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The Real Life Towns That Inspired 'The Great Gatsby'

The Real Life Towns That Inspired 'The Great Gatsby'
Oheka Mansion

The new The Great Gasby movie comes out today, replete in garish splendor as only Baz Luhman can render it. His movie was filmed on location in Australia. But F. Scott Fitzgerald modeled East and West Egg on Long Island. He and his wife Zelda lived in the town of Great Neck early in their marriage.

Here's what their house looked like:


Great Neck Public Library, via Gold Coast Mansions

Here's a map showing where Great Neck is on Long Island:

Ironically, the Fitzgeralds moved to Long Island to save money after the birth of their first child -- they were paying upwards of $200 a week for their stay at a Manhattan hotel. Their Great Neck house, in comparison, cost just $300 a month. Great Neck was relatively working class, a hamlet for stock brokers, bootleggers, and theater folks like Groucho Marx and Basil Rathbone.

It was Sands Point, a town nearby, where opulence was the name of the game. According to Gold Coast Mansions, at the time, more than 1,200 elegant country homes dotting the shoreline in the 1920s. About 400 survive today. While many are still privately owned, a handful are open to the public. They write:

F. Scott Fitzgerald likely drove his rented Rolls Royce over to Lardner’s house on the bay, where it was said the two liked to sit on the porch, drinking and looking out across the water, and next door to Fitzgerald’s publisher, Herbert Bayard Swope’s, “Gatsby-style” parties. Swope would eventually move across the bay and buy a grand estate called as Keewaydin, which is often referred to as one of Fitzgerald's inspiration for the character Daisy Buchanan's home.

Below, then and now scenes from one such mansion, the Oheka Castle in Huntington. All images courtesy of Oheka:

Keywords: The Great Gatsby

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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