Literary Landmarks: The Real-Life Locations of The Great Gatsby

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Image Source: By Unknown – Spur Magazine, 1920, Public Domain, Link

The life of author F. Scott Fitzgerald was at times prosperous, at times tragic, and his numerous ups and downs are echoed in much of his writing. Works like The Great Gatsby mirror the excesses and brilliance of the society that produced him. And though Fitzgerald died in 1940 without seeing his works widely celebrated or having achieved the “American Dream,” Gatsby has become our culture’s go-to reference for the Roaring Twenties.

Thanks to the fact that Fitzgerald wrote largely about what he knew, it’s relatively easy to step back in time to the world of The Great Gatsby. If you’re a Fitzgerald or American literature fan and find yourself visiting New York state, be sure to check out these Long Island locales.

Execution Rocks Lighthouse

One of the most iconic images in The Great Gatsby is the green light that calls out to Gatsby, drawing him closer to his long-lost love, Daisy. In fact this symbol is so integral to the plot and theme of the novel that it inspired the cover of our very own Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby journal.

In real life the light at the end of the pier actually came from a lighthouse. This Long Island Sound lighthouse flashes a white light every ten seconds to warn seafarers away from a particularly dangerous stretch of rocks. It was also the apparent dumping ground of confessed 1920s serial killer Carl Panzram. And so it is fitting that the inspiration behind that seductive green light is called “Execution Rocks.” It was, after all, reuniting with Daisy that brought Gatsby to his tragic end.


Image Source: Public Domain, Link

Great Neck, New York (aka West Egg)

Great Neck refers to a peninsula along the north shore of Long Island, as well as a part of the south peninsula and the border to Queens. It’s home to a few different villages, including the Village of Kings Point and the more opulent Manor Haven/Sands Point. Considering that Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived in a “modest” mansion in Kings Point it’s not a stretch to see that it was the inspiration for West Egg, with East Egg standing in for Manor Haven/Sands Point. The Fitzgerald home was recently listed for $3.9 million and while that may seem pretty posh to most of us, it has nothing on the Gold Coast Castles…

Image Credit:  Steven Bababekov / Coldwell Banker Residential Properties
Image Source: LA Times

Long Island’s Gold Coast Castles

Seen at the top of this article, the main inspiration for Jay Gatsby’s home was Beacon Towers, a Gilded Age mansion on Sands Point that was once owned by William Randolph Hearst. Unfortunately, it was demolished in 1945 after being sold by Hearst in 1942. There are plenty of other mansions left in the area, though. Oheka Castle (yes, “castle”) is also said to have played a role in Fitzgerald’s imagining of Gatsby’s home, and Old Westbury Gardens is the likely real-life counterpart to the home of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Both mansions are now open to the public, so you can live out your Gatsby dreams without disrupting any current residents.

Image Source: Oheka Castle by Gryffindor; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 06:04, 26 February 2014 (UTC) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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4 comments on “Literary Landmarks: The Real-Life Locations of The Great Gatsby

    • Interesting! Thanks for sharing, Rich.

      Sounds like we’ll have to add another stop on our Great Gatsby roadtrip 🙂

  1. I loved this movi because it is with leonardo dicaprio and because it was a bit romantic. First, for the parents or others, it does have some party but nothing discusting not nudity, nothing. People are drinking and smoking but you have to know it goes with this time so its normal. There is two sex scene but you do not see anyting, you pass it quick like I did and it’s fine. It is a dramatic, romantic story wich is brilliant!

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