Written by Irmgard (Emmy) Carras, Ph.D., Sands Point Village Historian Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00
Although Land’s End, also known as Keewaydin, was demolished on April 16, 2011, and five new mansions will soon occupy its magnificent site, we still regret the loss of this lovely building. Attempts were made in the early 1990’s to landmark this special house, but for the Village of Sands Point to do it alone, since the owner at the time would not allow it, was almost impossible. By 2004, when the property was sold and subdivision was already in the works, it was definitely too late!
Unfortunately, there are no records in the Village of Sands Point, Town of North Hempstead or Nassau County, which actually record the date of Land’s End’s construction or the architect. The Nassau County Record Viewer lists the house as built in 1896 but has no records to document this date. It has been suggested that either A.C. Sloan or a Browning owned the house in 1903, again unconfirmed. The first confirmed record in 1929 lists H. B. Swope as the owner.
In the months preceding Land’s End’s demolition, the public was bombarded with newspaper and TV reports that this was a building designed by Stanford White. White was one of the renowned architects of the late 19th century. He designed many notable buildings, including the Washington Square Arch (1889), Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square and the Boston Public Library. On Long Island, he designed the Episcopal Church in St. James and Trinity Episcopal Church in Roslyn, one of his last commissions. He met his untimely death on June 25, 1906, when he was shot by Harry Kendall Thaw, the husband of his mistress, Evelyn Nesbit.
In 1983, Virginia K. and Charles Shipman Payson purchased Land’s End. Mrs. Payson claimed that this was a Stanford White house, but she did not have any documentation. In 1998, Grace Frank, who was the Village of Sands Point Historian at that time, spoke with Samuel White, Stanford White’s grandson regarding this question. He said that he had worked with Leland M. Roth, who wrote The Architecture of McKim, Mead and White 1870-1920, which listed all the buildings designed by Stanford White and Land’s End was not on that list. I personally examined the Stanford White Letterpress Books Index to outgoing Correspondence June 25,1887 to January 2, 1907 at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library and did not find any documentation of this claim. Therefore, I believe we can safely say that Land’s End was not designed by Stanford White and put this rumor to rest.
The second claim to Land’s End’s fame was that this was Daisy’s house in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This claim was aided by the fact that H. Bayard Swope, Fitzgerald’s publisher, owned Land’s End (which he called Keewaydin) and it was reportedly the scene of many Gatsby-type wild parties.
However, Swope did not purchase this home until 1928 and The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald rented a house at 6 Gateway Drive in Great Neck Estates near Manhasset Harbor from October 1922 to May 1923 and it has been suggested he could see Land’s End from there. In the novel, Gatsby can see Daisy’s East Egg (Sands Point) house from his home in Great Neck; it is impossible to see Land’s End which is located on the east side of the Sands Point peninsula on Hempstead Harbor from Fitzgerald on Manhasset Bay in Great Neck. Raymond and Judith Spinzias in their article “Gatsby: Myths and Realities of Long Island Shore Gold Coast,” (The Nassau County Historical Society Journal 52 (1997): 16-26) suggest that the mansion on East Shore Rd. in Great Neck, rented by Swope, before he bought Land’s End, was the inspiration. His wife, Margaret, referred to this East Shore Rd. house as an absolutely seething bordello of interesting people.
The Spinzias state that erroneous and misleading statements in Monica Randall Mansion’s of Long Island’s Gold Coast created the misconception that Land’s End was the mansion described in The Great Gatsby. They conclude that many inspirations were involved in creating Fitzgerald’s fictitious portrait of Long Island Roaring Twenties Jazz Age.
As we put these fictional claims to rest, we must note the statement by Daniel Kohs, a preservation architect and a member of our Village’s Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission, that these old mansions anchor the character of Sands Point and as each one is demolished, our village gains a tax base and loses more character.
Hopefully, the owners of the Village of Sands Point’s remaining old mansions, like the Isaac Guggenheim home (our Village Club Mansion), Falaise and Mille-Fleurs (owned by Nassau County) will protect them by allowing the Village of Sands Point Historic Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark them. We also hope that the owners of the landmarked Sands Point Lighthouse will after 12 years do the necessary restoration to prevent further deterioration of our village logo and an important portion of our character.