Put Whitestone in your mind’s eye and you will most likely see a bridge and probably no other images. But over a century ago, Whitestone became the origin of the Gold Coast of Long Island that spread eastward through Nassau County. It’s the Gold Coast that the Great Gatsby made famous.
In 1869 the railroad was extended from Flushing to Whitestone, but in 1886 at station was established closer to the shore – Whitestone Landing. Here is where the rich came to escape the heat and congestion of Manhattan. By the turn of the century middle class citizens made day trips to the beaches there and the rich built large homes by the shore.
Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tires had an estate at Cryder’s Point as did Arthur Hammerstein. That mansion, ‘Wildflower’, is still standing although it has been divided into condominium units. Many silent movie actors lived in the area while working at the studios in Astoria. Mary Pickford owned a home there and Charlie Chaplin lived at the Beechhurst Towers.
The wealthy could keep their yachts at the Whitestone Yacht Club or the Beechhurst Yacht Club. For day trippers there was Duers’ Pavilion which featured a beer hall, nickelodeon, bowling alley, and beach and yacht club in the rear.
The isolated and bucolic area was forever changed in 1937 as the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge was being built and later the Throgs Neck Bridge in 1959.