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Long Island's Gold Coast Mansions: Nassau County Museum of Art


Long Island's Gold Coast Mansions: Nassau County Museum of Art
Photo © Nassau County Museum of Art

Nassau County Museum of Art - The former Frick mansion

Photo © Nassau County Museum of Art
Long Island, New York's fabled Gold Coast was filled with opulent mansions before and during the Roaring Twenties, when "The Great Gatsby" era of private estates reigned in the area. Sprawling residences and summer houses like financier Otto Hermann Kahn's Oheka Castle, John S. Phipps' Coe Hall (now part of Planting Fields Arboretum) and more dotted the landscape. Today, many of these stunning buildings have been transformed into museums, like the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County, New York.

Above is a photo of the main building of the current museum, which was at one time a private residence. A great deal of the 145 acres that are now museum property was once the property of poet, preservationist, lawyer and patron of the arts William Cullen Bryant. In 1843, he moved to Roslyn and lived in Cedarmere, his home near Hempstead Harbor.

Politician and author Lloyd Stephens Bryce bought Upland Farm from Bryant in 1900 and subsequently hired architect Ogden Codman, Jr. to create the design for a mansion which was dubbed Bryce House.

Then 1919, Henry Clay Frick, one of the directors of J.P. Morgan's United States Steel Corporation, bought the property as a wedding gift for his son Childs and his bride, Frances. The elder Frick was also an avid art collector, and the Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan still houses much of his well-known collection.

The younger Frick and his wife commissioned the architect Sir Charles Carrick Allom to redesign the existing mansion's facade and a great deal of the interior of the home. It is a three-story Georgian mansion that is typical of the Gold Coast architecture that was in vogue in the late 19th century. Childs Frick and his wife named their new residence Clayton and lived in the estate together with their four children --Adelaide, Frances, Martha and Clay-- for nearly a half-century.

Frances Frick had the estate's formal gardens redesigned by Marion Cruger Coffin, a pioneer in landscape architecture and one of the first women to earn a degree in the field from M.I.T., and to have her own practice. The property still boasts its rose, azalea and other gardens and restorations have been made to bring back the former glory of the estate's original landscape design.

After the death of Childs Frick in 1965, Nassau County purchased the estate and converted it into the Nassau County Museum of Art, and in 1989, it became a private, not-for-profit institution, chartered and accredited under the laws of New York State.

The museum also features a lovely outdoor sculpture garden on its surrounding property, with artwork from famed sculptors ranging from Niki de Saint Phalle to Fernando Botero and more.

THe Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, New York. For more information, please visit their website at www.nassaumuseum.org or contact them at (516) 484-9338.

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