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Vanderbilt Museum - Eagle's Nest

Vanderbilt Museum

Vanderbilt Museum – aka Eagle’s Nest, William Kissam Vanderbilt House

Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, NY in beautiful Suffolk County on Long Island is another of the many so-called Gold Coast mansions that must be seen to be believed.  This prestigious home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its historic significance related to a person, event, architecture and engineering.

Vanderbilt Museum

William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., (1878-1944) was the donor of the Vanderbilt Cup. “Willie K” was the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and heir to a railroad fortune. From 1900 to 1905, he raced his cars in races throughout Europe and the United States.

Back in 1910, when William K. Vanderbilt II, known as Willie K. to family and friends, originally began construction of his new home on his 43 acre estate, Eagle’s Nest, it was a comparatively modest two-story home,but it went on to become the opulent Spanish Revival style mansion complex that we see, today.

Mr. Vanderbilt loved the sea, becoming one of the very few private individuals to circumnavigate the globe.  He loved the ocean and the natural world, and collected a vast number of marine life, birds, invertebrates and cultural artifacts for the museum he planned to build on his large Long Island estate.  Indeed, he opened his own marine museum with the most extensive collection of marine specimens in existence before the atomic age.  Called the Hall of Fishes, he opened it to the public in 1922.

The mansion was built via three major projects over the years.  The first was the original, two-story, 24 room Spanish Revival mansion designed by the famous New York architecture company, Warren and Wetmore, who also designed and oversaw construction of another famed Vanderbilt edifice, New York’s world famous Grand Central Station.

This first stage, begun a year after Willie K.’s separation from his first wife,  Virginia Graham Fair, was built as a wealthy bachelor’s getaway.  It was built, appropriately enough, with an eagle’s view of Northport Bay, where there was a wharf and boathouse for one of his great passions in life, sailing.  When he wasn’t racing cars or involved in automobile racing in some way, he was usually somewhere around the globe, aboard one of his yachts.

Construction of the entire William K. Vanderbilt domain over its three stages lasted from 1910 to 1936, less than ten years before Mr. Vanderbilt’s death in 1944.  It was always Mr. Vanderbilt’s intention for his home to one day be an important American museum.

The first major change in plans occurred upon the death of his father in 1921, at which time he inherited some 21 million dollars.  This allowed him to proceed with his plans for display of his many collections, under the watchful eye of his second wife, Rosamund, whom he married in 1927.

The next change came after the tragic death of his son in 1933.  William Kissam Vanderbilt III, his only son, was killed in a car accident in 1933 on his way to visit the estate. The senior Vanderbilt then added a wing to the Eagle’s Nest in memory of his son.  It was in this wing that he housed memorabilia, trophies and souvenirs his son had brought back from his African safaris.

Mr. Vanderbilt died in 1944, but not before he willed Eagle’s Nest to Suffolk County for the Vanderbilt Museum, along with a legacy to continuously fund the museum.  Thanks to Mr. Vanderbilt’s passion and generosity, the Vanderbilt Museum in Suffolk County on Long Island continues to draw thousands of visitors.

When visiting NYC and the Long Island area, this is well worth adding to your itinerary.  A Long Island limo service will get you there and back on your schedule, in safety, comfort, and the style worthy of a visit to this grand old edifice!

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