The Eagle´s Nest
(Vanderbilt Mansion)

home

 
 

The "Eagle's Nest" mansion is unusual for estate architecture on Long Island because of its Spanish design, a style that is seldom seen in the region. The palatial, Spanish Revival style is actually less "Spanish" than it is a personal evocation of Vanderbilt's Mediterranean impressions as interpreted by his architects during a period of estate building that lasted over twenty-five years. The mansion was begun in 1910 as a modest bachelor's retreat, built at a comfortable distance from the legendary concentration of Gold Coast estates located closer to New York City. The original bungalow was perched high above Northport Harbor where a boathouse and wharf accommodated Vanderbilt's greatest passion, sailing. His other passion, motor car racing, is represented on the estate by the two-story automobile Garage [now the museum's Education Center] and by a large revolving turntable located on the lower level of the Memorial Wing, where Vanderbilt's custom built 1928 Lincoln touring car is displayed.

Two building campaigns followed the original construction of the house, transforming it into the extensive mansion complex that visitors see today. Each was prompted by incidents in Vanderbilt's life, the first by his inheritance of $21 million after his father's death in 1921 and subsequent marriage to Rosamund Warburton in 1927, and the second by the tragic death of his son Willie K. III in 1933. A visit to the "Eagle's Nest" mansion today provides visitors a glimpse at the life of William K. Vanderbilt II through the estate that memorializes his legacy.

The Spanish Revival Mansion with its 24 rooms was built in three stages from 1910 until 1936. Rooms in the historic house are on exhibit and exemplify the eclectic taste and collecting interests of William K. Vanderbilt II. The mansion was designed by the New York architectural firm Warren & Wetmore, whose Grand Central Station in New York City [1903-13] was designed and built for the New York Central Railroad, one of several Vanderbilt family enterprises. Later additions to the mansion and other estate buildings were executed by architect Ronald H. Pearce, who trained in the office of Warren & Wetmore and continued to make improvements at "Eagle's Nest" after Warren's retirement in 1931.

The Vanderbilt Museum is housed in the mansion once owned by William K. Vanderbilt ll (the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the New York Central Railroad and the Staten Island Ferry). “Willie K.”; was an avid sailor and collector. He travelled around the globe, collecting artifacts and natural history specimens, some from the ocean floor by Vanderbilt himself, as he loved to dive. The mansion is known as the Eagle’s Nest, which was opened to the public as a museum at Willie K.’s bequest in 1922.

Recently: “…after cutting through a wall behind a basement diorama of stuffed antelope, the museum has uncovered a 15th- or 16th-century sculpture of the Madonna and child that is believed to be the work of a member of Italian Renaissance art family the della Robbias…”

Although the Vanderbilt is on the verge of running out of money as a result of its rapidly shrinking endowment, there are no plans to sell the work because of the potential legal issues involved. Instead the hope is that displaying the sculpture will bolster attendance and that visitors will contribute to the restoration fund.

News today is that the Museum should stay open for this year.  There was an override on County Executive Steve Levy’s veto of the park fee increase “bailout” bill. Operating funds will not be expected next year unfortunately. In Mr Levy’s  defence, I understand his rational of not wanting to set a president of the county paying operating costs of a museum when we are in such hard economic times. Although personally I feel that the arts are as necessary to our day to day lives. Unfortunately the necessities in life for most are not museums and the fine or lively arts. These are unfortunately considered luxuries where I believe they are a window to our human culture that must be preserved and enjoyed.

 

Estate Gate – Originally from Idle Hour
Original Wing from Courtyard
Pond on Terrace outside covered patio
Garden Gate in Sundial Garden
One of a Pair of Eagles from the Original Grand Central Station – Just inside the front Gate of the Estate
Living Room Wing from Sundial Garden
Boxwood Garden from Courtyard Gate balcony (looking down)