The current buzz surrounding The Great Gatsby creates a magical idea of the Gold Coast lifestyle – large country estates alive with lavish parties every night. Servants and guests secretly scampering through hidden passageways and expansive hallways, decorated with antique furniture and priceless pieces of art. Lit gardens in the evenings showcase statues, greenhouses, pools and fountains. But, what happens when the party ends? When the mansions were abandoned by the owners who could no longer maintain the high standard of living in a declining economy at the onset of the income tax?
Such is the case at Muttontown Preserve, in Brookville, Long Island. The preserve itself spans over 500 acres of fields and marked trails. The casual visitor can visit the nature preserve, experience the native habitiat, and take a leisurely stroll through the park without knowing the history which lies within it – a quick seven to ten minute walk from its entrance on Route 106 will bring the unknowing guest to the ruins of King Zog‘s mansion.
According to the Nassau County Department of Parks, King Zog was the last monarch of Albania, and fled his country after the Italian invasion in 1939. He acquired the Knollwood Estate at Muttontown in 1951 for over $100,000, and it included a 60 room granite mansion designed by architects Hiss and Weekes. Zog chose to live in Europe and Africa instead, but he envisioned this mansion to be his new palace, staffing it with fellow Albanians. Sadly, he never moved there and sold the estate in 1955 to Landsell Christie. The mansion lay abandoned, and rumors began to spread about his hidden treasures within the mansion walls. Vandals quickly looted the property, and the new owners had the mansion demolished in 1959.
Visiting the ruins can bring an ominous feeling – knowing that the surrounding 80 foot trees engulfing you were once tiny plantings. Silent and shattered, terrace walls, balustrades and columns now rest, toppled, hidden, and long forgotten. It is hard to imagine the promise that the mansion held for its owner, the hope that it represented to him and his family.
According to the Society for the Preservation of Long Island’s Antiquities, about forty percent of mansions built on Long Island between the Civil War and World War II have been destroyed and tragically emptied. Others have been strategically repurposed and that’s where we will be reporting to you next time.
Curious about the height of the Gold Coast and Gatsby Lifestyle? Sign up for my Sidetour. Also check out our photos of Land’s End, the abandoned mansion on Long Island that inspired Daisy Buchanan’s house in The Great Gatsby.