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Mansion behind 'Great Gatsby' being demolished

By Katie Silver, CNN
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'Great Gatsby' home demolished
  • The 25-room mansion inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald as he wrote "The Great Gatsby"
  • Built more than a century ago, it had an entire floor for housekeepers
  • After demolition, five mansions selling for $10 million each will be built

New York (CNN) -- The house that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic, "The Great Gatsby," is being demolished -- and America is losing a vital part of its history, said author and historian Monica Randall.

The 1902 mansion in Long Island's Gold Coast section housed some of the grandest parties in the early 20th century, according to Randall, who has been going to the house since the 1960s.

Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, financier J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers and writer Oscar Wilde were only a few of the hundreds of high-profile figures who attended parties there, she added.

As of last Saturday however, developers began to tear down the 25-room relic.

It is to be replaced by five mansions that will go for roughly $10 million apiece, according to developer Clifford Fetner of Jaco Builders.

"It came from a different era," said owner Bert Brodsky, who bought the house for $17.5 million in 2004. "It is a shame, but time passed it by."

It was going to cost $1 million ayear to live in, he said. "Nobody wants to spend that money to live in that grandeur," he added.

Brodsky's original intention was to live in the house with his wife and have his four children build homes on the property. When the kids didn't take to this, he tried to make it a retirement home for himself, his wife and their elderly friends in the community.

The village trustees wouldn't permit it, he said.

The property had a tennis court, two private beaches, a 75-foot swimming pool, pool-house, greenhouse, horse stables, French gardens and an entire floor to house the housekeepers, according to Brodsky.

"It was a very, very big, ostentatious house, and in this time, people aren't looking for 24,000 square-foot houses on 15 acres, with taxes and council rates," he said.

Famed author Fitzgerald lived nearby and attended parties there. He wanted to be a part of that lifestyle and the house inspired his novel, Randall said.

"It's really the most important novel of the last century," Ruth Prigozy, executive director of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, said of the book that still sells some 400,000 copies every year worldwide.

"His life itself captures so much of the American dream," she said. "Going from riches to rags and then coming back again."

The house is set to be fully demolished by Saturday, and the new houses built within a year, Fetner said.

"It wasn't the grandest house, but it's what it represents in history," Randall said. "It's so horrible that it's being destroyed."