Wednesday, February 24, 2010

'Beacon Towers'


'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 to William Randolph Hearst and eventually demolished in the 1940s. Click HERE for more on 'Beacon Towers'. Click HERE to see where 'Beacon Towers' stood on google earth.





Pictures from Architectural Record, 1920.

14 comments:

The Down East Dilettante said...

Boy, it's really something to contemplate old Alva Belmont. If she lived today, she'd be president.

In her life, a mass of contradictions: The biggest social climbing operation in history, the metaphorical equivalent of scaling Everest, builds with Richard Morris Hunt a house that practically changed the course of American architecture for the next 25 years, makes divorce respectable, goes on to fund the suffrage movement, and visits jails to dramatize the plight of poor working women, all while continuing to build houses, her passion--becoming first woman member of the AIA. Quite a resume.

Beacon Towers is so just over the top. I've also heard, probably apocryphally, that not only did this one inspire Fitzgerald for Gatsby, but that it also inspired the castle in Wizard of Oz. At any rate, that tower with its supersize window is certainly Hollywood theatrical

Turner Pack Rats said...

yes and what really boggles the imagination is that it was owned by two people with no money troubles and yet the most fantastic fairy castle on long island is demolished when it wasn't even 30 years old. AAAAUUUGGGHHH!!!!! when i build my time machine, i'm bringing this one back with me. this one is like no other. there were palaces but not disney like castles even more so after hearsts reno.
thanx for the new pix zach. i hope you can find more interiors contrasting belmonts and hearsts.

The Ancient said...

For anyone interested in the Vanderbilts, I highly recommend the recent biography of the Commodore:

http://www.amazon.com/First-Tycoon-Epic-Cornelius-Vanderbilt/dp/0375415424

(It's enormously interesting on the development of the modern corporation over the course of Vanderbilt's lifetime -- in some large part, as a result of his own efforts. I might wish the author had a firmer grip on the social history of mid-19th century New York, and that his discussion of railroad consolidation wasn't so haphazard. Still, a very good book.)

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I have always adored this monstrosity. It is absolute fairytale Alva. Interiors, please!

Jeff said...

I really wish someone could find some floor plans for Beacon Towers... that would make my life, in some way, complete...

Here's hoping...

Anonymous said...

The progression of her residences is interesting - from Fifth Ave. to Marble House to Belcourt (2nd husband's) to this!

Zach said...

I don't have any interiors or floor plans. There are four interior shots in this book though:

http://www.amazon.com/North-Shore-Long-Island-1890-1950/dp/0926494376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267037950&sr=8-1

Anonymous said...

"Octagon Museum of American Architectural Foundation, Prints and Drawings Collection, Washington, DC, has
photographs and sketches of Beacon Towers." I got this from a Table of Contents page http://spinzialongislandestates.com/longislandsample.pdf

The Octagon Museum holds Hunt archives that include floor plans for Beacon Towers. I've been trying to get pricing info from someone at the museum for copies.

Here's what I've been told - They have extensive LARGE drawings of Beacon Towers of the highest quality. Floor plans from the sub- basement to the attic. The problem with getting to see these is you have to go to DC. They won't make cheap scans to send. I'm suppose to be getting prices on having a photographer come in and make the copies. Unfortunately the curator that handles this has been in and out for health reasons.

If you can wait three or more years the archives will been turned over to The Library of Congress and should be "online" in the future.

westegg said...

I heard that in the late 1990s the basement was briefly revealed, intact, when a new house was being built on the grounds. I assume it was reburied again.

Turner Pack Rats said...

well that was stupid. if i was building a house there and found the basement intact(considering it must have been one hell of a basement) i would have revise my plans to build right on top of it but that's just me.
this place is the ultimate period mansion as far as i'm concerned. what more fairytale setting could you want and even more so after hearst revised it. i hope your octagon museum guy manages to come up with some floor plan pix

The Devoted Classicist said...

As for D.E.D.'s comment about the story that this house inspired Fitzgerald as a model for Gatsby's house, Victoria Kastner, the historian at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, made that very claim today at a presentation to Decorative Arts Trust.

frank mitchell said...

Any rationale to the destruction of the mansion?

Nick said...

This is a very ugly house!!!

I don't like Hunt and Hunt's designs at all!

Darrin said...

What I'm trying to figure out is the area across the street from the front gate. Was that area with the minarets and statues part of the estate? A private house sits on this area now. It is to the left if you are approaching the gate and what I assume is the gate house. There also looks like an old curved cement garden bench on the property too. It looks like it would be part of Baecon Towers, but then it would be outside the gate and wall that runs along side the road. Can someone clear up my confusion?