One of the best parts of Long Island is the area’s rich, storied history. From the first settlers to the American Revolution through the 21st century, Long Island has been home to many important people and events. In fact, one of the most notable figures is William Kissam Vanderbilt II. To explore his life and impact on Long Island, visit the Vanderbilt Museum on his former estate.
What is the Vanderbilt Museum?
Famous Long Islander William Kissam Vanderbilt II was an avid outdoorsman who specialized in motor racing and yachts. As a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family, he used his fortune to travel the globe and eventually build one of the first motor highways from Manhattan.
In 1910, he began work on what would become his masterpiece, “Eagle’s Nest.” Located on 43-acres of Long Island’s Gold Coast in Centerport, the estate was built to be used as his family’s summer home.
The Estate Today
Following his death, the estate was turned into the Vanderbilt Museum. It was meant to be a dedication to his life and times through exhibits that showcased his extensive collection of marine, natural history and world artifacts collected during Vanderbilt’s travels.
What to Expect at the Vanderbilt Museum
As the crown jewel of the estate, the Vanderbilt Museum’s Spanish-style mansion presents visitors with a “living museum,” a time capsule of the former era. It contains many treasures accumulated during oceanic expeditions in the Caribbean, specimen-hunting trips to the Galapagos Islands and more.
Inside the mansion, you will find items, like:
- Wild-animal dioramas
- The world’s largest taxidermy fish (a 32-foot whale shark caught off Fire Island in 1935)
- Ocean specimens
- Ceremonial artifacts
There’s an exhibit at the Vanderbilt Museum for every interest!
The Vanderbilt’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium opened in 1971 as the most technologically-advanced theater of its kind on Long Island. With features like full-dome films, live star talks, laser shows and concerts, the planetarium aims to inspire and educate generations of Long Island youth.
It even has a rooftop observatory that’s open to the public every Friday night, weather permitting. There, an astronomy educator will assist visitors in examining the night sky through a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope.
Hours & Admission
The hours at the Vanderbilt Museum vary by time of the year, so check their website for the complete seasonal schedule.
Otherwise, admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, $5 for children 12 and under and free for children under two. However, there are additional ticket packages available that include planetarium admission and guided tours.
If you’re looking to learn a little bit more about Long Island history, make your way to the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport!