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EntertainmentLong Island Venues

What's new at five Gold Coast mansions

If you long for the days of afternoon teas, cocktails on the lawn and dressing for dinner, a trip to one of Long Island's historic Gold Coast mansions will give you a taste of high living - if only for a few hours.

Many of the North Shore's grandest sites recently have banded together to launch historiclongisland.com, a one-stop website with information on mansion tours and special events.

"The Gold Coast of Long Island has such rich history," says site founder and marketing director Nancy Melius-Murton, who is based at Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate. "We want people to visit the sites, to keep them alive."

While the opulence of the homes is reason enough to visit, some sites have added special touches this summer.

1. Coe Hall at Planting Fields

1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay, 516-922-8682

Admission: $3.50 (Coe Hall) plus $8 parking

History: Built for English-born William R. Coe and his wife Mai between 1918 and 1921.

Highlights: After a 10-year renovation, Coe Hall is opening an Italian-style garden with statues and a pool - a re-creation of the original, says marketing director Jennifer Lavella. The site's biggest summer event will be a garden gala grand opening hosted by chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (6 p.m. June 19, $250 a person). It will also host a concert of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" in the garden July 11.

2. Chelsea Mansion at the Muttontown Preserve 

34 Muttontown Lane, East Norwich, 516-571-8551

Admission: $15 a person for tour; free self-guided tour of grounds. Group tours by appointment (minimum 15 people).

History: This Norman French-style mansion was built in 1924 for Alexandra and Benjamin Moore.

Highlights: Recent work to the grounds include a rose garden and refurbishment of the home's original topiary garden. Several interior rooms have been refurnished and are now shown during group tours, says director Michael Butkewicz. Elegant touches include interior decor purchased on the newlywed couple's yearlong honeymoon through Europe and Asia.

3. Eagle's Nest / Vanderbilt Museum

180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport; 631-854-5579

Admission: $12 ($8 ages 12 and younger), includes guided or audio tour. Tours offered Noon-5 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

History: It's the 100th anniversary of the land purchase by William K. Vanderbilt II, who took 20 years to construct the house as a summer retreat.

Highlights: On summer weekends, the museum stages "living history" tours with costumed actors portraying Vanderbilt family members and staffers. It's an experience designed to take visitors back in time, says executive director Carol Ghiorsi Hart. A new self-guided audio tour is narrated in a similar theme.

4. Oheka Castle

135 West Gate Dr., Huntington, 631-659-1400

Admission: $25 ($5 ages 12 and younger) includes coffee, tea and cookies. Tours by appointment.

History: Built in 1919 by Otto Hermann Kahn and his family, the mansion fell into disrepair until Long Island developer Gary Melius put in a $30 million renovation. It reigns as the second-largest private home in the United States.

Highlights: The mansion's monthly "Restaurant Night" is a different way to experience Oheka - it includes a three-course meal with your choice of appetizer, entree and dessert prepared by the mansion's chefs. Reservations are required (July 21, $125 a person). On June 30, Okeha hosts a jazz bar night with an a la carte appetizer menu ($10 cover).

5. Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve

127 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point, 516-571-7901

Admission: $5 for guided tour, under 16 free; the house also will be open for tours from 12-3 p.m. June 13; cost is the same, plus $5 per car or $2 walk-in (free on Wednesdays). Tours offered 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays

History: Patterned after Ireland's Kilkinney Castle, the 50,000-square foot estate was built in 1910 by Howard Gould and later purchased by Daniel and Florence Guggenheim in 1917.

Highlights: The gothic-style estate overlooking the Long Island Sound is marked by stonework and dramatic details - such as organ pipes high in the grand entry, above the chandelier. The property has nature trails and visitors can also tour Falaise, the home of Harry Guggenheim and Newsday founder Alicia Patterson.

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