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Eagle’s Nest

A view of the bell tower from the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard. Photo by Cayla Rosenhagen

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

Passing through the elaborate iron gates leading into the Vanderbilt Eagle’s Nest estate, visitors are swept back through time to a decade long gone. Guests are immersed in the decadent Gold Coast era of Long Island’s history. 

For many years, the Eagle’s Nest mansion and the rest of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport have been one of my favorite locations to explore. My family and I are frequent visitors. On July 16th, we had the pleasure of returning to the Vanderbilt property to attend the 31st annual Shakespeare Festival.

Eagle’s Nest, a 24-room Spanish Revival mansion, was constructed by famed architects Warren and Wetmore by order of William K. Vanderbilt II, great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1910. In 1950, the estate and grounds were transformed into an education center, inviting the public to come visit and live like a Vanderbilt.

On the evening of our visit, Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” was being performed by the Carriage House Players in the grand, cobblestone courtyard situated in the middle of the manor. Arriving early to picnic on the back garden terrace, we indulged in delectable take-out from a local café. We set up our lawn chairs by the fountain, where we had a breathtaking vista. Across the well-manicured, grassy slopes, Northport Bay stretched calmly between us and the peninsula of Eaton’s Neck. It was a clear evening and the Sound with Connecticut beyond it was in perfect view. Robins foraged nearby and swallows practiced their aerial acrobatics overhead.

Shortly before the play began, we gathered in the courtyard with several dozen other audience members to take our seats. The courtyard, an ideal setting to watch one of the Bard’s most beloved plays, was illuminated by intricate iron lanterns and string lights overhead. Lined with garden beds of vibrant flora, the space radiated with Mediterranean splendor. The half-moon shone brightly over the terracotta-roofed belltower above the portcullis entrance. 

The play itself was a joy to watch. The actors truly enraptured the wit, humor, and magic of Shakespeare. By the time the show ended with an extended applause, the sun had set, and the stars appeared above us in the twilight sky. As the other guests exited, I took a moment to myself on the back patio, soaking up the enchanting moment. In a dream-like state, I watched the glimmering fireflies over the lawn and gazed out upon the water. Sailboats, only visible in the night by their multihued lights, paraded by with chiming bells. A faint melody of whimsical, classical music filled the salty, sea air. As I left the fairytale-like setting, I knew I would be back there again soon.

Throughout the summer, the museum hosts live theatrical performances in the courtyard every Wednesday and Friday at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 7 p.m. This year, the featured plays are “As You Like It,” “Titus Andronicus,” and “Richard III.” Tickets for the shows are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and children. In addition to plays, the Vanderbilt grounds also host a variety of other events. These include tours of the mansion and museum exhibitions, magic shows, concerts, art workshops, yoga classes, and a wide array of planetarium shows at the Reichert Planetarium for the whole family’s enjoyment. Please see their website, vanderbiltmuseum.org, for more details.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

Photo by Patrick Keeffe

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport now offers Walk and Talk Tours through mid-October.

Come for an intriguing Walk and Talk tour of the Vanderbilt Estate and gardens with knowledgeable Vanderbilt Museum educators. Learn about Warren & Wetmore’s design and the exterior architectural details of the 24-room Spanish Revival mansion – including the striking ironwork of Samuel Yellin, considered the greatest iron artisan of the early 20th century – and explore Mr. Vanderbilt’s passion for travel, marine biology, and auto racing.

“The grounds are beautiful at this time of year and the walking tour is a perfect way to be introduced to the history of the estate and collections. There is an abundance of beauty in the eclectic architecture and the unique details that reflect William Vanderbilt’s interests,” said Beth Laxer-Limmer, associate director of education.

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) spent summers at his Eagle’s Nest estate and mansion on Northport Bay between 1910 and 1944. He and his wife, Rosamond, hosted intimate gatherings and entertained well-known guests, such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Pierre Cartier, Conde Nast, Charles Lindbergh, and the Tiffanys. Eagle’s Nest is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Created by the Vanderbilt Education Department, the tours are  limited to 10 people each and are held on  Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at noon and again at 1 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door: Adults $16, seniors/students $15, children under 12 $13, members free. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

 

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Malan Breton and Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Centerport. Photo by Bryan Griffen

Singer Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, the great-great granddaughter of William K. Vanderbilt II, has just collaborated with fashion designer Malan Breton on a new duet version of the classic I’ll Be Home for Christmas. The pair performed the song in a music video shot recently at her ancestor’s Centerport estate, Eagle’s Nest, home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

The video was released on November 30. Proceeds will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Vanderbilt Museum.

Malan Breton and Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin in the Vanderbilt Mansion library in Centerport. Photo by Bryan Griffen

Costin is also a composer, songwriter, designer, actress, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. She has recorded five Top 10 singles on the Billboard Dance Club Songs charts and her music has skyrocketed on numerous international charts. 

British Vogue has called Breton “the most influential designer you’ve never heard of.” He is also a film and music video director, columnist, costume designer, pop-music performer, and a television and film producer and actor. 

For the backdrop of her new video, Costin selected the Vanderbilt Mansion and Estate, a place with personal resonance. “Coming to the Vanderbilt Museum always makes me feel so connected to my family legacy,” Costin said. “Willie K., my great-great grandfather, was such an incredible voyager.  

“It always astounds me how he had the foresight to preserve all the extraordinary artifacts in the museum. He lived such an adventurous life, and I only wish I had had the chance to meet him.

“The Vanderbilt Museum has stretched way beyond my family to become a place of love and discovery for generations of other families, which is the most amazing gift imaginable.Costin has recorded five Top 10 singles on the Billboard Dance Club Songscharts and her music has skyrocketed on numerous international charts. Costin recently became a tech entrepreneur when she successfully launched her digital platform SoHo Muse. She describes her venture as a place “where creatives can help creatives find jobs, find support and stay connected, network and sell their wares on the site’s newly created Marketplace.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Eagle’s Nest was built on 43 waterfront acres on Northport Bay. Designed by the architects Warren & Wetmore, who created Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad, the Estate was built in stages from 1910 to 1936. William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) bequeathed his Estate, Mansion, and Museum to Suffolk County. The Museum was opened to the public in 1950.

 

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a long year of Netflix binges and Zoom meetings for all of us, and these days, nothing feels better than getting out a little. You don’t have to go far to find interesting places to explore, either.

Most Long Island locals are probably familiar with the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, with its sprawling grounds, elaborate mansion and impressive collection of marine life. But be honest: When was your last visit? If it’s been a while — or even if it hasn’t — their 70th anniversary year is the perfect time to stop by.

“The Vanderbilt is unique, a don’t-miss slice of American history. When you take a guided tour of the mansion and its galleries, it’s a time machine trip to a remarkable era of privilege,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the museum. “At one point in the past, there were more than 1,200 mansions on Long Island’s Gold Coast. This is one of the few that remains.”

The Vanderbilt Mansion as we know it today had relatively modest beginnings. William K. Vanderbilt II, a son of the famed Vanderbilt family, had just separated from his first wife in the early 1900s. “Willie K.,” as he’s affectionately known, was looking for a place to get a fresh start, away from the public eye. So he came to Centerport and purchased land, where he built a 7-room, English-style cottage along with some outbuildings.

The cottage, called Eagle’s Nest, was eventually expanded into a sprawling 24-room mansion in the Spanish Revival style. From 1910 to 1944, Eagle’s Nest was Vanderbilt’s summer hideaway. He and his second wife Rosamond hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

Of course, that was just the beginning. According to Killian Taylor, the museum’s curatorial associate, Vanderbilt developed a fascination with all kinds of animals, the sea and the natural world from a young age. He had the opportunity to travel the world on his father’s yachts as a child, and longed to see more as he reached adulthood.

“Later, Willie K. inherited $20 million from his late father. One of the first things he did was purchase a very large yacht and hire a team of scientists and a crew,” Taylor explained. “With them, he began to travel and collect marine life, and by 1930, he had amassed one of the world’s largest private marine collections.”

With the help of scientists and experts from the American Museum of Natural History, Vanderbilt created galleries at the Estate to showcase his collections which contains more than 13,000 different marine specimens of all kinds and sizes, from the tiniest fish to a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.

After Vanderbilt died in 1944, Rosamond continued to live in their Centerport mansion until her death in 1947. The 43-acre estate and museum – which remain frozen in time, exactly as they were in the late 1940s – opened to the public on July 6, 1950, following instructions left in Vanderbilt’s will. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The museum also features a 3,000-year-old mummy, which Vanderbilt purchased from an antique shop in Cairo, Egypt, Taylor said. The mummy even had an X-ray taken at nearby Stony Brook University Hospital, where they determined the remains are of a female around 25 years old.

“She doesn’t have a name out of respect for the fact that she was once a living woman with her own identity,” Taylor added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its share of difficulties to every business, and while the museum has had to temporarily close some of its facilities, including the mansion’s living quarters and planetarium, they’ve also added new opportunities for visitors.

“Like many other museums, we had to get creative virtually very quickly,” said Wayland-Morgan. “Our Education Department created the ‘Explore’ series for children — fascinating facts about the lives of birds, butterflies, reptiles, and fish, with pictures to download and color. The Planetarium astronomy educators produced 11 videos on topics including How to Use a Telescope, Imagining Alien Life, Mars, Black Holes, and Fitness in Space. We’ve received very positive responses.” The planetarium also offers online astronomy classes.

The museum is also offering new outdoor programs on the grounds, including walking tours, sunset yoga, a popular series of bird talks by an ornithologist James MacDougall and are currently hosting the third annual Gardeners Showcase through September. On Fridays and Saturdays, movie-and-picnic nights are a popular draw at the outdoor, drive-in theater.

Even without a specific event to attend, the grounds are a perfect place to wander when cabin fever strikes.

“The best reason to visit right now is to stroll the grounds and gardens and visit the open galleries. We’ve also become a very popular picnic destination with a great view of Northport Bay,” Wayland-Morgan said. “We plan to reopen the mansion living quarters and planetarium later in the fall.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. As of Sept. 17, hours of operation are from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The mansion’s living quarters and the planetarium are currently closed. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $7 for students and seniors. Children under 2 are admitted free. For questions and information, including movie night passes, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

Living History cast members, from left, Ellen Mason as Elizabeth Arden; Peter Reganato as Pietro, the Italian chef; Beverly Pokorny as Ann Morgan; and Florence Lucker as Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport turns back the clock once again by offering its popular weekend Living History tours now through Sept. 2. For more than a decade, these tours have delighted visitors to the elegant 24-room, Spanish Revival waterfront mansion, Eagle’s Nest, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” — the mansion, natural-history and marine collections galleries are preserved exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate. 

Guides dressed as members of the Vanderbilt family and household staff tell stories about the mansion’s famous residents and their world-renowned visitors. Stories told on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked for the Vanderbilts as teenagers and young adults. Some stories originated in William K. Vanderbilt II’s books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

This summer it will be 1936 again. Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan is enjoying a reunion of her friends in the women’s suffrage movement. 

“The movie ‘Captains Courageous’ with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel, ‘Dumb Witness,’ is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion. And the U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp in honor of the women’s voting rights activist and social reformer Susan B. Anthony on the 30th anniversary of her death in 1906.”

Earlier in 1936, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia — who supported women’s voting rights — had been the keynote speaker at a dinner at the city’s Biltmore Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s City Club in New York. The Living History presentation is set against this background of national and international news. 

LaGuardia is invited to Eagle’s Nest to join a few of the Vanderbilt family members — including Vanderbilt’s brother, Harold; his sister, Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough; and her guests Elizabeth Arden, Anne Morgan and her nephew, Henry Sturgis Morgan, Gress said. Consuelo and her guests reminisce about their younger days at suffragette rallies. 

The museum will display items in two guest rooms that commemorate the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York State. Included will be an enlargement of the Susan B. Anthony stamp, suffrage banners and sashes and an authentic outfit worn in that era by Consuelo. (Vanderbilt’s mother, Alva, also had been active in the movement.) 

The Living History cast: Ellen Mason will play Elizabeth Arden, who created the American beauty industry. Yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt — three-time winner of the America’s Cup, and expert on contract bridge — will be portrayed by Jim Ryan and Gerard Crosson. Peter Reganato will be Pietro, the Italian chef. Dale Spencer will perform as William Belanske, the curator and artist who traveled with Vanderbilt on his epic journeys. Anne Morgan will be played by Judy Pfeffer and Beverly Pokorny.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present its Living History tours in the mansion on Saturdays and Sundays at 12, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Tickets: $8 per person, available only at the door, are in addition to the museum’s general admission fee of $8 adults, $7 senior and students, $5 children ages 12 and under. Children ages 2 and under are free. For more information, please call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. 

The Living History cast. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will turn back the clock once again when it offers Living History Tours beginning on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday, on May 27 and 28.

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” — the mansion, natural history and marine collections galleries are preserved exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate.

For more than a decade, Living History Tours have delighted visitors to the elegant 24-room, Spanish-Revival waterfront mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These special, time machine events feature the Vanderbilts and their servants, who are portrayed by museum tour guides.

The stories told on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked for the Vanderbilts as teenagers and young adults. Some stories originated in William K. Vanderbilt’s books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

This summer it will be 1936 again. “The movie ‘Captains Courageous’ with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel, ‘Dumb Witness,’ is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion. And the U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp in honor of the women’s voting rights activist and social reformer Susan B. Anthony on the 30th anniversary of her death in 1906.”

Earlier in 1936, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia — who supported women’s voting rights — had been the keynote speaker at a dinner at the city’s Biltmore Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s City Club in New York. The Living History presentation is set against this background of national and international news.

LaGuardia is invited to Eagle’s Nest to join a few of the Vanderbilt family members including William K. Vanderbilt’s brother, Harold; his sister, Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough; and her guests Elizabeth Arden, Anne Morgan, and her nephew, Henry Sturgis Morgan, Gress said. Vanderbilt’s sister, Consuelo, and her guests reminisce about their younger days at suffragette rallies.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the museum will display items in two guest rooms that commemorate the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York State. Included will be an enlargement of the Susan B. Anthony stamp, suffrage banners and sashes and an authentic outfit worn in that era by Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough. (Vanderbilt’s mother, Alva, also had been active in the movement.)

The Living History cast includes Peter Reganato as Mayor LaGuardia, who will be reading the comics in the kitchen and practicing for his radio address later that day. Ellen Mason will play Elizabeth Arden, who created the American beauty industry. Yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt — Willie’s brother, three-time winner of the America’s Cup, and expert on contract bridge — will be portrayed by Jim Ryan and Gerard Crosson. Anne Morgan will be played by Judy Pfeffer and Beverly Pokorny.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present its Living History Tours at regular intervals on summer weekend afternoons through Sept. 3. Tickets are $8 per person, available only at the door. For more information, please call 631-854-5579.

Festivalgoers enjoy listening to music on the Great Lawn at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

By Stacy Santini

It is hard to imagine that William K. Vanderbilt II envisioned people dancing ensconced in tie dye, Frisbees being tossed into the wind, and Grateful Dead melodies connecting with the air when he donated his 43-acre Eagle’s Nest estate in Centerport to the county in 1944, but if he were at what is now known as the Vanderbilt Museum on June 7, it is pretty certain that he would marvel at the sight. Exceptional weather with crystalline blue overhead, grassy knolls kissing azure water and ornate gothic buildings served as a brilliant host to a Woodstock Revival.

The amazing world of event promoter, Rich Rivkin is a wonderland of Birkenstocks, hula hoops, live music, visual artists, bubbles, and face painters. Rivkin, who started Rich Rivkin Presents more than a decade ago, is a live art and music promotional entity. He has become a sort of pied piper for a community of people who love music, the energy and movement of festivals and fellowship. Rivkin tells us, “Look at the people around you at these events. You know that years ago they were there at those shows that the Grateful Dead and similar artists became known for — themed festivals where the audience feels a tangible sense of community as they sing the same songs in unison. I wanted to recreate that.”

Artist Stelios Stylianou paints overlooking Northport Harbor at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini
Artist Stelios Stylianou paints overlooking Northport Harbor at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

Rivkin is a humble and kind soul who has made a profession out of all things altruistic.  He is an environmental consultant specializing in the removal of contaminated soil and has become a national expert advisor in the field. With clients such as UPS, Rivkin’s company has more than 4,000 projects to its credit, recycling soil and bettering communities around the United States.

He is also a talented hand percussionist. Fifteen years ago he began to form drum circles so that passionate musicians like himself could collaborate with one another and share their work. Within a short period of time, popular local bands like Reckoning were eager to participate and one of Long Island’s first music festivals, called Elwoodstock, was born, overseen by Rivkin. Held at a public park in Elwood in 2001, musicians joined Rivkin for a day of music and togetherness. There were no permits in place, no insurance obtained and next to zero marketing performed, but people turned out and have been turning out ever since.

Rivkin recalls the moment he knew that these events were indeed something he not only wanted to pursue, but felt compelled to do. “It was as if we created a living room under the stars, Persian rugs and all.  In the afterglow of everyone’s departure, I could still feel the vibe, the energy of the music, the sense of community.  It was so personal, it actually made me cry. I had no idea in that moment how it would expand,  but the seed was planted and there was no turning back.”

Known for its pristine shorelines and beaches, Long Island certainly has much to offer, but there is a movement occurring that is rapidly injecting culture into our neck of the woods and Rivkin can certainly be attributed for facilitating this local renaissance. Fusing world class musicians with local visual artists, his events have become an enclave for creators and observers alike and Rich Rivkin Presents is synonymous with both art forms.  He has joined these communities together and created a fellowship much like the days of the 1960s when the Grateful Dead lyric, “Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hands,” was the mantra. It is really quite beautiful and very much needed in such a secular society.

Ann McInerney (aka Annie Mac) and Mike Katzman of Jellyband perform at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini
Ann McInerney (aka Annie Mac) and Mike Katzman of Jellyband perform at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

On Sunday, June 7, more than 50 years after the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York stunned a nation, the grounds of the Vanderbilt Museum were literally transformed to sustain a revival of that historical moment. Droves of hippy-clad professionals, music aficionados and art lovers alike freckled the lawns and set up camp amongst the historical landmark structures to enjoy a day of peace, love and joy. Dancing amid colorful tents, coolers and strewn blankets, attendees were treated to some of the best local music around and were able to witness the alluring process of artisans painting their canvases.

Out of the gate, the first of four bands, Jellyband, gave crowd–pleasing renditions of Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Joe Cocker favorites. Lead singer Annie Mac delivered a goose bump-inducing version of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” elevating the energy of the crowd to eagle-soaring heights.

Germinating the vibe, Milagro took the stage next, singing and emulating Santana as only Milagro can do, bringing us favorites such as “Black Magic Woman.” A welcome addition to the familiar setlists came from the third band, Wonderous Stories, as they impeccably treated the crowd to the entire “Who’s Next” album by the incomparable beloved rock ensemble, The Who.  Essentially, one voice emanated from the crowd as “Behind Blue Eyes” settled upon the audience.

Half Step, a group that has a strong following with the Long Island Deadhead community, was astounding and closed the day with an execution of “Morning Dew” that even Jerry Garcia would have loved. The vocals of Tom San Filippo and Cindy Lopez recreate the magic of the Grateful Dead in a manner very few can do. As well-known music photographers, such as Joel Werner and Artie Ralisch, and fan photographer Jason Cousins captured the crowd’s moments of rapture, it was apparent that there was no place on earth any of these people would have rather been. Festivalgoer Tom Schilling sums it up, “Breathtaking views, soul nurturing tunes, with my great friends, it is my favorite start to the season. Rivkin’s Deadfest here in September will just cap it all off.”

Rich Rivkin Presents will be indulging his friends numerous times throughout the summer with events such as Box of Rain, Long Island Sound & Art Festival and Grateful Fest. During the winter, Rivkin keeps the momentum going with indoor experiences as well. Next year, he hopes to mirror larger national festivals with a two-day camping event on a private 40-acre property on eastern Long Island. Rich Rivkin’s recipe for entertaining folks and bringing people together is marvelous, and one can only hope that he keeps playing his magical flute for years to come. For more information, please visit www.limusicfestivals.com.

Book launch to be held at annual members reception

The front cover of Stephanie Gress’s new book. Image from Vanderbilt Museum

Stephanie Gress knows more about the history of William K. Vanderbilt II than most people. As director of curatorial affairs for the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for eight years¸ she is the steward of Mr. Vanderbilt’s legacy, his estate, mansion and museum collections.

Using that extensive knowledge and a trove of rare photographs from the Vanderbilt archives, Gress created a richly illustrated book, Eagle’s Nest: The William K. Vanderbilt II Estate. Its cover photo, from the Vanderbilt Museum archives, is by the noted New York City photographer Drix Duryea. The picture shows the bell tower and one wing of the mansion in the late 1920s, before the Memorial Wing enclosed the courtyard.

The book was published June 1, by Arcadia Publishing in South Carolina, the leading local-history publisher in the United States. The Vanderbilt will celebrate the book’s official launch at its annual Members Reception on Sunday, June 28.

Gress noted that the release of the book is well-timed, as the development of the Eagle’s Nest estate is in its centennial decade: “This book tells readers about the Vanderbilt family, why Mr. Vanderbilt came here and built the estate, how the place changed over the years based on changes in his life, and how we use it today.”

Vanderbilt, known as Willie K., purchased the first parcel of what would become 43 acres for his Northport Bay waterfront estate in 1910, and hired the eminent New York City architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore to design and build it. The firm had designed Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad. Cornelius was William’s great-grandfather.

Eagle’s Nest is the easternmost Gold Coast mansion on Long Island’s affluent North Shore. From 1910 to 1944, the palatial, 24-room, Spanish-Revival mansion was Willie K.’s summer hideaway. There he hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends — including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

“Mr. Vanderbilt embarked on many of his legendary world voyages from Eagle’s Nest,” Gress said, “along with a 50-person crew and a few, fortunate invited passengers.” During his travels, she said, he collected natural-history and marine specimens and ethnographic artifacts from around the globe.

With the help of scientists and experts from the America Museum of Natural History, he created exhibits in the galleries at the estate to showcase his collections.  Mr. Vanderbilt died in 1944. His wife Rosamund continued to live in the mansion until her death in 1947.  Vanderbilt’s will bequeathed his estate and museum to Suffolk County. In 1950, it was opened to the public as the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum. The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Much to the credit of Willie K., Eagle’s Nest continues to fulfill his intended mission,” Gress wrote in the conclusion of the book. “Visitors from all over the world come to see one of the few remaining Long Island Gold Coast estates with its original furnishings. His collections remain on display and they continue to fascinate and entertain.”

Eagle’s Nest is available for purchase on the Arcadia Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, in the Vanderbilt Museum Gift Shop and in local bookstores.