Images from Old Long Island

For a long time, New York City has been seen as the powerhouse of American culture. World famous and much beloved, New York is the city that never sleeps, where the rich and famous live side by side with everyday people. But this glittering reputation is a more recent one. Starting in the late 1800s, New York City became the stomping ground for the elite, Wall Street began to take its place as the financial capital of the world, and as the Gilded Age progressed the city began to acquire more of its renown and attracted more and more of the new, mega-wealthy class.

But where and how did these people live? For many of New York’s Gilded Age elites, home was not one place, but a collection of houses and properties they would spend time at depending on the season. And one place in particular, the north shore of Long Island, began to gain its own reputation as well. Located just east of New York, Long Island became an escape for the wealthy people of the city as they began to build mansions, estates, and country homes. The “Gold Coast” as it is now known was the pinnacle of Gilded Age and early twentieth century wealth, extravagance, and flashiness. One of the best-known pieces of literature from this period, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, plays out largely against the landscape of Gold Coast estates and the people who called them home. But what can these estates tell us about the wealthy people of society who built and lived in them? What does their legacy mean for American culture and history at large? And what happened to these estates once the Gilded Age faded into the background, and Long Island began its post-Great Depression and WWII process of suburbanization and development?

By mapping the Gold Coast estates that once populated the island, I am hoping to uncover the answers to these questions and explore the impact these estates and the people who called the Gold Coast home had on American culture.

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