The houses that inspired The Great Gatsby

image from: http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/

image from: http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/

In the spring of 2011 word broke that the massive mansion which had inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus The Great Gatsby, was being demolished.

Since public interest in the novel has piqued again in 2013 with the recent release of the latest Great Gatsby movie, I thought I would revisit the fictional “West Egg” and try to find out the story behind the house that inspired the classic American novel.

The Great Gatsby

Turns out, there was not just one house that Gatsby’s mansion was modeled after, but several historic homes – some that no longer exist.

According to Wikipedia, author F. Scott Fitzgerald visited New York’s Long Island north shore often during the early 1920’s and attended a number of lavish parties at mansions there. There are several theories among literary historians as to which mansion inspired Gatsby’s fictional home.

One possibility is Land’s End, a notable Gold Coast Mansion where F. Scott Fitzgerald may have attended a party.

– from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby

image from: http://www.oldlongisland.com/

image from: http://www.oldlongisland.com/

Built in 1902 by a newspaper editor, Land’s End was yet another example of a monument of the Gilded Age. Many legendary parties were held there after the first World War, and it is documented that several famous individuals came to call including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

Land’s End was the unfortunate estate that was demolished in April of 2011. Apparently, the owner could not afford to keep it up and it fell into disrepair.

image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

The owner decided that it was more cost-effective to have the home torn-down and to subdivide/sell the property into smaller lot parcels. Despite the outcry from local historians and literature lovers around the world, Land’s End was no more by late April 2011.

[if you are upset by images of historic mansions being ripped apart, look away from the screen now]

image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/

image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/

Sacrilege.

Another possible inspiration for a setting in Fitzgerald’s novel was also demolished, albeit many decades ago. Beacon Towers stood on the coast at Sands Point from 1917 until 1945 when it was torn down by none other than William Randolph Hearst to make way for a newer development.

Beacon Towers in 1922:

image from: Wikimedia Commons (author: Harris & Ewing)

image from: Wikimedia Commons (author: Harris & Ewing)

The Great Gatsby mansion was also said to be inspired by Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island. Oheka Castle was built between 1814 and 1919. It was (and remains) the second largest private residence in the United States, measuring in at a whopping 109,000 square feet.

Oheka Castle:

image from:  Wikimedia Commons (author: Gryffindor)

image from: Wikimedia Commons (author: Gryffindor)

The reality of fiction is that it is usually based on real life, but only loosely. I say that as both a fiction writer and an avid reader. Fictional settings are mostly a mish-mash compilation of locations that the author experienced in real life and I suspect this is the case with The Great Gatsby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald never admitted that one particular mansion was the inspiration for either Gatsby’s lavish home, or Daisy’s old-money estate across the water.

We’ll never know for sure, but it’s sure is fun to look at these ostentatious old homes that still retain echoes of the storied Jazz Age.

The Great Gatsby, original cover art

The Great Gatsby, original cover art

 

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Sources and further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377951/Scott-Fitzgeralds-Great-Gatsby-house-famous-Roaring-Twenties-parties-demolished.html

http://www.ovtg.de/3_arbeit/englisch/gatsby/minut_03.html

http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=15572

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/10/travel/gatsby-gold-coast-long-island/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

 

 

 

11 Responses to The houses that inspired The Great Gatsby

  • Sel says:

    A treasure trove of mansions along the eastern shore…..European money brought about these
    wonders. Imagine? running from Europe only to arrive and find that there was no tax?
    That brought on the Gilded age in those years. The wonders of USA……The fall of this age came
    quickly and sent then back. The crash of ’29’ soon changed the free ride for many, losses that left
    mountains of a broken population. Traces if this era shadow the fall once again to many of this last
    decade…..thank you for your good work…..

  • It is ALWAYS a shame when a great piece of architecture is demolished and you’ve clearly shown one above. (sigh). I LOVELOVELOVE the cover of that 1st edition of The Great Gatsby! Thank God that hasn’t been demolished!

  • Laura says:

    I literally winced when I saw the photo of that beautiful building being demolished – what a huge shame! Brilliant post though – thanks for sharing =)

  • Sue says:

    Oheka Castle as the second largest private residence is wonderful to see. I can’t grasp the 109,000 square feet and wonder what took place here in the past…so many stories. What an interesting place. Love the Lands End house too and so wish it could have been saved.

  • Maddox says:

    Great post – but it is a shame to see an old place go to ruin and be torn down.

  • Jan Allen says:

    I just spent the last 2 hours reading your website! So much house eye-candy! I don’t know where to start with leaving a comment so I guess here is as good a place as any.
    Loved the movie(s) I have seen and read most everything Gatsby. It is really amazing to look at the houses that may have inspired F Scott Fitzgerald. Thank you for posting these!

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for posting this Sarah, quite interesting to see how the very rich live and how they squander good architecture.

  • Sharon Taylor says:

    I enjoy how you pepper your posts with not only beautiful photos, but dreadful ones too! As well as share some easy, quick reading on the history. Visiting with your writings are not taxing after a long day’s work or a hard week, but instead, a 5 or 10-minute vacation!

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~ House Crazy Sarah ~
Sarah Felix Burns

"So many houses, so little time"






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