Beacon Towers Castle
(Vanderbilt Mansion)


Built by the Vanderbilts on the Gold Coast of Long Island, and later renovated by William Randolph Hearst, Beacon Towers was the consumate "Cinderella's Castle". Beacon Towers was torn down in 1945.

'Beacon Towers', the Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont estate designed by Hunt & Hunt c. 1917 in Sands Point.  One of Alva's numerous estates, the residence was later sold toWilliam Randolph Hearst and eventually demolished in the 1940s.

The house was build by Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, a character who if possible was even more fascinating that Gatsby. She was born wealthy, and later married into the Vanderbilt family as they were coming into their money. Wanting to buy a season’s pass to the opera, she found herself shunned, coming from new money. Undeterred, she founded her own company and theatre, The Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She shocked society by divorcing her husband for adultery. She then married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, and after his death threw herself into the women’s suffrage movement.

Beacon Towers was only a summer home to her, and eventually she sold it to William Randolph Hearst, who also used it for a summer home, already owning a castle of his own in California. He sold it in 1942, and in 1945 it was pulled down, leaving only this gate house. The wall surrounding the house in essence blocks off the entire tip of the peninsula. When the locals complained that the wall blocked access to the beach, Mrs. Belmont bought the beach and lighthouse as well. 

The 140 room house rose vertically from the beach on Long Island Sound, and from a distance appeared to rise straight up from the water itself. It was part Norman fortress, part Loire Valley Manor House, and stood five stories tall. Battlements and balconies thrust out from the white stucco walls. When Hearst moved in, he painted over the murals of Joan of Arc, opened the windows to let in more light, and removed many of the medieval furnishings, replacing them with oak and marble.

From where Beacon Towers stood, you can imagine Fitzgerald drunk on the beach, looking across the bay at Land’s End, the fictional home of Daisy and Tom Buchanan, the sound of the party coming from behind him and the story of Gatsby coming together in his mind. Today the best you can do is stand outside the gates, wishing to be let in. Gatsby’s hospitality has been replaced north shore snobbery – no trespassing signs abound, and there are no parties, and you are certainly not wanted. The land might belong to the owners, but the memories belong to us all.


The house was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. it was Gatsby’s mansion. Or, rather, as I didn’t know Mr. Gatsby, it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dollars a month … There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Beacon Towers, which sat on the tip of Sands Point is presumed to have been the inspiration for Gatsby’s mansion. It’s known that Fitzgerald attended many parties at Beacon Towers, and there are really no other candidates which match his description.  Some of the greatest scenes in American literature took place on the other side of this wall, in the imagination of F. Scott Fitzgerald.