Home, Surf, Home

por Iyna Bort Caruso

The Gold Coast of Long Island is a 20-mile or so strip along the water’s edge of the North Shore. A century ago, it was a popular summer retreat for the likes of the Vanderbilts, Woolworths and Guggenheims. F. Scott Fitzgerald was awed by the concentration of wealth he found here when he began his masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby.” At one point, Gilded Age estates stood by the hundreds. Over time, most fell victim to the wrecking ball.

The grand mansions may be gone but the good life remains, particularly in waterfront communities along the Long Island Sound on the North Shore and oceanfront enclaves along the South Shore.

Long Island is a fish-shaped strip of land that geographically includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, but is generally considered two suburban counties. Nassau County is within easy commuting distance of Manhattan and its economy is heavily linked to New York City’s. Suffolk County is less dense, growing increasingly more rural on its eastern front where farm stands and vineyards from a burgeoning wine industry are its signature landscape features. Engineering, health services, high tech manufacturing and scientific research are part of the growth economy.

The bi-county area boasts high rates of homeownership, household income and home values well above both New York State and national rates. Many communities along the waterfront such as Northport, Port Jefferson, Oyster BayWest Hampton and Sag Harbor have a distinct nautical flavor. Roslyn is among the villages with architecture dating back to Colonial times.

For Long Islanders, beaching, boating and golfing are popular pastimes, as are visits to some of the former mansions of yesteryear’s tycoons that have been converted to public use. The former estate of U. S. Steel heir Childs Frick is now the Nassau County Museum of Art, a cultural gem with a large outdoor sculpture garden. Old Westbury Gardens is the Stuart-style mansion once owned by an heir to the Carnegie Steel fortune, and the Sands Point Preserve is part of the Guggenheim compound.  What isn’t available to tour is the estate on which Fitzgerald based Jay Gatsby’s residence. Scholars say it wasn’t one single mansion but several in the area that inspired him to write his great American novel.

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