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Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

Photo by Patrick Keefe

You’re invited! Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport offers Walk and Talk Tours through Aug. 30. Come for an intriguing walking tour of the Vanderbilt Estate grounds 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, and explore Mr. Vanderbilt’s passion for travel, marine biology, and auto racing.

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.

At other times William and Rosamond invited a few fortunate friends to travel the world with them on their huge yachts, collecting marine and natural-history specimens and cultural artifacts for his growing private (and later public) museum.

These hour-long, rain-or-shine tours will be given at noon and 1:30 p.m. on August 1, 2, 8, 15, 22, 29 and 30. Tours will start from the ancient Carthaginian columns near the entrance to the Estate. Masks must be worn for the duration of the tour and social distancing is required. Please wear comfortable shoes as there will be considerable walking. For other possible tour dates, please check the Vanderbilt website.

A limited number of tickets for each tour are available online only. Admission is $8 adults, $7 seniors/students (age 62-plus), and $6 children 5 and older. Members and children under 5 are free.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. Some tickets also will be available for purchase at the entrance. Credit cards or exact-amount cash ONLY.  (No change can be given.) For more information, call 631-854-5579.

'The Sandlot'

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport presents a screening of “The Sandlot” (rated PG) on July 31 and Aug. 1 at 8:30 p.m. at its drive-in movie theater. Admission is $40 per carload, $34 members. Mr. Softie and his ice cream truck will stop by. Tickets are available online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Above, the Vanderbilt Mansion Terrace Garden and quatrefoil fountain with Northport Bay in the background. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Transformed gardens on view through September

Eleven local nurseries and garden designers, plus the Museum’s corps of volunteer gardeners are taking part in the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s third annual Gardeners Showcase.

They redesigned and transformed garden areas, planted new perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees  — and enhanced the beauty and ambience of William K. Vanderbilt II’s Eagle’s Nest mansion and estate, home of the Museum. The stunning results are on view through September. For now the Vanderbilt has reopened its grounds only – not its buildings – to visitors on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All visitors are asked to wear a mask when unable to maintain 6-feet distancing from others.

“We are grateful for the enthusiastic response of local landscaping and gardening professionals who have volunteered their talents to beautify the historic estate,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the Vanderbilt.

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor, and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by thousands of summer visitors,” she added.

Jim Munson, the Museum’s operations supervisor, who created the event, said, “We thought the pandemic might prevent this year’s showcase,” he said. “However, thanks to the undying support and incredible talents of these designers, the showcase has become a reality.

“Many of the gardeners have been affected financially and personally by this health crisis, yet here they all are, once again selflessly giving their time, donations and incredible talents to the Vanderbilt to make it a better place for all. Simply sitting on a bench, listening to the birds and taking in the beauty of the gardens is an absolute gift,” he said.

Participating designers, identified by signage at showcase sites, are: Carlstrom Landscapes, Inc. (Terrace Pool); Centerport Garden Club (Rose Garden), de Groot Designs, Inc. (front entrance); Designs by Nelson (saltwater pool and balcony planters); Flowers by Friends (Sun Dial Garden and Saltwater Pool); Gro-Girl Horticultural Therapy (Sensory Garden); Haven on Earth Garden Design (Planetarium Garden); Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design (Clover Leaf Garden); Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program (Sensory Garden); Trimarchi Landscaping & Design (Courtyard Gardens), Tropic Al (Bell Tower/Bridge Garden); Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners (Memorial Garden, Columns Garden, Tent Gardens & Vegetable Garden).

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. The admission fee to tour the grounds is $14 per carload, members are free. Tickets are available online only. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org to order.

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The restored Vanderbilt Estate saltwater pool with a view of Northport Bay. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum recently reopened its grounds – but not its buildings – to the public in accordance with Suffolk County and New York State safety guidelines. The museum, which is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, will welcome a limited number of visitors on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Come for a stroll, a picnic, salt air, blooming gardens, and spectacular views of Northport Bay. 

“We are thrilled to have permission from Suffolk County and New York State to begin slowly reopening to the public,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the museum.

“Our gardeners have been busy working in the gardens and flower beds since May 15, doing spring cleanup and planting new roses and annual flowers. Our crew has been tending to the property, mowing acres of lawn and trimming trees. The work is still in-progress, but the Mansion and Estate grounds are looking beautiful once again. We’re ready and eager to welcome summer visitors,” she said.

Visitors are asked to wear a mask when unable to maintain six feet of social distance. Bathrooms will be open to one family/visitor group at a time, and a custodian will sanitize bathroom touchpoints regularly throughout the day.

All visitors must carry out everything they bring with them to the property, including picnic/food waste, and water or beverage containers.

The fee to enter the property will be $14 per carload, members are free. Tickets are available online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin poses beneath an oil portrait of her great-great grandfather, William K. Vanderbilt II, as a child. Hola magazine photo

Hola!, a popular, weekly celebrity-news magazine, recently published an eight-page feature article on the Vanderbilt Estate, home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum. 

The story, which included stunning photos and aerial views, focused on Vanderbilt family history and the development of its railroad empire. (The magazine, based in Madrid, Spain, publishes 30 international editions in nine languages.)

The feature also concentrated on William K. Vanderbilt II’s great-great-granddaughter, Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, and her husband, Rafael Feldman. The couple was photographed in several rooms of the mansion.

Eagle’s Nest, a 24-room, Spanish Revival mansion, was built in stages from 1910 through 1936, on 43 hilly acres above Northport Bay in Centerport. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Two friends on the staff of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport are engaged in a poetry-photo challenge. Their goal is to lift the spirits of their quarantined colleagues.

Ed Clampitt has been a member of the Museum’s security staff for four years. He challenged Ellen Mason, a volunteer tour guide for 14 years, to write poems inspired by his photos. Clampitt, who also has written some of the poems, likes to record seasonal beauty at Eagle’s Nest, the spectacular 43-acre Vanderbilt Estate that is also home to the Vanderbilt Museum and Reichert Planetarium.

Ellen Mason

“During discussions about our upcoming children’s book, Ellen discovered her previously untapped talent for writing poetry,” Clampitt said. “I enjoy being her muse and inspiring that wonderful talent to blossom!”

Mason said, “Ed suggested that he take photographs at the Vanderbilt and challenged me to write poems to correspond to them. He surprises me with the photos and gives me no prior information. And I surprise him with the poems.”

Then the creative partners email the results to the Vanderbilt staff and members of the Board of Trustees. Their responses: delight and gratitude.

“It’s such a pleasure to receive their poems and photos,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, the Vanderbilt Museum’s interim executive director. “Ed and Ellen’s creations remind us of how lucky we are to work in such beautiful surroundings, especially now when we cannot physically be at Eagle’s Nest. Their pictures and words are inspiring.”

Ed Clamplitt

Clampitt, a Huntington resident who also has worked for Stop & Shop supermarkets for 40 years, is a front-line worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also co-creator and author of Team Dawg, a character-education program and children’s book series that has been widely used in elementary schools throughout Long Island.

Mason, a Stony Brook resident and retired Centereach High School English teacher, leads tours of the Vanderbilt Mansion. She tells visitors stories about the Vanderbilt family and provides details on the Mansion’s architecture and centuries-old art and furnishings. During summer Living History tours, she and the guides dress in 1930s costumes to portray famous summer guests of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II.

Here are two of Mason’s poems and one by Clampitt, with four of Clampitt’s photos taken on the Vanderbilt Estate:


By Ellen Mason

Wrought iron gates / Now closed to us;

No sound of car / Or van or bus.

 No children shout /Or laughter rings

Amid the trees /Where birds still sing.

The empty paths / And courtyard bare

Of visitors /A sight so rare.

A vista /Just around the bend,

Might give us hope / And chance to mend.

To breathe the air / At Eagle’s Nest,

Would lend our hearts / And souls some rest.

The day will come / When we’ll return,

To hug and share / Our lessons learned.

We’ll walk the paths / Blue sky above,

And celebrate / This place we love.

Night in the Museum

By Ellen Mason

The grounds are dark, /And silence reigns;

No traffic noise / On roads or lanes.

No human sounds /Disturb the night,

As paths are bathed /In pale starlight.

Within the hushed /Exhibit halls,

Some species stir /On floors and walls.

With restlessness, /They shift and shake,

And move their eyes, /And try to make

Some sense of what / Has come to pass:

No students here / With friends and class,

In lines of two, / With cell phones poised,

They used to laugh /And make loud noise

Where are the folks, / The steady band,

Who climb the stairs / With map in hand?

The whale shark swings / Both to and fro,

To catch the sight: / No one below.

The polar bear, / Now wide awake,

Believes there must be / Some mistake.

In the museum, / High on the hill,

In quiet rooms, / Alone and still,

The sharks, the eels, / The manatee,

Hang, waiting for /Humanity

Their vigil here, /Throughout the night,

Continues on / In morning light.

And so they wait, / And hope to learn,

Why we were gone, / When we return.

The Plan

By Ed Clampitt

 She’s still hard at work, / Preparing this place,

For the day coming soon, / When we meet face to face.

Each day brings new changes, /Some larger, some small,

She knows in her heart, /We feel blessed by them all.

Mother Nature the Wonder /Signs of hope that abound,

Just trust in her plan / What’s been lost will be found.

Poseidon, Greek god of the sea/ Drawing by Vanderbilt artist Megan Gallipeau
Dave Bush. Photo by Ken Spencer


The Reichert Planetarium at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport is closed for now, but its astronomy educators, artists, and show producers are busy creating new programs to make it easy for parents and children to enjoy its offerings — at home.

“We are producing an array of virtual planetarium programs that we will begin posting on a YouTube channel called Reichert Planetarium’s Virtual Outreach. The first episode, titled How to Use a Telescope, is now live,” said director Dave Bush.

“Other projects will include a comic strip based on Konnie – our affectionately named planetarium star projector; a coloring book; crafts and projects targeted to family groups for home use; and educational materials for teachers to download and use with their at-home students,” he said.

Some programs will be posted on the museum’s website and on social media.

The planetarium’s Konica Minolta star projector was the inspiration for a character called “Konnie” to be featured in a comic strip that presents astronomy information in an entertaining way. 

“Konnie will become a comic strip and we’re considering turning the strips into coloring books,” said Bush.

When the planetarium reopens, visitors will see several fresh, original programs. Bush and his staff have created new program scripts for staff who operate the projector and star-ball systems through the command console in the rear of the planetarium’s William and Mollie Rogers Theater. The programs explore stars visible during the different seasons, and feature trips to the planets.

“The programs cover a wide range of subjects,” Bush explained, “including tours of habitable worlds, the history of space exploration, the solar system, the life cycle of stars, how far Earth is from the stars, and how astronomers measure that distance. Console operators are developing their own 20- and 45-minute star talks, with their personal choice of music, narration, imagery, and humor.”

Bush plans to produce virtual planetarium shows using the popular conferencing app Zoom. He is creating the shows remotely, away from the planetarium, using professional recording equipment and video-editing software.

The Reichert Planetarium staff is creating downloadable worksheets for children. “Our challenge is, what do we add to make sure kids stay interested and engaged?” Bush said. “We want to make pages that make sense visually, with fun information, games and characters.”

The team is also developing new mythology shows for both recorded and live presentations. The shows will be a series of short constellation stories from ancient civilizations around the world.

“We have talented artists on staff who can create the characters, scenery and panoramas that will be displayed on the domed projection screen of the planetarium,” Bush said. “We’ve tossed around the idea of turning Konnie into a time machine. We can imagine traveling through time in an imaginary spaceship. We can be magically transported to lands in ancient places like Greece, Rome and Stonehenge, as well as to original, imaginary landscapes. Whatever we want!”

While Bush and his colleagues produce new programs, they are also “touching up” existing educational programs for school groups. “Now we have the time to focus on what we need to do to enhance programming,” he said.

For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org and select Virtual Learning.

Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

Dear Friends,

Like you, we are adapting to the restrictions placed on everyone in the country. Every day we are learning more about how to deal with the crisis and how to care for each other’s health and safety.

This new “temporary” reality offers all of us time to rediscover the true value and importance of family and friends.

We are concerned for everyone’s well-being and doing our best to stay up-to-date and to comply with recommended guidelines from local and state health officials.

For these reasons we will remain closed until we can reopen safely. With what we learn this spring, we can assess what to do next.

By summer, we hope brighter days will prevail! Our plan is to welcome you back to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum to rediscover the beauty and magic of the historic Eagle’s Nest estate.

Upon reopening, we will feature new and engaging programs, as well as live concerts and new shows in the Reichert Planetarium. The annual Shakespeare Festival will return to the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard stage for its 32nd summer and our fabulous suffragette-costumed guides will conduct Living History tours in the Mansion.

Restoration of Mr. Vanderbilt’s original hiking trails is underway — they will offer a great chance to inhale fresh air, enjoy water views, and experience outdoor learning while you get some exercise.

As always, your ongoing loyalty and support is our greatest gift.Looking forward to your return! Stay safe and well,

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan

Interim Executive Director

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum


Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will host its third annual Gardeners Showcase during spring and summer 2020. The museum invites local nurseries and garden designers to show off their skills and creativity in one of the gardens that grace the 43-acre waterfront estate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Spots are still available for this year’s showcase, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants, in return for their effort and contribution, will receive:

 • Signage that identifies their business, at each garden showcase site. This signage will be viewed by the more than 100,000 anticipated Vanderbilt visitors during the spring, summer and fall.

  Recognition on the Vanderbilt website and publicity on its social-media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

• Publicity through news releases sent to regional media.

• A one-year Associate Membership to the Vanderbilt Museum.

 To secure a spot in this year’s Gardeners Showcase, or to obtain more information, please contact Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt Museum’s operations supervisor, at 631-379-2237 or at [email protected]

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Peter Bales

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum,180 Little Neck Road, Centerport presents an evening of comedy on Friday, Feb. 28 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The Carriage House is converted into the Vanderbilt Comedy Club with comedians Peter Bales, Eric Haft, Joe Starr and special guest Manny Erias. Tickets are $25 online, $30 at the door, $20 members. Proceeds benefit the Carriage House/Learning Center Revitalization Project. To order, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For more info, call 631-854-5579.