On the North Shore of Long Island lies the stately home of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, known as the Eagles Nest.
The sprawling mansion was built between 1910 and 1936 by the firm of Warren and Wetmore, the same company who designed the Vanderbilt’s Grand Central Station. With untold wealth at his disposal, the playboy millionaire heir to the Vanderbilt fortune who enjoyed racing cars and sailing the world in his 10 yachts built himself a gaudy castle that brings to mind Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu.
One of the richest families in American history, the Vanderbilts spent money in an astonishing fashion…at night in the Eagle’s Nest, William II slept soundly on Napoleon Bonaparte’s original campaign bed. But as the lavish spending continued, the memories of the Gilded Age soon faded—one of their direct descendants died penniless and the last of their 10 mansions on 5th Avenue was torn down.
At the foot of his 43 acre Eagle’s Nest, overlooking Long Island Sound, Vanderbilt built an extraordinary 70,000 gallon saltwater pool, the water being drawn from the sound itself. Today, it lies as abandoned as the Manderley of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The Mediterranean-style sculptures lie in ruins, the changing rooms forgotten, and the pool filled in. Where once one of America’s most famous sons entertained such luminaries as Coco Chanel, Irving Berlin and Samuel Goldwyn, the sounds of summer lawn cocktail parties around the pool are long gone.