Bleak winter, for some, is a time to dream oftropical islands, and for others to plan nextsummer's vacation. They don't need to goabroad to find 1 very approachable and explorableisland: Long Island. Only 125 miles long, itsserene, white sandy beaches start within an hour'sdrive from the most dynamic city in the world.
The Great Gatsby
Long Island can be everything. It has its raucous,razzmatazz side, similar to Manhattan itself.It can be urbane, polished, and even pretentious,as in the Hamptons, the sophisticated settlementson the south shore of South Fork. It can be naive,simple, and old-worldly in the sleepy potato fieldsand fishing villages of North Fork. Long Islandstruts F. Scott Fitzgerald's mansions, flamboyantwith glory; magnificent museumsendowed by Vanderbilts, Chryslers, andGuggenheims; great gardens that grew becausetheir owners knew ideal locations for dogwoodsand day lilies, crab apples and cherries, asters andazaleas, and roses and magnolias.
FABRIC OF A REVOLUTION
Wall Street Journal
The mansions scattered along the northwestcoast come from the bygone wealth of theIndustrial Revolution. At one time, their owners'names would have graced the pages of theand the .Today these names might appear in the and magazine.
At Old Westbury Gardens (516-333-0048;www.oldwestburygardens.org), John S. Phipps ofUS Steel recreated an 18th-century English countryestate, decorated it with paintings by JohnConstable,Thomas Gainsborough, and Sir HenryRaeburn, and filled it with English antiques.William Robertson Coe, the insurance magnate,built an even larger estate to the north, PlantingFields (516-922-8600; www.plantingfields.org),with one of the finest rhododendron and azaleadisplays in the East Coast.
PRESIDENTS AND ROYALTY
Nearby, Teddy Roosevelt rides again atSagamore Hill. His personal effects lie in gloriousdisarray and clutter in the simple home thatbecame the nation's summer White House in 1901(516-922-4788; www.nps.gov/sahi). Every roomimpresses his effusive and flamboyant personality.A park ranger commented, "His greatest attributewas his ability to mix with commoners or kings."
There were kings aplenty on Long IslandSound. William Kissam Vanderbilt, the greatgrandson of "the Commodore," lived in NorthportHarbor. Harry F. Guggenheim built hishome, Falaise, at Sands Point. On the same NassauCounty preserve, curious visitors can findCastlegould and Hampstead House.
To many, South Fork is the true Long Island. It'sMontauk Lighthouse, Gurney's Inn (631-668-2345; www.gurneys-inn.com), and the Hamptons.It's impressive homes, shimmering sand, andromantic artists. It's Montauk Harbor,watching theships come in and gazing at the sky luminous withevening light. It's driving along Main Street, EastHampton, once voted the most beautiful broadwayin the United States, and strolling downSouthampton's "Ye Towne Street," opened in 1648.
And it's Sag Harbor Oakland Cemetery, wherethe sailing men who drowned at sea lie, a reminderof the Golden Age of Whaling when 63 whalingships sailed out of Sag Harbor, lured by hopes ofadventure and dreams of wealth.
The wealth is different on the North Fork.Long Islanders whose interest lay in fishing thesea and plowing the land ventured here, includingthe first to grow grapes commercially onLong Island since colonial times, Louisa and AlexHargrave. Alex, with a master's degree in Chinesestudies from Harvard, and Louisa, a teacher, hadno experience in grape growing when they startedtheir now famous winery in 1973.
North Fork has a contentment verging onhumility. The paradox of Long Island is that sleepyNorth Fork houses some of its most dynamicislanders, those with the greatest pride in theirland and in their hopes for the future. It's asthough they cling to the idea that Long Island,despite its rich history, has its better years ahead.They recognize that Long Island, though good fora short vacation, is better for a lifetime.