July 1, 2015
House where Fitzgerald wrote “The Great Gatsby” is for sale
by Kirsten Reach
The word “house” appears in The Great Gatsby 95 times, and the house where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the first three chapters of this book is currently for sale. It’s a mere $3.9 million, located in Great Neck, Long Island.
Though Fitzgerald based East Egg on a fancier neighborhood, Sands Point, the book brims with descriptions of a luxurious house not so far from the one he owned. Here’s an excerpt from chapter three:
At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.
By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.
Not bad material for a real estate listing. But Alex Brunkhorst of LitHub points out that this house is less decadent than houses in the surrounding area:
The mansion doesn’t have the usual bells and whistles associated with newsworthy property listings. There is no tennis court nor swimming pool. Its systems can’t be controlled via iPad from a yacht off Ibiza, there is no glass garage where Ferraris can rest. Its real estate agents are not on a reality show.
Instead, in photos at least, the house appears to blend in with its landscape, almost disappear beside canopy trees until it’s in danger of becoming an afterthought. There is nothing particularly regal about it. It’s the type of place one of Fitzgerald’s characters would have driven by and forgotten about by the time his motorcar rounded the next bend, or never noticed at all. The home has been updated since Fitzgerald began his magnum opus in a small office over the garage, but the renovations, too, are decidedly unglamorous. It is not how Jay Gatsby would have done it. Materials weren’t disassembled from a castle in Europe, brought over stone by stone. As for the grounds, they’re a far cry from Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s acres of gardens, vast enough to hold Tom’s polo ponies should he have decided on an impromptu match.
Fitzgerald moved on to finish Gatsby in a French villa. It had no shortage of chandeliers.
If you’re in the market for a Fitzgerald-approved home and $3.9 is out of your price range, there’s another real estate opportunity in St. Paul, Minnesota. His home on Summit Row is available for $665K. His literary legacy there is the writing of a short story titled, “The Spire and the Gargoyle.” In another townhouse down the block, he finished This Side of Paradise.
Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.