By FRANK ELTMAN Associated Press
SANDS POINT, N.Y. (AP) - A 25-room Long Island mansion that some believe inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrayal of lavish lifestyles in his Jazz Age classic "The Great Gatsby" is being razed, the latest in a long cadence of estates disappearing from what's known as the Gold Coast.
Known as "Land's End" and sitting on a 13-acre lot on Long Island Sound, the 24,000-square foot house is being torn down to accommodate five $10 million custom homes.
"It's really a sad thing. The Gold Coast social country life is part of Long Island's legacy, a reminder of a grand and romantic era," said Alexandra Wolfe, director of preservation services for the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
"It's such a shame that people find it difficult to honor that, to preserve that."
Real estate broker Paul Mateyunas estimates that through the end of World War II, the region once boasted about 1,400 estates inhabited by a Who's Who of the nation's financial titans. Now, only about 400 remain.
The trend in recent decades has moved away from mega-mansions, he said, largely because even for millionaires, they are very expensive to maintain.
David Brodsky, who bought the home with his father Bert Brodsky for $17.5 million in 2004, told the Long Island newspaper Newsday that taxes, insurance and maintenance on Land's End became prohibitive -- about $4,500 a day -- prompting the decision to build anew. A message left Monday for Brodsky was not immediately returned.
The property passed through numerous hands before they bought it from Virginia Payson, the late wife of former Mets owner Charles Payson.
Demolition crews began leveling the property over the weekend; on Monday, work crews could be heard but hardly seen from a service road outside the estate. The entrance features a dilapidated white picket fence reminiscent of "Grey Gardens," the East Hampton home occupied by relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that fell into disrepair and became the subject of a beloved documentary and Broadway play.
In its glory days, Land's End was said to feature marble, parquet and wide wood-planked floors, Palladian windows and hand-painted wallpaper. The property includes a caretaker's cottage, two greenhouses, a tennis cabana and a pool house.
Mateyunas said documenting Long Island lore that the St. Paul, Minn.-born Fitzgerald used Land's End as his inspiration has proven difficult, but that it doesn't matter; the house is significant in its own right. The likes of Winston Churchill, the Marx Brothers and Ethel Barrymore actually did attend parties there in the '20s and '30s.
Sands Point Village Clerk Randy Bond was among those dubious of the Fitzgerald connection.
"I think somebody just made it up," she said. "I had never heard of that until just recently. It was as if I just went out and started a rumor that the house I live in was the model for Tara," she said, referring to the plantation in "Gone With the Wind."
Set during Prohibition, "Gatsby" focuses on a young man's pursuit of the American dream and the woman he loves with a subtext of the age-old friction of old money and new money.
"There's a lot of 'I can't believe this is happening' sentiment out there," Wolfe said. "People have contacted me who want to save it, but it's too late. It kind of got swept by and wasn't on the radar screen."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)