Mar 30 2013

Then & Now: Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Beacon Towers in Sands Point

My favorite Long Island mansion was the amazing Beacon Towers built for William K. Vanderbilt Jr.'s mother Alva Vanderbilt Belmont in Sands Point. As a special holiday treat, here's a classic "Then & Now".

If you have other Beacon Tower images that you wish to share, send the jpegs to .


Howard Kroplick

Then: Aerial Views

Looking south, the mansion can be see on the left ,right off the Long Island Sound. Note the Sands Point Lighthouse on the tip of the peninsula.

Looking east, the tower of the gate house matching the design of the mansion was visible on the right.

Looking north-west. Note the design of the mansion helped to protect it from the Sound.

Now: Aerial

Then: View looking south-east

In 1917, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, widowed from her second husband O.H.P. Belmont for 9 years, commissioned Richard Howland Hunt to design this gothic fantasy castle. Hunt was the eldest son of Richard Morris Hunt who had completed the Biltmore Estate for the Vanderbilt family in 1895.

Then: View looking north-east

This was the view after passing through the gate house . Many believe the mansion was one of the inspirations for Jay Gatsby's West Egg mansion in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby".

Then: View Looking east

In 1927, Alva Belmont sold Beacon Towers to the newspaper tycoon William Hearst. In 1942, Hearst sold the estate. Five years later and only 30 years after it was built, this beautiful mansion was destroyed for a new residence. In 2011, The New York Times reported "the mansion that was said to inspire Gatsby's house was leveled decades ago."

Then: View looking south

However, remnants of the estate still remain including the gate house and a carriage house.

Then: View looking north





For more information on Beacon Towers, check out Zac's excellent website .


Mar 31 2013 Greg 8:45 AM

Some great pics of Beacon Towers whch like you, is one of my favorites, but I’ve always felt that C.P.H. Gilbert always designed some of the most beautiful estates, with De Lamar’s Pembroke and Guthrie’s Meudon being my absolute favories.

Mar 31 2013 josh s 9:27 AM

we have a great color photo of a plane flying over it if you want

Mar 31 2013 Howard Kroplick 11:35 AM

Josh, super! Please email it to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) .

Mar 31 2013 James 7:26 PM

This whole area was a favorite stomping ground for me and my bicycle buddies back in the very late 50s and early 60s. The property was in constant flux then and we were able to bike right through the changing estate sites in construction and end up on the small beachfront just slightly southwest of the main property. As kids we always thought the gatehouse WAS the estate!

Apr 01 2013 Howard Kroplick 10:43 AM

From Andy W:

“Thanks so much for the pics of the Vanderbilt estate.  I grew up in Sands Point and remember the house well.  The “now” pictures actually look pretty much the same as the house looked in the 50’s and 60’s.”

Jun 03 2013 kevin doherty 7:23 AM

Howard:    If you “Google Earth” this location, it now shows an very large mansion right on the point of land next to the lighthouse, complete with pool and greenhouses.  What property is this and who is the owner ?  It’s huge and not mentioned in any website I can find.

Jun 03 2013 Howard Kroplick 7:49 AM

Kevin, as described in’s post “The Magnificent Mansions of Five Famous Beverage Barons”, the mansion is own by AriZona Ice Tea co-founder Don Vultaggio and his wife Irene:

Jun 03 2013 Jan 4:53 PM

Howard I received the hats. Thank you so much!

Dec 11 2014 Joe Wheeler 6:40 PM

I just stumbled across this site. My grandparents owned the lighthouse and adjoining property for many years. Both sets of grandparents lived next door to each other and I would spent a lot of time, during the summer, at their houses. It was a magical place to be as a child. I have been inside the current mansion. It is nice, but I prefer the original layout I knew as a child and young adult. Before the Belmont castle, I believe there was a hotel there, called The Sands Point Hotel or something like that.

From Howard Kroplick:

Hi Joe, thanks for the memories. If you have any photos and would like to share them on the website, please forward them to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) .

Aug 18 2015 bob miller 8:14 PM

As a young teenager in the mid 1950’s my parents would take me to a large Sands Point estate (Guggenheim?) that was then a country club owned by IBM——-owned by IBM til at least the mid 1960’s Anything you can share about that property would be appreciated.

From Howard Kroplick

The property is now the Village of Sands Point Golf Club:;jsessionid=A175930A06AB0F5B69AB1FF1850CE779

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