A new website launched May 20 is trying to attract tourists to Long Island's so-called Gold Coast mansions, symbols of Jazz Age wealth that at one time lined the North Shore from Nassau to Suffolk counties.
Nancy Melius-Murton, founder of the Historic Mansion and Sites Alliance, said the website hopes to make the Long Island historical sites more familiar to the public, much like Newport, R.I. promotes it's historical mansions through the Internet. It also hopes to encourage film productions to shoot at those locations.
"We're reviving history. That's what's really exciting today. We're not only uniting all the Gold Coast mansions but we're letting the world know about it," she said.
The unveiling was held at an example of one of those mansions Melius-Morton is trying to promote. It was built by financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn in the middle of a 443-acre plot on the highest point on Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor, for an estimated cost of $11 million dollars – equalling $110 million today.
At the time of its construction, the French-style chateau was, and still is today, the second-largest private residence ever built in America. During the Gilded Age of the 1920s, Kahn used the 109,000 square foot, 127-room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties and regularly entertained royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars.
Long Island author Nelson DeMille, who wrote two best-selling books, "Gold Coast" and "Gate House," both set in Gold Coast mansions, was on hand to lend his support to the idea and the alliance.
"I think it's a great idea. Everybody on Long Island has seen these mansions fall and be subdivided. We're not at a stage where we're starting to preserve what's left," said DeMille.
The clerks of both Suffolk and Nassau counties, Judith Pascale and Maureen O'Connell, respectively, were on hand to officially declare May as Long Island history month.
'Many famous families resided in those homes such as the Carnegies," she said. "And by touring these homes we learn about the history of New York."
From the 1880s through the 1940s the north shore of Long Island became known as the Gold Coast. The height of its popularity was the 1920s, about the time it was made famous in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel "The Great Gatsby," published in 1925 and set in 1922 when about 12,000 mansions were located from Great Neck to Centerport.
Some that still exist include Oheka, Old Westbury Gardens, Eagle's Nest-Vanderbilt Museum, Planting Fields-Coe Hall, Glen Cove Mansion, Sands Point Preserve, and Chelsea Mansion.
"To get all of the mansions and historic sites together helps us promote one another and in doing so, when tourism to Long Island is high, especially during the summer months, it will prevent people from overlooking the North Shore and its historic sites as places to visit." said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs at the Vanderbilt Museum, in which the Vanderbilt Eagle's Nest is located.
The website also features historic places on Long Island that aren't necessarily mansions, such as the Walt Whitman Birthplace and the recently restored Soldiers and Sailors Building in Huntington.
In addition, the website features a "historic homes for sale" and a "bygone mansions" page, a list of Long Island tour guides and an events calendar which lists events being held at historic places throughout Long Island each month.