In the summer of 1910, William K. Vanderbilt II bought 20 acres on a wooded hill above Northport Bay. There, he commissioned the renowned New York City architecture firm of Warren & Wetmore to build him a summer house. The partners had designed and built Grand Central Terminal in New York City (1903-13) for his great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt’ s (1794-1877) New York Central Railroad.
Between 1910 and 1936 the architects expanded the house into a stunning Spanish-Revival style mansion Vanderbilt called Eagle’s Nest. Over the years, Vanderbilt purchased more land and expanded the estate to 43 acres. One of the few remaining Gold Coast mansions, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A notable feature of the 24-room mansion – in addition to its distinctive architecture – is the elegant decorative ironwork created by Samuel Yellin, considered the greatest iron artisan of his time. He created window grilles, door handles, light fixtures, railings, planters, gates and weather vanes for the house. Yellin’s work can be found in 45 states, and adorns the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, Yale University, private homes, significant buildings, and other Gold Coast mansions.
This remarkable mansion offers an intimate look at the life of a privileged family from the Jazz Age through the Second World War. The rooms are as William and Rosamund Vanderbilt left them, filled with priceless art, furnishings and personal possessions. When visitors walk through the Vanderbilt mansion, they enter a “living museum,” an enchanting time capsule of a vanished era.
Mr. Vanderbilt’s oceanic expeditions and unprecedented circumnavigations of the globe make it possible for visitors to journey around the planet without leaving Long Island. His specimen-hunting trips to the Galápagos Islands, throughout the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Atlantic and Caribbean, yielded thousands of specimens of marine, bird and insect life, some of them new discoveries at the time Vanderbilt found them.
William Belanske, an artist from the American Museum of Natural History, traveled with Vanderbilt. (Later, he lived on the estate as Vanderbilt’s curator.) Belanske then collaborated with the noted painter Henry Hobart Nicholas (also of the AMNH) to create the Habitat’s stunning dioramas that depict animal life from several continents. The centerpiece of the room is a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.
The Stoll Wing and its wild-animal dioramas complement the Habitat. The Hall of Fishes marine museum displays hundreds of oceanic specimens. In addition to numerous birds and invertebrates, the Memorial Wing galleries exhibit ethnographic objects. These works – which reveal the artisanal talents of Asian, African and Pacific cultures – include clothing, utensils, weapons and ceremonial artifacts.