mansion Construction Rooms Acres Architects Status Location
Beacon Towers 1917–1918 60 18 Hunt & Hunt demolished 1945 40°51′53″N 73°43′40″W / 40.86472°N 73.72778°W / 40.86472; -73.72778
Burrwood 1898–1899 40+ 1,000 Carrère and Hastings demolished 1995 40°53′1″N 73°28′12″W / 40.88361°N 73.47000°W / 40.88361; -73.47000
Farnsworth c. 1914 50 Guy Lowell demolished 1966 40°51′50″N 73°33′58″W / 40.86389°N 73.56611°W / 40.86389; -73.56611 (stable and garage)
Ferguson Castle 1908 40 Allen W. Jackson demolished 1970 40°53′39″N 73°25′6″W / 40.89417°N 73.41833°W / 40.89417; -73.41833 (gate house)
Garvan 1891 60 101 demolished mid-1970s 40°47′59″N 73°36′4″W / 40.79972°N 73.60111°W / 40.79972; -73.60111
Harbor Hill 1900–1902 688 Stanford White demolished Spring 1947 40°47′57″N 73°38′1″W / 40.79917°N 73.63361°W / 40.79917; -73.63361
Inisfada 1920 87 225 John Torrey Windrim demolished December 2013 40°47′07″N 73°39′59.2″W / 40.78528°N 73.666444°W / 40.78528; -73.666444
Laurelton Hall 1902–1906 65 600 Louis Comfort Tiffany burned down 1957 40°52′22″N 73°29′1″W / 40.87278°N 73.48361°W / 40.87278; -73.48361
Matinecock Point 1913 41 257 Christopher Grant La Farge demolished 1980/1981 40°53′59″N 73°37′53″W / 40.89972°N 73.63139°W / 40.89972; -73.63139
Meudon c. 1900 80 300 Charles P. H. Gilbert demolished 1955 40°53′51″N 73°36′15″W / 40.89750°N 73.60417°W / 40.89750; -73.60417
Pembroke 1914–1916? 82 62 Charles P. H. Gilbert demolished 1968 40°52′21″N 73°39′11″W / 40.87250°N 73.65306°W / 40.87250; -73.65306
Rosemary Farm 1907 159 William Eyre burned down 1991 or 1992 40°54′25″N 73°28′38″W / 40.90694°N 73.47722°W / 40.90694; -73.47722
Roslyn House 1891 James Brown Lord demolished 1974 40°47′55″N 73°36′43″W / 40.79861°N 73.61194°W / 40.79861; -73.61194
Westbrook Farms/Knollwood 1906–1920 60 262 Hiss & Weekes demolished 1959 40°49′33″N 73°32′11″W / 40.82583°N 73.53639°W / 40.82583; -73.53639

List of communities

See also



  1. ^ "Long Island". Classical Excursions. Archived from the original on 29 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  2. ^ "Port Washington Patch". Planck LLC d/b/a Patch Media. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Makamah Beach & Geissler's estate, in Fort Salonga". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Geology of Long Island". Garvies Point Museum. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  5. ^ Horsley, Carter B. (1974-06-16). "More Mansions on Long Island's 'Gold Coast' Fall". The New York Times. ISSN  0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-29.

General sources

  • AIA Architectural Guide to Nassau and Suffolk Counties. American Institute of Architects. Long Island Chapter, 1992.
  • Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney. Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist's Country Estate. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.
  • Hewitt, Mark Alan. The Architect and the American Country House, 1890–1940. Yale Univ. Press. 1990.
  • MacKay, Robert B. Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects 1860–1940. W. W. Norton, 1997.
  • Mateyunas, Paul J. North Shore Long Island: Country Houses 1890–1950. Acanthus Press, 2007.
  • Mensing, Kenneth G. and Rita Langdon. Hillwood: The Long Island estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Long Island University, 2008.
  • Randall, Monica. The Mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast. Rizzoli, 1979.
  • Randall, Monica. Winfield: Living in the Shadow of Woolworths. Thomas Dunne, 2003.
  • Sclare, Lisa and Donald. Beaux-Arts Estates: A Guide to the Architecture of Long Island. Viking Press, 1980.
  • Spinzia, Raymond E. and Judith A. Long Island's Prominent North Shore Families: Their Estates and Their Country Homes Vol. 1–2., 2006.
  • Wilson, Richard Guy. Harbor Hill: Portrait of a House. W. W. Norton, 2008.